Leading cruise industry figures have dismissed pressures to make river vessels “bigger and better” and insist that fuel efficiency will dictate future ship design.

Speaking at the Paris 2018 River Cruise Conference, Giles Hawke, Clia UK’s deputy chair, said focusing on ship design was a red herring.

Hawke, Paul Melinis, of APT; CroisiEurope’s UK sales director John Fair all agreed that the ability of river ships to dock in the heart of cities was what appealed to passengers.

Melinis said: “I think there will always be demand to be bigger and better.

“The beauty about river cruising is that we can get very close to the city centre – that is not going change.”

Hawke said: “You can get into places that are tiny villages. The size is a red herring. The changes in the future are going to be around fuel efficiency.”

Low water levels, caused by soaring temperatures throughout the summer, remain a real problem for river cruise operators.

Last month, APT Travel Group (ATG) was forced to cancel four APT cruises sailing between Amsterdam and Budapest due to areas being too shallow to sail.

Melinis, who joined APT as a regional director earlier this year, praised the industry for its approach in dealing with low water levels.

Hawke said: “You can have high water levels, you can have low water levels. You can have high water levels where the ships cannot get underneath the bridge.

“Conditions can change almost overnight. We do not look at it a week ahead, we wait until the last minute [before changing an itinerary].”

On the issue of single-use plastics, Melinis admitted river cruise lines had been slow to decide on an approach, compared to ocean brands.

“We are working on it,” Melinis added.

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