Thursday, August 18, 2011

River Cruises - Let's Start the New Adventure of River Cruising Together!

I have been putting together a river cruise on AmaWaterways for April 8, 2012.  It will be a cruise of the Rhine and Mosel Rivers which is famous for both wines and scenery.  It is early in the Spring so a chill in the air, but those vibrant new growth colors will be everywhere.  While I will be posting more on this cruise, with an optional pre-cruise stay in Paris and a post-cruise in Amsterdam, my article is not about that cruise, but how the entire river cruise concept is changing...if you take your advice from someone who is in the business of making sure you have the best experience; not just obtaining advertising or commissions.

AmaWaterways AmaDolce is a new river cruiseship (2009) with large French balconies, open dining, free flowing complimentary wines with meals (champagne at breakfast), complimentary internet, complimentary bicycles, and beautiful public areas...Oh, and cabins that are signficantly larger than the shoeboxes river cruiseships are infamous for.

And then there is the old style river cruising with tiny cabins, pre-ordering dinner at breakfast, walkers rather than bicycles and a lack of style in the public areas.

What really shocked me was a newletter I received today written as if it was a glowing review of a Viking River Cruise.  This "expert" wrote: 

River Cruising in Europe
I am writing to you this week from the brand new Viking River Prestige...I first took this same voyage almost 15 years ago on one of the first Viking River boats, the Viking Danube. We happened to meet her in Budapest a few days ago, and while she appears somewhat older by comparison, in fact I can tell the experience for the passengers has changed very little - and what was changed is for the better.

This new riverboat has French balconies for all of the staterooms safely above the waterline. "French Balconies" in the cruise trade; floor to ceiling sliding glass doors that open with a railing to keep you from falling off the boat. It is not exactly the same as a balcony, but in a way it turns your entire stateroom into a balcony. 

I pause:  This new ship is doing the same cruise, the same way, as it was done 15 years ago?  Yikes!  The big news is that the new ship as a French balcony, but the other Viking ship doesn't...and is still sailing.  This sounds like an incredible turnoff for anyone seeking a foreray into the river cruise market.  (To be fair, the Viking River Prestige does have larger cabins then the older ships - a point I am not sure why he missed - though "style" is not really a strong point of this new ship.)

At this point in time there are about 275,000 North American river cruise passengers each year.  That is a mere drop in the travel bucket.  But the river cruise lines are growing and it is important to note that just as there are different types of ocean cruise lines (mass market, premium and luxury), there are, similarly, differences between these lines.

As I work through the differences between the cruise lines I have seen that there are less and less people that are interested in strictly organized, pay as you go, visit every church possible, type 15 year old river cruise experiences.  Why?  I think it is because while the overall demographic for river cruises remains in the upper middle aged to elderly demographic, today's 60 is the old 40 and they have already experienced travel and independence in a way that 15 years ago few did...including those who are looking to river cruises as an alternative to an ocean cruise experience.

River cruises could be utilitarian back then, but now the focus is on new ships. Viking River Cruises has 11 new ships in the next three years. AmaWaterways has virtually all new ships and some with two balconies (full and French...in the same cabin) and a more inclusive, upscale, experience.

Yes, you can take the same river cruise your parents did 15 years ago...or you can have a significantly improved experience.  You just need to ask...now that you know.

If you are interested in a river cruise, or the AmaWaterway's cruise I will be hosting on April 8, 2012, email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY, +1 732-383-7398 or our UK or Australia numbers.