|A-ROSA’s Aqua cruises into Cologne, Germany, on a Rhine itinerary.|
River cruise line A-ROSA, which historically has served Germans on European river voyages, is angling for a major expansion of its river business in 2013, and from an entirely new market—North America. With 10 vessels in its fleet now and another on the way, the line has tapped David Morris International, a U.S. luxury services, sales and marketing company, to create, market and sell a new A-ROSA onboard product designed specifically for American and Canadian travelers.
The company has just opened a new Reservation Center in North America. Optriant, a division of Preferred Hospitality Group is providing reservation services from their office in Chicago, Illinois.
David Morris International will have 13 dedicated voyages for North American clients in 2013 and then double that capacity in 2014 and beyond through 2017. Those voyages will be marketed and sold only in North America and not to European clients.
The targeted sailings will be offered from June through December 2013 on France’s Rhone and Saone rivers; on the Rhine, Moselle and Main waterways in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland; and on the Danube in Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and Germany.
In addition, the line will also offer Christmas market cruises with touring in Amsterdam, Vienna and Heidelberg. “We needed to be able to give a selection of seven to 10-night cruises on different rivers,” emphasizes Marilyn Conroy, David Morris International’s executive vice president.
David Morris International is revamping and upgrading A-ROSA’s onboard product for a North American clientele. It’s a matter of cultural differences. “The A-ROSA product that exists today would not be well received [by North Americans] in our view,” acknowledges Conroy. She says traditional A-ROSA river sailings have been designed for Germans, who really like unbundled products. German travelers prefer to pay for cruise services and features as they go. They also enjoy buffet dining for all meals, and don’t need a lot of bells and whistles in the staterooms.
So it’s clear that “to make this product saleable in North America, we have to create an entirely new onboard experience,” Conroy says. In “Americanizing” the product, she says David Morris International will add champagne, flowers and fresh fruit in cabins upon arrival. It will also provide such stateroom amenities as terrycloth bathrobes and slippers, and bedding with duvets.
The new pampering river product will be delivered on three homogenous A-ROSA vessels—Stella, Aqua and Silva. Silva is the newest, having launched this year. Aqua launched in 2009 and Stella in 2005; accommodations on Stella and Aqua are 156 square feet and those on Silva range from 156 to 312 square feet.
The river vessels are contemporary with modern decor, clean lines and bright colors. All three are “beautifully appointed,” says Conroy, noting that the three vessels—except for a few variances in suite sizes—are essentially the same configuration, and there are many staterooms with French balconies.
The new highly inclusive product will include air tickets; transfers to and from the ship; gratuities; all alcoholic beverages; a buffet breakfast and lunch with full-service, table service dining in the evening; and shore excursions. Conroy says the fares will be comparable with those of established river lines.
With the complimentary shore excursions, guests will have a choice of two or three depending on the port. Conroy says that some river lines often have what she terms “boring walking tours of downtown” areas, and her group is creating more unique excursions for the young and young at heart.
|One of A-ROSA’s onboard Barkartes (bar/lounge).|
Guests might go hiking in Provence, kayaking on the Ardeche River, bicycle touring in Amsterdam, or shopping in a market with the ship’s chef. In addition, because of A-ROSA’s relationship with Michelin-rated Paul Bocuse, guests on Rhone cruises might choose lunch at his restaurant.
While quality wines and unique shore trips are included in the fare, clients who want to pay for higher-end wines and exclusive, specialty shore trips will be able to have “fabulous” options, says Conroy. Guests have no obligation to purchase any of those, but it’s a choice, she says, and cruisers want more options.
Among those choices: Cruisers might select a flight over the Rhine, a Jeep tour and barbecue in the Camargue region of France, a French cancan show, and, on Rhone sailings, a chocolate tour or vineyard carriage tour, to name a few. Conroy says her group is still developing the excursion lineup and more options are coming soon.
“We’ll be providing packaged free air across America” for those who want it, which is a big perk for many, says Conroy. While air is included in the overall price, guests also have a cruise-only option, if they so desire.
While the traditional A-ROSA passengers have been German, the reality, says Conroy, is that the crew has never been all German, as most people might expect. Service crew members are predominantly Filipino and Conroy says they speak very good English.
Assisting Morris and Conroy in selling the new A-ROSA product will be Joe Proto, vice president of business development; he formerly was with Silversea Cruises, Delta Queen Steamboat Company and Royal Caribbean International. Conroy says an additional sales employee will be hired to support agents in the next few months.
Overseeing A-ROSA’s marketing efforts in North America is Judy Parker, senior vice president of marketing with David Morris International; she was previously with Crystal Cruises. Maggie Mantia is the organization’s senior vice president who will handle charters, meetings and incentive groups.
To introduce the new product, Conroy says David Morris International is putting together a 12-page brochure, a North American-focused website, and a series of travel trade seminars with the ship’s owner in New York and Los Angeles. On November 27, it also will host top agents from the U.S. and Canada on a three-night Christmas market sailing.
Also planned are direct mail and advertising in trade magazines. “We’ll also be doing it the old-fashioned way, banging on doors, doing a proactive campaign and using the distribution system,” Conroy says. The line will open a call center in New York and one in California to handle bookings and trade questions.
A-ROSA’s new all-inclusive cruises, developed by David Morris International for the North American market, will break out as follows:
* Rhone: Six seven-night roundtrips from Lyon, France, June and August.
* Rhine: Two nine-night sailings between Amsterdam and Basel, Switzerland, in June and July and one 10-night Amsterdam/Cologne, Germany, sailing in July.
* Danube: One 10-night sailing from Passau, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary, on July 22, and an 11-night sailing in reverse on August 1.
* Christmas Market and Holiday Cruises: One eight-night Christmas market cruise roundtrip from Frankfurt, Germany, on December 3, and a 14-night Christmas and New Year’s cruise between Frankfurt and Vienna.