Top 10 Ways to Boost River Cruise Bookings in 2016

The pool deck on the 34-suite Scenic Spirit, which will ply the Mekong River in 2016
The pool deck on the 34-suite Scenic Spirit, which will ply the Mekong River in 2016.

It’s a great time to hop on the fast track to increased 2016 sales with these 10 river cruise opportunities to help improve the bottom line.

Build on the New Ship Buzz

New ships generate marketplace excitement. So be sure to include information about the “latest and greatest” new vessels on social media postings, in your e-mail newsletter and during one-on-one chats with clients. For example, Tauck’s latest Inspiration-class ships — Grace sailing the Rhine River and Joy plying the Danube — will have 67 cabins, 22 of which are 300-square-foot suites.

Another new vessel sailing the Danube in 2016 is Avalon Waterways’ 166-passenger Avalon Passion, with two full decks of 200-square-foot Panorama Suites that have wall-to-wall panoramic windows that slide aside to create an open-air balcony. Many other new ships also will launch in 2016, so agents can piggyback on “the buzz.” 

Tap Into Luxury Cruises

Setting sail in July for the new Crystal River Cruises is the luxurious 160-passenger Crystal Mozart, a former Peter Deilmann Cruises vessel that’s the largest on any European river and designed for the wider locks on the Danube between Passau, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary. It’s being upgraded to Crystal’s standards. On July 13, it will begin 10- and 11-night Danube voyages, and also operate a 10- to 13-night New Year’s Eve cruise.

A Deluxe Suite on Crystal River Cruises’ new 160-passenger Crystal Mozart
A Deluxe Suite on Crystal River Cruises’ new 160-passenger Crystal Mozart

The luxury river line is also building four new 70-suite vessels to operate in Europe. Launching in 2017, they’ll have 220- to 750-square-foot suites with king-size beds, walk-in wardrobes and bathrooms with double vanities. Crystal Debussy will sail the Seine, beginning June 4, 2017. Starting June 18, 2017, Crystal Bach will operate on the Rhine and to Christmas markets. Debuting August 8, 2017, Crystal Ravel will sail the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, as well as the Gironde Estuary, while Crystal Mahler will launch Grand Europe voyages on the Rhine-Main-Danube three weeks later.

For exoticism with a luxury bent, Scenic is expanding its inclusive product into Southeast Asia with eight new 2016 itineraries along the Mekong River; its new Scenic Spirit will offer just 34 private balcony suites, the largest with 861 square feet of space.

Grab a Group

Agents hate NCFs (noncommissionable charges), so what could be better than booking a group with no NCFs? To help agents plan, Viking River Cruises has released its 2017 group guide for the trade. Retailers can earn commission on every aspect of their clients’ group bookings, including cruise and air, port charges, taxes, fees, travel protection plans, gift orders, shipboard credits and more. Commission typically averages more than $1,600 for every Longship reservation and is paid 29 days prior to departure.

Group clients also will receive $125 per person savings and past guest travel credit is combinable with group discounts. Except in Southeast Asia and Portugal, an onboard group amenities program is offered. For groups of 10 to 15 staterooms, the line provides a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine in each stateroom. For groups of 16 to 24 staterooms, Viking offers that wine perk plus a 30-minute cocktail party.

Agents earn one free tour conductor berth (cruise only) for every nine paid guests to Europe (excluding Portugal) and Russia. For Portugal, one free TC berth (cruise only) is provided for every 15 paid guests. One free tour conductor berth (cruise, land and intra-China air only) is given for every nine guests sailing as a group on a China cruise. One free TC berth (cruise, land and domestic air) is provided for every 15 paid guests to Southeast Asia.

Entice Wine Enthusiasts

Why not pitch a wine-themed European cruise as a birthday or anniversary gift for a client to give to his or her spouse or partner? AmaWaterways, for example, offers a plethora of wine-themed cruises to choose from. They are hosted by wine experts, visit regions along the Danube, Douro, Mosel, Rhine, Rhone and Seine Rivers and include wine lectures, tastings, wine-and-culinary pairings and excursions to historic vineyards and wine cellars.

Options? Cruisers can listen to music while tasting newly pressed wine at a rustic Austrian tavern, savor Alsatian wines in Colmar, France, or head out for a German Oktoberfest-like program in Vilshofen, conducted year-round exclusively for AmaWaterways’ guests. Among dozens of wine-themed sailings, on August 4, 2016, Peter Marks, master of wine and VP of education, Constellation Academy of Wine Constellation Brands and Robert Mondavi Winery, will sail on “Europe’s Rivers and Castles” from Nuremberg to Luxembourg on AmaDante.

Showcase “Close to Home”

For those who fear international travel or wish to vacation closer to home, ships of American Queen Steamboat Company, Un-Cruise Adventures, Blount Small Ship Adventures, Lindblad-National Geographic and other lines ply certain North American rivers. Clients can choose from voyages on intracoastal waterways, the Great Lakes, and the Columbia, Snake, Mississippi, Ohio, Hudson and St. Lawrence rivers.

This spring, American Cruise Lines’ 150-passenger American Pride will offer seven- to 10-day cruises on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Haimark Line’s 10-day “French Canadian Maritimes & Coastal North Atlantic Cruise” departs May 15 from Montreal to Portland, ME, and October 15 in reverse.

Tap Into the Solo or Family Angle

Many lines now offer solo traveler savings or waiver of the single supplement, so promote those dates for people who are well traveled and don’t want to “share.” On the family side, several major river lines have created family-friendly departures on their European voyages. On A-Rosa Cruises, children ages two to 15 sail free when accompanied by one adult. Guests must use existing beds (no rollaways) in the staterooms and suites. Triple occupancy staterooms are available for two adults and one child or one adult and two children. New family cabins on A-Rosa Flora accommodate four.

For family groups interested in something a bit more exotic, Pandaw River Expedition will introduce two new family-friendly departures — December 24 on the seven-night “Burma-Mandalay Pagan Packet” itinerary in Myanmar or August 6 on the seven-night “Classic Mekong,” with calls in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Families can go bicycling during shore time, onboard meals will be designed with kids and teens in mind and such activities as movie nights or a family cooking lesson will be offered onboard. Kids three and under travel free if sleeping in a cot and sharing a stateroom with two adults; children four to 18 sharing a stateroom with two adults sail for half the adult fare.

Emphasize “Active”

Europe’s river ships typically have small, well-equipped exercise rooms, top deck walking tracks, Pilates or exercise classes, bicycles for guest use ashore and such active shore options as zip lining, river rafting and mountain biking.

In 2016, CroisiEurope will launch new cruise and bike excursion programs on the Loire, Garonne and Saone/Rhone. On an eight-day “Loire River Biking Cruise,” guests sailing on the new Loire Princesse receive free professionally guided biking tours each day as well as unlimited onboard beverages and Wi-Fi. One group leader is provided for every four guests.

Look for Museum Fans

Many river lines offer themed cruises that transport cultural buffs to places famous for art and architecture. Abercrombie & Kent’s new 11-day “Art and Architecture Along the Rhine” is designed for a maximum of 24 guests and includes seven nights on Amadeus Silver III. Among the inclusions are an architectural tour of the Vitra Design Museum Campus in Basel, Switzerland; an exclusive tasting tour within France’s Alsace wine region; and a guided visit to Mathildenhoehe and view of the Lorsch Abbey Gate in Darmstadt.

A&K’s guests will also tour Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, journey to the NetherlandsKroller-Muller Museum and sculpture garden, then head out on a private architectural tour of Amsterdam. Fares start at $6,195 per person double.

Entice with the “Bucket List”

Despite a changing world, many experienced cruisers are undeterred from exploring the far reaches of the earth for their cherished vacation. For those well-traveled clients with an exotic bent and a “bucket list” desire to see the Great Pyramids of Giza or the gorgeous Taj Mahal, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection operates both 12-day roundtrip sailings on the all-suite River Tosca from Cairo, Egypt, as well as a new 13-day “Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges” itinerary from Kolkata, India.

Southeast Asia also has more options, among them Emerald Waterways’ two new 16-day “Mystical Myanmar and Irrawaddy River” sailings departing August 27 and November 7. Traversing parts of the country rarely seen by westerners and not accessible other than by river, the voyages are roundtrip from Yangon and call at 11 ports.

Learn More, Sell More

On Travel Agent — you’ll find a robust specialist course for AmaWaterways, designed to help you become a river cruise expert and increase your sales with this upscale line in 2016. You’ll also find courses for ocean lines, including Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, along with specialist programs for major destinations, hotels, resorts and other travel entities.

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