How River Cruising Is Growing Up

What is ‘luxury’ when it comes to river cruising — and how do you explain that to clients? By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2016 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2016 TravelAge West

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Over the past decade or so, the travel industry has had the opportunity to witness the growth of a new type of travel. As river cruising took off, it went from a niche product that consumers — and many agents — didn’t quite understand, to a mainstream travel choice enjoyed by a wide range of vacationers.

I’m proud to say that TravelAge West has been one of the first travel trade brands to fully embrace river cruising and see its enormous potential for travel agents.

In this issue’s cover story, “Scenic Branches Out,” we profile Scenic, an up-and-coming river cruise company that has used a practical approach and a spirit of innovation to carve out its place in what has become an increasingly crowded field.

Over the years, we have seen the industry grow from maybe two or three lines to more than a dozen companies. Each one has worked hard to differentiate itself through its ship design, amenities, excursions, themed cruises, dining options and more. As a result, it’s imperative for agents to learn about each company and match their clients to the best option.

Just as ocean-going lines are labeled as upscale or mainstream, river cruise lines will fall into different categories, allowing agents to better compare the experience of similar companies and manage consumer expectations. And just as you wouldn’t expect a bed-and-breakfast to live up to the standards of The Ritz-Carlton, certain river cruise lines might be better for clients who are willing to trade a bit of luxury for value.

Perhaps this type of segmentation is something you already consider in your agency, or maybe it’s something you have never contemplated before. Either way, we are interested in hearing from you. How do you match clients to the best river cruise line for them? Do you have certain amenities that you feel are mandatory in a “luxury” river cruise line? If so, what are some of those must-haves?

Share your thoughts on this subject, and we will be sure to revisit this topic in a later issue. Just email us at   

With river cruising showing no signs of slowing down, differentiating the various companies will be more important than ever.

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