It’s been said that river cruising is today’s version of the
European motorcoach tour.
If so, it makes perfect sense that Globus and Cosmos, the
Littleton, Colo.-based tour giant, is expanding into the
fast-growing river cruise market.
Its new division, called Avalon Waterways, will launch its
inaugural season in April with the year-old, 146-passenger
Then, in May, the new 178-passenger Artistry will make its
The two vessels in 2004 will offer six itineraries of nine to 19
days in Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic,
Slovakia and Hungary.
The $2 billion Globus and Cosmos family of brands decided to
create its own river cruise product after offering charters on
third-party operators for some time.
“We figured that we’ve got the size and scope to do this
ourselves,” said Michael Schields, Avalon’s new managing director.
“One other dynamic that made this decision easier is the general
explosion of this niche it’s really taken off. It’s becoming more
of an American product.”
Avalon is aimed solely at the North American market, with
English-speaking staff, non-smoking rooms, and European cuisine
tailored to the American palate.
A German company called Premicon built and owns the Symphony and
Artistry and is leasing them to Avalon, which is operating and
staffing the vessels.
The timing also is right for Globus and Cosmos to enter the
evolving river cruise market, Schields said, because vessel
construction is reaching a new phase.
“We’re starting to see a revolution in river ship design much as
we did with purpose-built cruise ships in the mid-1980s,” Schields
said. “Cabins are bigger and with balconies, and the next thing you
know, we’ll be delivering a standard of service at a new
The Artistry will have some of features not commonly found on
its competitors. For example, all of the staterooms face outside
and 70 percent have a French balcony that extends out about two
feet. No cabins have portholes.
Staterooms measure 172 square feet, making them comparable or
even larger than those on ocean-going ships.
What’s more, every cabin on the Artistry will have Internet
access for a fee from the in-room TV screens and keyboards.
Cabins will also have granite bathrooms, a telephone, a
satellite TV, minibar, a safe and a hair dryer.
Smoking will be prohibited throughout both ships’ interiors,
Schields said, even in crew quarters. Smoking will be allowed
outside on deck.
Globus will operate the land tours offered as part of the river
“That provides a seamless type of operation,” Schields said.
“We’re not passing the baton to another company.”
Most land tours are included; optional outings are available at
additional cost. Schields said per-diem costs are $200 to $250,
including air. Fares also include tours and wine with onboard
While Avalon will promote its own brand with dedicated brochures
and marketing, Globus will also sell the Avalon cruises in its
Avalon will grow quickly, Schields predicted.
“We’ve already committed to a third vessel to be delivered in
spring 2005,” Schields said. “I don’t see absolutely anything that
would slow the company down in its desire to expand this market and
give our entrenched competitors a run for their money.”