Capacity for Tauck Sapphire has decreased to 98 passengers. // © 2017 Tauck
Feature image (above): Scenic, which will launch Scenic Eclipse expedition cruises next year, just launched a river cruise guarantee. // © 2017 Scenic
River cruise lines, whose presence at Seatrade Cruise Global grows each year, made announcements about upcoming expansions.
Joni Rein, Scenic’s managing director and vice president of sales and marketing for the U.S., announced that Scenic (now a member of Cruise Lines International Association) will have three products available in North America by the end of the year: river cruises on Scenic and Emerald Waterways; expedition cruises on Scenic Eclipse, which launches next year; and an entire portfolio of land tours.
Tours are where Scenic started 30 years ago in Australia. Now, with offices in Boston and an expanding North American team, the company is well placed to offer the tour experience to the North American market.
Like its initial river cruises, the European land tours have been geared toward the Australian market, which books extended vacations due to long-distance travel. But Rein says the product will adapt to North American customers.
“It will be just like river cruising,” she said. “As Americans and other groups start booking, there will be more short options.”
And Scenic encourages agents to combine tours with river cruises, a pattern that is already popular with North American consumers.
Rein said Scenic will now be engaging with the trade at a much higher level; the company’s recent CLIA membership is only one step in the process. In addition to its travel agent portal, agents can also use Scenic Hub, an online community for accessing collateral marketing materials and other additional support. It launches in the third quarter this year. Rein also hopes to establish an agent advisory board by the third quarter of 2017 in order for the line to promote closer collaboration and gain feedback from agents.
Another new feature for Scenic is its new river cruise guarantee, fully funded with Chubb Insurance for cash compensation. It provides coverage for guests against events that cause delays or cancellations once the cruise begins, including strikes; mechanical issues; and high and low water levels. Rein said this should take these issues off the table when an agent is working with clients.
Jennifer Tombaugh, president of Tauck, said the line’s small ship cruise offerings will double in capacity over the next four years. The line is chartering select cruises on small luxury ships from Ponant and Windstar Cruises in what looks like a very successful operation.
In 2018 and 2019, Ponant is bringing out four new luxury expedition vessels, and Tauck will be using all of them, in addition to the five current ships. Tombaugh said the debut of Ponant’s new Le Laperouse in Iceland next year is already sold out, and customers are being waitlisted for 2019.
Also new for 2018 are Tauck’s 11-day Cuba trips, starting and ending in Miami and including a seven-night cruise aboard the three-masted Le Ponant. Travelers overnight in Miami, then fly a commercial charter to Cuba, with an overnight in Santiago de Cuba and two nights in Havana. Stops include Old Havana, Hemingway’s Finca Vigia and Cojimar, Isla de la Juventud, a choice of Cienfuegos or Playa Giron on the Bay of Pigs, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba.
In addition, Tombaugh promised that more will come of company’s four-year partnership with BBC Earth, which is the largest wildlife documentary production company in the world and created the Planet Earth II series. Starting next year, all of Tauck’s small ship expedition cruises will have customized BBC Earth enhancements to bring the travelers close to the natural world, and many will have BBC experts onboard.
On the river cruise side, Tombaugh said half the Tauck customers from 2017 will return next year. Nearly half of the company’s river cruise guests have never previously experienced a Tauck product of any kind, which opens the door for agents to convert them to land products also, Tombaugh added. ompany is going to continue the process of bringing the 110-meter Jewel-Class ships in its river fleet down from a capacity of 118 guests to 98, creating larger staterooms. The process has already begun this year with Tauck Emerald and Sapphire.