Ships feature elegant decor, a sauna, a fitness suite and more. // © 2017 Riviera Travel
Feature image (above): Lord Byron is one of Riviera Travel’s river cruise ships now open for U.S. clients. // © 2017 Riviera Travel
With 30-plus years in the United Kingdom and more than 100,000 passengers sailing on its ships, Riviera Travel is bringing its river cruise product to the U.S. market in 2018. Riviera is offering 11 itineraries across Europe to American customers with support through a new national sales office in Connecticut. Although Riviera has a major tour operator component, it will only be marketing river cruises in Europe to Americans, at least initially.
“After years of success in the U.K., Riviera Travel is excited to introduce its competitively priced, five-star river cruise product to U.S. travelers for the first time,” said Jana Tvedt Joham, vice president of the U.S. national sales office. “If you compare the quality of our ships, food, excursions — everything we offer — and our prices, we don’t think you’ll find a better river cruising experience for less.”
Riviera’s itineraries available to U.S. customers include cruises on the Rhine, Moselle, Danube, Main, Rhone and Douro rivers onboard the Lord Byron, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Swiss Corona ships. New for 2017 ships include the Thomas Hardy, Emily Bronte, Robert Burns and Douro Elegance.
The ships have elegant marble-floor lobbies capped with a glass-roof atrium, a panoramic observation lounge and bar, a single seating main dining room and more casual alternative dining. They serve full buffet breakfasts and lunches and four-course dinners combining international classics and regional specialties. The most recent ships also offer a bistro with limited seating and more casual fare. Other onboard features are a sauna, steam room, a pool, a fitness suite, a library and a hair salon or treatment room.
Joham says the newest ships are all-suite, with the French balcony space transferred into the stateroom. Standard staterooms run around 183 square feet; the largest accommodations are 274 square feet plus a step-out balcony.
All accommodations have hotel-style beds, choice of soft or firm pillows, flat-screen televisions, complimentary Wi-Fi access, safes and telephones.
Joham points out that the line is geared to the British traveler’s preference for relaxed travel. Although there is a complimentary shore excursion in each port, there is also increased daytime sailing, with more evenings in port and plenty of assistance in arranging reservations, taxis and tickets for guests who want to add their own outings. Passengers are generally from the U.K., Australia and Ireland, with a sprinkling of South African and European travelers.
The company is big on price integrity, and they guarantee that there are never any hidden surcharges, extras or fees that will be added late. They also don’t discount or offer two-for one or Early Bird pricing. They do, however, designate five double staterooms for singles without a supplement on every departure; these book quickly.
According to Joham, Riviera believes that guests want to pay for what they really use, so those who wish to order beer, wine or soft drinks can do so a la carte or choose a well-priced drinks packages — $129 for eight days — for beverages at lunch and dinner. Gratuities, too, are at guest discretion, generally averaging $5 to $11 a day, pooled for all crewmembers.
Joham, who formerly worked with Tauck, said Riviera Travel is very supportive of the travel agent community and recently named two U.K. agents as godmothers of its newly christened ships. Its base commission level is 12 percent, and completion of its agent academy education raises the level to 14 percent. Group bookings increase commissions by another 2 percent.
“An agent who goes through the training and books a group makes 16 percent in commission,” she said. “That’s very agent-friendly.”