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Uniworld is introducing a new holiday cruise to Paris this year.
"Even with our core product in Europe, there really are only two months of the year when we aren’t offering cruises: January and February," Young said. "With lower pricing for cruises and airfares, far fewer tourists and the local cultural scene in full swing, there are many reasons for cruising European rivers outside the summer months."
Young pointed out that the weather is generally crisp and beautiful and fall festivals in winemaking areas are exciting, with local food and music; there are close to 500 along the Rhine alone. He said word is getting out. For example, each year Uniworld’s November departure sales increase, and the line saw very strong growth in 2008 over 2007.
Likewise, the centuries-old Holiday Market cruises are packed with shopping opportunities. With heavier bookings every year for the December sailings, Uniworld will have six different holiday cruises in 2009 of seven and nine nights. They are also introducing a new one: the Parisian Winter Holiday, which Young described as a tremendous value, given the prices at Paris hotels and restaurants. Pricing starts at $1,999 cruise-only.
Outside Europe, the river cruise season is year-round although, in Egypt, the low season is just the opposite of Europe, during May-September when the weather is hotter.
"Egypt is very popular and, in 2008, we saw sales nearly double from 2007 figures," Young said. "Our best-selling cruise is the 13-day Splendors of Egypt; it will include a seven-night cruise on the new River Tosca, which is very luxurious. We feel it will be very well positioned to compete favorably against Tauck and Abercrombie & Kent, and we offer excellent value."
Uniworld’s China season is similar to that of Europe: March into November. Young said the company was having very good results in China up until last year, with a 25 percent increase in 2007, but it was disappointing in 2008, the only region where they saw a decrease. However, feedback from guests has been very enthusiastic, and the company regards it as a fabulous destination with strong potential in the long run.
River cruising in Russia and the Ukraine is governed by the weather, running from April into early September. Uniworld has three itineraries there from 12 to 15 nights, as well as a 15-night Ukraine, Black Sea and Istanbul route that sells well. As in Paris, the hotel and dining costs in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, are very high, so river cruising is the most cost effective way to go, according to Young. The cruises also give clients an opportunity to encounter, first-hand, the rich history and culture of Russia.
Young said that, at any time of year, river cruising is the right choice to get into the heart of a region.
"We often dock in the center of the destination, and guests can step off the ship into the city or town," he added. "We package a lot of included shore excursions, so clients really experience the region and spend all [their] time in the destination. And for agents, it’s important to remember that the all-inclusive nature of our product means agents are paid commission on the whole package, including shore excursions."www.uniworld.com