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Within the two-year time frame between mid-2014 and mid-2016, Tauck is expanding its fleet from four to nine ships. That’s a 125 percent increase for Tauck, which has been fairly conservative in the past about fleet expansion.
The expansion includes two Inspiration class ships launched earlier this year; another Inspiration class ship launching in 2016; and Esprit, a fifth Jewel class ship that will join the fleet in 2015.
Esprit was ordered in 2008 and scheduled to enter Tauck’s fleet in 2010. However, as the economic crunch hit the U.S., Tauck delayed delivery of the ship. It subsequently sailed under another flag. This winter, Esprit will be renovated and upgraded to make it identical to Tauck’s four other 118-guest Jewel class vessels.
Tauck tries to keep its pricing consistent throughout the fleet, but there are differences between the Jewel class ships and the larger Inspiration class ships.
The staterooms at mid-deck on Inspiration class vessels run 225 square feet, compared to 150 square feet on Jewel class vessels. Suites on Inspiration ships have larger bathrooms and bigger showers with rain showerheads; Jewel class suites have bathtubs. The second dining room on Inspiration ships has a full kitchen and can offer additional dining options. Additionally, Inspiration has a hair salon. Decor on Tauck’s newer ships is toned down, contemporary and restrained with color accents; this change will be seen on the Jewel class vessels as they are refreshed, too.
“We’re seeing demand outstrip supply in our core product,” said Katharine Bonner, vice president of river and small ship cruising with Tauck. “The new ships will add capacity to that core product rather than opening up new destinations. When we look at the Po, the Douro and the Mekong [rivers], Tauck has land products that serve these itineraries, so we don’t feel compelled to add boats.”
Tauck is also expanding some of its core product: Bonner noted that the company will boost its Christmas market river cruise departures by 67 percent this year. That increase is a reflection of customer demand, some from guests trying out the shorter itineraries at the lower seasonal price point.
“We are getting ladies’ groups and mother-daughter cruisers, who are more inclined to extensive shopping than in the usual sailings,” she said.
Tauck Bridges cruises, which are geared to the family market, will also be expanded.
“We put in a new multi-generational cruise on the Rhine for 2015, and it’s already sold out,” Bonner said. “We will do more.”