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With a wider offering of inclusions than a standard ocean cruise experience, river cruising is already a wonderful form of travel. But the story is bigger than just that.
Sure, most lines include a shore excursion at every port — inherently making the segment a great value — but what if your clients want to take it even further and really make the trip their own?
River routes are naturally limited, but varying ports keep things interesting. However, passengers taking only the complimentary tours are likely to have the same overall experience. The first step to crafting a custom vacation is to book the optional, added-fee excursions. Viking, for one, offers My Viking Journey, a fantastic online tool that clients can use to track all their itinerary details in the planning stages, as well as once they’re onboard.
Another opportunity to personalize a river cruise vacation is to extend the journey before or after the main voyage with additional days onshore in iconic destinations such as Paris or Prague. For example, AmaWaterways is touting its pre and post selections for 2020: New choices for next year include Istanbul; Nice, France; and Bangkok — each of which includes a three-night stay in a world-class hotel and the expert guidance of the line’s Cruise Managers.
For other companies, customization may come in the form of shipboard butler services, such as those available on Scenic. The luxury line’s trained personnel are on hand to take care of everything from guest laundry to delivering lunch to a client’s suite. Crystal River Cruises also offers butler service, and it has its own Crystal Collection of included and optional excursions, as well as a free musical Signature Event per cruise.
In addition, Crystal has Design Your Time customization, which is essentially private touring for small groups. Similarly, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection features its Curated Services, as well as included and optional Masterpiece Collection shore trips.
As you might expect, nearly every brand offers some form of concierge service, but some lines emphasize the luxury of choice more than others. Avalon Waterways has really stepped up in this arena, breaking its tours into three distinct complimentary categories: Classic, Discovery and Active. Classic denotes city overviews, Discover features interactive immersion, and Active offers kinetic activities. The line’s optional excursions and pre and post selections are available, as well. Emerald Waterways, too, divides its included activities between EmeraldPlus (cultural discovery) and EmeraldActive (physical exertion). DiscoverMore is for passengers who would like immersive add-on tours.
Of course, if clients are keen, they can always wander off and explore entirely on their own. And many high-tech mobile apps developed by river companies make this option even easier. Avalon’s AvalonGo allows guests to digitally access itineraries, daily activities, maps with GPS capabilities and more. For those without smartphones or tablets, onboard public portals mirror much of the same data.
Clients using AmaWaterways’ myAmaCruise app, meanwhile, can pull up itineraries and live ship routes, and they can even share their personalized journey with friends and family back home.
Scenic offers its Tailormade app, which incorporates the line’s VoiceGuide — a receiver for guided-walk narration without the need for a separate audio device. In addition to itinerary and activity information within the app, the CityGuide and GuideBook tools offer help for self-guided exploration.
Tauck showcases destination details within its namesake app, as well. These are accessible before, during and after a sailing, highlighting top picks for restaurants, activities and more across different ports of call.
Essentially, the world is at a traveler’s fingertips. Savvy travel advisors who study up on each line’s offerings can truly personalize a customer’s river cruise vacation — and create a loyal client at the same time.
The DetailsAmaWaterways www.amawaterways.com
Crystal River Cruiseswww.crystalcruises.com
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collectionwww.uniworld.com