Sign Up for Our Monthly River Cruise Newsletter
Tauck has announced plans to reconfigure more than half its European river cruising fleet over the next two years. The move will impact the original 361-foot, 118-passenger Jewel-class ships: Swiss Emerald, Swiss Sapphire, Swiss Jewel, Esprit and Treasures. The company plans to bring the early ships in line with the larger 443-foot, 130-guest Inspiration class, introduced in 2014. There will be four Inspiration-class vessels: Inspire, Savor, Grace and Joy, launching this year.
Capacity for each of the five Jewel-class ships will be reduced from 118 passengers to 98, with the number of staterooms dropping from 59 to 49. The current thirty 150-square-foot staterooms on the Ruby (middle) Deck of each will be converted to 20 staterooms, each 225 square feet. After the transformation, 69 percent of all staterooms on each ship will measure 225 square feet or more. The smaller number of passengers will still travel with a Tauck cruise director and three Tauck directors on each ship. In addition, each ship’s second dining venue will be upgraded.
On the Diamond (upper) Deck of each vessel, Tauck is reinventing dining venue The Bistro, which will be renamed Arthur’s, after company chairman Arthur Tauck, Jr. Arthur’s will have its own dedicated kitchen and chef and an expanded menu, continuing to provide more casual alternatives to Compass Rose, the main dining room.
The plan has two phases. Swiss Emerald and Swiss Sapphire, the riverboats in France, will be reconfigured and relaunched in time for the 2017 operating season. The second phase, scheduled for winter 2017, will see the remaining three vessels transformed in time for the 2018 season.
Tauck CEO Dan Mahar says the alterations to the Jewel-class vessels will put them on an equal level with the new, larger Inspiration-class ships. All the company’s ships will be designated together as part of the Tauck Destination Fleet. According to Katharine Bonner, vice president of river and small-ship cruising for the company, there will be no price differentiation between the two sizes of ships; she says cabins are priced with those of the same square footage, although these don’t always match up in terms of category.
Ships will be priced by itinerary, since the smaller vessels will be sailing in different regions. The longer ships will sail on either the Rhine (perhaps in combination with the Moselle) or the Danube rivers exclusively — they won’t sail on itineraries passing through the Main-Danube Canal.
Will Tauck build more ships of this size? Bonner says what will ultimately determine this will be demand.
“If our itineraries in France, or our cruises transiting the Main-Danube Canal, continue to grow, we’ll certainly consider adding more 110-meter ships in those locations because of the operational advantages those ships provide,” she said.
Operational advantages include better docking locations on the Seine River, and on the Main-Danube Canal, the smaller ships can save time doubling up with other vessels going through the 16 locks.
According to Bonner, the capacity loss from 59 to 49 cabins on the Jewel-class ships will be addressed this year with the launch of Grace and Joy. She says Tauck currently sells out across the board, but the larger cabins made possible by the reconfiguration will elevate the guest experience onboard each ship, the first and foremost consideration for Tauck.
The company has an eye on value, as well. For 2016, Tauck is passing on its savings on foreign exchange with the strong dollar and has reduced its prices by up to $1,200 per couple.