Sign Up for Our Monthly River Cruise Newsletter
Ocean cruising isn’t the only story to come out of this year’s Seatrade Cruise Global convention. The river cruise market was represented well this year, and, as it turns out, some of its major players are expanding into the seven seas.
We got the scoop on Mystic Cruises, Emerald Waterways, Scenic and Tauck.
Mystic CruisesMystic Invest has been primarily known for river sailings, having started with the DouroAzul brand in 1993. However, like others in the river market, the company has branched out to the ocean with yet another brand: Mystic Cruises. The new expedition company just launched its first seagoing World Explorer, christened on April 6. Sister ships World Navigator and World Voyager are each scheduled to follow in 2020.
“People want to get back to familial, cozy destination-oriented cruising,” said Alberto Aliberti, president of Mystic Cruises USA.
Aliberti recognizes that river cruising is booming and that its guests appreciate smaller-capacity vessels such as the World Explorer at sea. He says that, compared to a riverboat, the ship is a “slightly larger platform with a few more attractions.”
Amenities include a theater for educational programming and shoreside entertainers as well as a glass-enclosed and glass-domed observation lounge. The central seating area will encircle a table-top screen that will display a camera feed from beneath the vessel.
“In essence, the view is from the stars to the sea,” he said.
The luxurious 1B ice-class fleet will explore polar regions and other exotic destinations. Mystic Invest’s German-brand Nicko Cruises will first sail the Explorer in summer 2019, and Quark Expeditions has chartered it for Antarctica itineraries in winter 2019 to 2020.
Scenic and Emerald WaterwaysLike Mystic, Scenic is another river cruise company expanding into expeditions at sea. The riverboat fleet of 15 will soon add the ocean-going Scenic Eclipse. After several shipyard delays, the vessel is now scheduled to set sail on Aug. 15, first heading from Iceland down to the eastern U.S. by September/October. A sister ship will follow in 2021/early 2022.
According to Rob Huffman, vice president of trade sales USA for Scenic and Emerald Waterways, the company is genuinely excited for Eclipse. When recently visiting the shipyard, the tea’s collective reaction was that “the ship herself blows away anything depicted in a computer-generated image.”
Eclipse will be different from Scenic’s riverboats.
“You start with five-star luxury,” Huffman said. “From there, you go to truly all-inclusive. It’s all about the experience, whether it’s taking you to the edge of a volcano or whether it’s taking you on a submersible somewhere in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean.”
But it’s not all about Scenic.
“In my heart of hearts, I believe Emerald Waterways is our sleeping giant,” he said.
Huffman reminds the industry that the value-oriented Emerald includes more than its competitors, namely gratuities and airport transfers. Plus, the fleet will grow to eight this year when the Emerald Harmony comes online. The new Mekong riverboat is being purpose-built to sail into the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.
TauckKatharine Bonner, senior vice president of river and small-ship cruising for Tauck, filled in attendees on the line’s latest plans along the Douro River and reiterated the brand’s differentiators. She emphasized its destination focus, special access and more intimate scale . The maximum number of guests accommodated onboard is only 130. Also important to Tauck’s model is its all-inclusive nature. Onboard dining, beverages, gratuities and shore excursions are bundled, and there are no additional options to be sold.
In 2019, Tauck has eight ships operating along four rivers, but come 2020, the company will have nine ships on five rivers, including the Douro. Andorinha will carry at most 84 passengers and includes a Panorama Lounge and Compass Rose for fine dining and Arthur's for casual fare.
Tauck will offer a trio of itineraries on the Douro including one geared toward families. Douro Discovery: A Family River Cruise in Portugal will begin with a two-night exploration of Lisbon followed by a five-night Portugal sailing featuring Porto, Pinhao, Coimbra, Peso da Regua and Guimaraes.
Longer and more extensive for adults are the eight-day Villages & Vintages: Cruising the Douro River Valley route and the 12-day Exploring the Douro, Plus Lisbon & Madrid. The first is a cruise through the famed region highlighting vineyards, cultural visits and more. The second tacks on a pair of two-night pre-cruise and post-cruise stays at Intercontinental Lisbon and The Westin Palace, Madrid, respectively.
The DetailsEmerald Waterwayswww.emeraldwaterways.com