Emily Eastman heads to Porto for the launch of A-Rosa Alva, part of the river cruise line’s expansion that includes two new eco-friendly vessels and greater UK market presence
A-Rosa River Cruises christened its newest ship, A-Rosa Alva, in a ceremony on the river Douro in the Portuguese city of Porto last month, marking the trade-only line’s latest offering as it continues to send ripples through the river cruise market.
Among those in attendance was Yvonne Catterfeld, godmother of the new vessel. The German singer and actress has been an A-Rosa brand ambassador since 2014. Although the 126-guest A-Rosa Alva is the smallest ship in the line’s growing fleet, it is not short on amenities, from a well-equipped spa to a swimming pool on deck.
Ports of call include Porto, Régua, the scenic waterways of Pinhão and the idyllic village of Barca d’Alva – an itinerary launched in response to rising demand from the UK trade for the Douro in particular.
A-Rosa Alva’s city stops also answer market demand, with A-Rosa revealing that city trips by ship are becoming increasingly popular among 26-55 year olds. In his christening speech, CEO Jörg Eichler said: “The christening of the A-Rosa Alva further demonstrates the rise in popularity of contemporary European city-to-city holidays. Six years ago, we started to invest in product innovation, marketing and sales and we have thus started to change the entire river cruise sector.
“River cruises have developed in recent years to become a more experience-led holiday for the entire family.”
Family holidays are a key segment for the line, which saw a 67 per cent increase in the number of children on board its ships between 2016 and 2018. This dramatic rise is in part thanks to A-Rosa’s policy of children up to 15 years old travelling for free. The line makes clear which of its cruises are best for families, as well as those that are great for nature or seeing multiple cities.
Expanding in the UK market
The UK market represents a key opportunity for A-Rosa. Select 2020 sailings are already on sale with Newmarket Holidays, and agents will soon be able to book packages with Shearings Holidays.
The line is providing support to its UK partners from its new UK sales and marketing office in Cardiff. The office is part of a broader push to expand operations in the UK and will equip the line with essential resources to build brand awareness within the trade and expand its business-to-business network.
Lucia Rowe, managing director of A-Rosa River Cruises UK & Ireland, says: “Our investment in our UK office and the creation of new sales and marketing roles clearly demonstrate our commitment to the UK market. The team will be working hard to build our brand with travel agents, making them understand the A-Rosa difference and our multigenerational offering. We will of course continue to work with our tour operator partners, both in joint marketing activities for agents, but also with educationals. We plan to host as many agents as possible on our ships to ensure that they get to experience our products first-hand. Looking ahead, we are committed to staying 100 per cent trade-focused, growing our partner network and educating agents about our groundbreaking new ship that introduces a concept to Europe’s rivers that we haven’t seen before.”
As part of its commitment to sustainability, A-Rosa is pioneering eco river cruise with a new ship with onboard technology that reduces the line’s environmental footprint.
Due for delivery in spring 2021, the ship will feature innovations including battery propulsion for sailing emission-free into and out of cities and revolutionary air-bubble technology that reduces fuel consumption. As with all ships in the fleet, the vessel will have a shore power connection that enables overnight charging. Sustainability is central to the design, as A-Rosa works to protect and preserve the rivers and cities it travels through.
The ship is designed to appeal to families and multigenerational parties by incorporating a host of family-friendly facilities, including large family cabins sleeping up to five guests, a separate children’s pool, a kids’ club and a dedicated children’s area in the restaurant.
For adults, there will be an enlarged spa and wellness area. The 140-cabin ship will sail primarily on the Northern Rhine – the first on the river to feature four decks. A second eco-ship follows in 2023.
Rowe concluded: “I expect this new concept to be hugely popular with UK customers and we look forward to working with the UK trade going forward to educate them on all that the ship will have to offer and how and who to sell it to.”