Over the past few years, river cruise has been growing hugely in popularity as holidaymakers have come to enjoy the benefits of travelling along Europe’s waterways. Guests are discovering that a river cruise is a value-for-money way to visit several iconic cities and even countries, all in one trip.
Clia’s most recent River Cruise Review reported that more than 210,000 British travellers went on a river cruise in 2017: a 21 per cent increase compared to 2016. As more and more ships join the rivers, often expanding into new and more unique locations, this is only set to continue. Scenic has been offering river cruising for more than 10 years and, over the years, we have added several ships and many rivers to our portfolio, including the Nile in Egypt and the Yangtze in China in the past 12 months.
According to Clia, European river cruises accounted for 90 per cent of total bookings, with the Rhine and Danube taking the lead, followed by the Douro in Portugal and the Russian waterways. This is a trend we responded to with the launch of a sister brand, Emerald Waterways, five years ago due to a gap in the market in Europe. It is a deluxe river cruise company to complement Scenic’s five-star all-inclusive luxury.
As the river cruise market becomes more and more popular, with new ships announced every year (10 ships were launched in 2018 and there are eight more planned for 2019), Scenic and Emerald Waterways have focused on offering the very best experience available, innovating rather than imitating in order to set ourselves apart. Scenic’s Space-Ships include a special Scenic Sun Lounge window that turns into a balcony at the touch of a button, and Emerald Waterways’ Star-Ships feature a swimming pool that transforms into a cinema at night.
This year, Scenic refurbished Space-Ships in southern France including adding two new 50-square-metre Royal Owners Suites, larger wellness spaces and a vitality pool. We also offer immersive courses in the culinary wonders of the Rhône, Saône and Bordeaux regions.
Emerald Waterways is set to launch a brand new Star-Ship on the Mekong this year. Emerald Harmony will feature state-of-the-art suites with drop-down balcony windows and, unlike other similarly sized ships, it is specifically designed to sail into the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, allowing us to dock right in the heart of this fantastic city.
We can’t deny that there were some difficulties last year, with low water levels over the summer and, of course, confusion over the post-Brexit landscape regarding travel to Europe. We recently commissioned a poll to find out opinions on Brexit and 31 per cent of travellers said they would avoid booking a trip to an EU country during the end of March or early April due to uncertainty swirling around the Brexit date itself, with many concerned about increasing flight prices, insurance costs and whether planes would be grounded. To ease customers’ minds, we launched a Brexit Assurance, promising no price increases,
no surcharges or supplements, regardless of the Brexit outcome. This has proved very popular.
I believe our success of river cruise over the years has stemmed from thinking ahead and anticipating the needs of customers. Investment in innovation, from renovations and launching new ships to reducing the amount of single-use plastics on ships, all contribute towards the reputation of this part of the cruise industry. The future is definitely bright for river cruising.