Travel insights from Andrea Sedlacek, editor of The Compass

Riviera River Cruises Knows Europe Best

Looking for an immersive, authentic river cruise experience in Europe? Look to Rivieria River Cruises.

The New Kids on the Block

Before we share Riviera’s secrets, you should know more about their brand in general. They’ve been in the business in the U.K. for 35 years and entered the river cruise market 11 years ago. And although they’re well-established in the U.K. are the largest operator of river boats there, they’re new to the U.S. market, having launched here just two years ago.

Riviera is considered top of the premium line and has a beautiful fleet of ships, none of which are more than six years old. “Riviera is very worthy of our competition,” Marilyn Conroy, vice president of marketing and sales for Riviera River Cruises, recently said at this year’s Cruise360 event. “But it takes time to build brand awareness.”

Part of building that awareness is being conscious of their pricing. “Because we are the new guys on the block in this marketplace, which is incredibly competitive, we’ve come out with a very, very strong price proposition,” Conroy said. “We are significantly less expensive for the same or superior product. But we have to be less expensive in order to grab the North American agents' attention.”

An Insider’s Experience in Europe

After awareness comes differentiation – what does Riviera offer that other cruise lines don’t? “There are only so many rivers in Europe,” Conroy said. “So we take the itineraries that everyone else does and skew them a little bit so a client gets a more immersive experience. Like where we start a cruise and end a cruise will be a little different so we can get people right into the country,” she added.

A perfect example of this is Riviera’s Rhine cruise to Switzerland. Other cruise lines may start an itinerary on the Rhine in Amsterdam and end in Basel. “If you start in Amsterdam, it’s a day and a half down the river to Cologne,” Conroy said. “It’s a completely industrial city. On that itinerary, you arrive in Switzerland and get right off the boat and go to the airport. You won’t see Switzerland.” But Riviera’s cruise starts in a more strategic spot. “Because we start in Cologne, it gives us an extra day and a half in Basel. You get a night there, and there’s a tour included where you go around Lake Lucerne and see the Alps.” That kind of shift in an itinerary shows Riviera’s careful planning and expertise in European river cruises. It’s almost like getting insider info straight from a local, and a major point of differentiation for Riviera.

Giving Travelers the Freedom to Explore

Not only are the itineraries unique to Riviera, but they also have a different way of thinking about travelers’ onshore experiences, offering shore excursions in every port. “We also have shuttle buses which are no charge to the client. We encourage our clients to really enjoy and immerse themselves wherever they are,” Conroy said.

This also means offering what Riviera calls their Personalized Options program, giving travelers a flexible and hassle-free way to experience the city they’re in. If a traveler wants to go to a museum or see a show when they’re in port, they can ask the ship’s travel director to get the tickets for them, which will then charge the traveler the actual cost of the tickets – no markup. According to Conroy, this encourages their travelers to be a little more adventurous and go out on their own.

What’s Coming Around the Bend

Riviera has seen great growth in the U.S. overall, but more specifically a higher demand from solo travelers. This has led them to increase their solo departures in 2019, and this fall, they are now offering:

  • The Blue Danube River Cruise for Solo Travelers: Eight days starting at $2,189 per person, with departures on Oct. 28, Nov. 1 and Nov. 4.
  • Burgundy, the River Rhône & Provence River Cruise for Solo Travelers: Eight days starting at $2,529 per person, with departures on Oct. 14 and Oct. 31.
  • The Douro, Porto & Salamanca River Cruise for Solo Travelers: Eight days starting at $2,889 per person, with departures on Nov. 8 and Nov. 10.
  • Rhine, Strasbourg & Heidelberg River Cruise for Solo Travelers: Eight days starting at $3,109, with a departure on Oct. 21.

To help agents feel confident booking Riviera River Cruises, Conroy says their training is the best way to get there. “It immediately gives you a leg up because you understand the Riveira product and it also helps you understand why you’re river cruising. It gives you a double benefit,” she said. Plus, completing their online training may get you the opportunity to go on a familiarization cruise, which is the best way to learn, according to Conroy: “We know that is the best way to get the product across to agents.”

Riviera also holds webinars for agents, which Conroy herself often hosts. “I’m a firm believer in training,” she said.

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