Cruising for Sales in 2010

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There may be a lot of scrambling for 2010 in some travel circles, but some of the world’s best river cruise experts are just tweaking a bit here and there, ensuring that agents and travelers continue to be enthralled.

“River cruising is a wonderful story of discovery, complete with easygoing comfort and convenience,” says Maria Grimaldi, Uniworld’s v.p. of marketing, adding that the company stays in tune with current trends to design programs—including multi-generational, culinary and cultural itineraries—that offer guests “an up-close and personal experience of the destinations they visit, as well as that appeal to a wide range of people.”

For 2010, Uniworld is adding another itinerary to its 26-and-strong European roster. “The new 2010 program is titled Springtime Along the Rhine, a perfectly paced trip during spring that provides the perfect balance between nature, art, and history along with ample daytime sailing,” Grimaldi explains. “This is a 9-day program from Amsterdam to Frankfurt that takes travelers from the complex network of canals crisscrossing the Netherlands, to the romantic, UNESCO World Heritage Rhine.” Clients get four guided visits to the Netherlands’ and Germany’s top museums and the Keukenhof Gardens, which houses more than seven million flowers and is only open for a few weeks a year.

“Not all river cruise companies are equal,” she adds, citing Uniworld’s world-class food and beverage selections, with a wine program designed by an award-winning sommelier, ongoing quality control, and recent refurbishment of all ships. “Uniworld delivers a product on par with the world’s finest boutique hotels as we work closely with our sister company—Red Carnation Hotel Collection, the award-winning five-star luxury boutique hotels—to deliver an exceptional level of onboard hospitality.” Additionally, the company recently opened offices in Switzerland, France and Holland and has invested heavily in owning and operating most of its ships. “This allows the company to have complete control over every aspect of product delivery—nautical, hospitality, and land operations—which allows the company to respond quickly to our customers’ needs and priorities,” says Grimaldi. “The culmination of all of this is the finest, all-inclusive experience for our guests.”

And with “100 percent” dedication to travel agents, Uniworld offers high commission levels on cruises, air, pre- and post-cruise land extensions, and travel protection programs, with several trade-direct initiatives, including a Travel Agent-Only Online Booking Engine, to be launched soon.

a taste of europe Avalon Waterways is cruising into 2010 with two new ships in Europe and more than 30 additional itineraries in Europe, Egypt, China, and the Galapagos. They’ve come up with 3- and 4-night cruises along the Danube for under $1,000 that “appeal to both first-timers and time-starved travelers,” according to Patrick Clark, Avalon’s managing director. They’re also enticing for people seeking added flexibility so they can spend pre- or post-cruise time in Vienna or Budapest. A Taste of the Danube starts at $949 pp.

Clark also states that Avalon has seen a real interest in France, which in fact is one of their best-selling destinations so far this year. They’ve thus come up with the 16-day Grand France, where clients enjoy the cities and towns along the Seine, Saone and Rhone rivers, from Paris to Cote d’Azur or vice versa. Grand France starts at $4,329 pp.

The Avalon river cruise experience, explains Clark, offers tremendous value at a time when travelers seek just that. Additionally, excursions, meals, and activities are planned and paid for before travelers take off, which means they are all fully commissionable. And cruisers come back happy; in fact, says Clark, “96 percent of customers say Avalon Waterways has met or exceeded their expectations”—a good piece of information to share with clients.

Another sparkling addition to the Avalon roster: new wine, music and holiday-themed cruises. With increasing demand comes a mix of great scenery with the chance to expand one’s knowledge of wine with wine cruises such as Windmills, Vineyards & Paris, which departs Aug. 1, 2010 and starts at $3,889 pp, or a symphonic holiday with music cruises such as the jazz-themed Burgundy & Provence, with shore excursions to the Jazz Festival in Vienne. Burgundy & Provence departs July 5 and is priced from $3,219 pp. Additionally, Avalon is offering travelers the chance to combine more than 10 of their river cruises with the legendary “Oberammergau Passion Play” from May through September of next year; the 3- or 4-night land extension starts at $1,955 pp.