Riviera Travel has launched a new river cruise product called ‘Cruise & Explore’ to appeal to customers wanting more “freedom and flexibility”.
Head of strategy and innovation Will Sarson said the new product should appeal to guests who are put off by the very things that loyal customers of Riviera’s classic river cruise product love.
“We asked people that do go on our holidays and those that don’t and we found that the things that our loyal guests love most – like fully-inclusive dining, a whole rate of fully-curated tours and the time currently spend in ports – are the very things that detract for others,” he said.
He hopes the new Cruise & Explore product will “bring the river cruise experience to more people”, but said it was not specifically about targeting younger guests, more those people with a different mindset.
“I think inevitably, they might at the younger end of our customer profile, but really, it’s about catering for people who want a different experience.”
The differences centre on how you get to the ship, their experiences in port, around dining and food, and around timings in destinations, according to Sarson.
“We want to put the customer in the driving seat regarding how they get to the ship,” he said. “They might want to fly over early and do a city break in the port before the ship sails; they might want to drive down to France to join it, or they might want to fly from their local airport. This now puts you at the heart of everything you do.”
Sarson said with Cruise & Explore, rather than having cultural excursions included, in the price, guests can pick their own experiences to suit them and will recommend independent tours from a website in each port.
“Rather than making guests see what we consider is essential from a tour we’ve curated, this gives customers the chance to book a cycle tour or an art tour – or even just do their own thing completely and just enjoy a wander through the streets of a new city,” said Sarson. “It puts them completely in control – and also means they won’t feel like they are missing out if they don’t take the included tour.”
On Cruise & Explore sailings, breakfast and one other meal will be included, but either lunch or dinner will be free for guests to go and eat at a place of their choosing ashore.
“It might be in a little café, or trying street food, or dining with some locals. Food is a really good way to feel closer to a destination,” Sarson explained, adding that the ship’s dining room would be open should guests choose not to eat ashore.
Finally, ships on Cruise & Explore sailings will stay later in ports to allow guests more time to really enjoy a meal “and perhaps an after-dinner digestive or leisurely walk back to the ship in a nice and calm manner”.
“Freedom and flexibility is at the heart of Cruise & Explore and we think we’ve created something really unique,” said Sarson.
Riviera will offer three Cruise & Explore itineraries next year, each of which it will sell twice, in spring and autumn, meaning 1,000 spaces will be available on the new style of cruising in the “pilot year”.
“Cruise & Explore is in addition, and complementary to our classic river cruises. We’re not going to change our core product, but we’re trying to change how some people think about river cruise holidays in Europe to appeal to more people – and we plan to ramp it up in 2023,” said Sarson.
Itineraries that Cruise & Explore is available on, are Lyon to the South of France, Cologne to Amsterdam and Budapest, Vienna and more. Sarson said prices lead in at £799 per person, compared to a lead in of £1,499 on a classic river cruise. The sailings are on sale from today online and agents will be sent sale collateral and a video to show to customers.