To stand out from the packet, more and more river cruise companies are offering themed sailings, ranging from family-friendly itineraries to food and wine cruises.
Referred to by river cruise companies as “passion travel” or “travel with a purpose,” many say the desire to make deeper connections with one another or with the local culture while river cruising is a trend that started after Sept. 11 and one that has resurfaced during these trying economic times.
“Probably since 9/11, people want to travel with much more of a purpose, whether it’s traveling with their family and friends or having an enriching cultural experience,” says Guy Young, president of Uniworld River Cruises.
- This year, Uniworld introduced two family-friendly itineraries, with two departures each, as well as hundreds of departures as part of an extensive nine-itinerary Epicurean Adventurer program, which now accounts for about one-third of Uniworld’s total Europe departures.
- Uniworld intends to continue its family and epicurean programs in 2010.
- Avalon Waterways has added three new themed departures for 2010 bringing, in addition to the four its hosting this year.
- And this year, Tauck World Discovery introduced two river cruise Tauck Bridges departures, which cater to families.
Avalon’s themed cruises fall into three main categories — music, food and wine and holiday.
The themed cruises, according to Avalon, often lend themselves to special interest and enthusiast groups, like wine or jazz clubs.
One of the three new themed cruises for 2010 is a Burgundy & Provence jazz-themed cruise, which departs July 5, 2010. The 11-day, jazz-themed cruise includes the annual Jazz Festival in Vienne, France, and starts at $3,219 per person, land/cruise only.
Avalon has a classical music-themed 2009 Magnificent Europe departure that it will continue with an Oct. 17, 2010, departure as well.
Avalon is hosting three wine-themed cruises this year in July, October and November. The new 2010 departure, Windmills, Vineyards & Paris wine-themed cruise, a 13-day itinerary, is scheduled for Aug. 1, 2010, and is priced from $3,889 per person, land/cruise only.
And the Christmastime in Germany & Austria themed cruise is a new 12-day cruise, priced from $1,709 per person, land/cruise only.
Family and food
For Uniworld, the theme focus has been on two distinct categories: family and food.
The two family-friendly cruises, each with two sailings in July and August, are the nine-day Castles Along the Rhine River and the nine-day Paris and Normandy cruises. Children ages 8 to 18 receive 50% off the cruise-only rate when accompanied by an adult on these sailings.
The nine Epicurean Adventure programs are not any more costly than their regular river cruise counterparts. Prices range from the nine-day Rhine Discovery from $2,099 per person, land/cruise only, to the 32-day Paris & the Grand European Waterways, from Paris to Bucharest, Romania, from $7,259 per person, land/cruise only.
The specified culinary departures feature excursions to wine regions, wine tastings, food and wine pairings, cooking demonstrations and vineyard visits.
Uniworld also offers holiday-themed cruises that include Europe’s Christmas markets, which is a common offering among several river cruise operators.
Additionally, Tauck World Discovery’s family travel division, Tauck Bridges, launched a new family-friendly river cruise this year, Cruising the Blue Danube.
The eight-day cruises from Budapest to Regensburg, Germany sail on June 21 (on the Swiss Emerald) and July 4 (on the Swiss Sapphire) and are priced from $3,290, cruise only.