Earlier this month, Avalon Waterways rolled out a new marketing campaign aimed at giving river cruise passengers more options in 2013. Avalon Choice, as the concept is being marketed, emphasizes a wider selection of sightseeing, dining and cultural experiences.
But the campaign is indicative of the wider array of choices that the market is offering overall. As competition becomes increasingly fierce in this booming travel segment, the lines are feeling the pressure to differentiate themselves.
Viking River Cruises, for instance, is building 12 ships between this year and next, emphasizing a variety of cabin configurations that allows for a big swing in price points, from entry-level, lower-deck cabins to sprawling upper-deck suites and many options in between.
AmaWaterways has approached choice by varying its dining venue options, adding a themed restaurant and a smaller chef’s tasting table on its newer vessels.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection set out early on to set itself apart in the area of interior decor, taking notes from boutique hotel design trends with element such as uniquely patterned wallpaper, flashy chandeliers and plush furniture.
Avalon’s Choice program gives passengers up to four different excursion tracks to choose from: traditional sightseeing, essential sightseeing, leisurely sightseeing and alternative, themed tours. “It’s about breaking the mold of one-size-fits-all,” said Steve Born, vice president of marketing at Globus, which owns Avalon.
Indeed, gone are the days when a customer might pick one river cruise over another based just on price. Gradually, the river cruise market is evolving into different lifestyle brands, similar to how the ocean cruise market has evolved. And while the river cruise lines are still in the early stages of clearly defining their lifestyle niches, we’re getting some early glimpses of the directions in which they might be headed.