Disney enthusiastic about river cruise expansion

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The AmaViola sailing the Danube in Budapest.
The AmaViola sailing the Danube in Budapest. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Adventures by Disney

This summer, Adventures by Disney is offering river cruises for the first time. Paul Heney and his son are on the AmaViola, experiencing the new product.  

LINZ, AUSTRIA — Ken Potrock, senior vice president and general manager of Adventures by Disney and Disney Vacation Club, is onboard an eight-day sailing from Vilshofen, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary, with his family.

I chatted with him about Disney’s plans for river cruising over dinner at the ship’s elegant Chef’s Table restaurant.

For next year’s Rhine River cruises, a sister ship, the 170-passenger AmaKristina, is under construction. Potrock said that adding the Rhine makes a lot of sense for this new Adventures by Disney experience.

“There’s a lot of culture and character in that region of the world,” Potrock said. “And we think there’s a lot of connection to classic Disney lore and stories there … we think it’s going to play really wonderfully.”

Potrock said that people have become comfortable traveling with Disney to unfamiliar places, and that the company is introducing many families to river cruising.

“[We’re] bringing new people into the river cruise category,” he said. “They’re kind of locked into a segment of the population and we can expand that segment by bringing family into the equation.”

A group having dinner at Chef's Table. Writer Paul Heney is first on the left, and Disney's Ken Potrock is third on the left.
A group having dinner at Chef's Table. Writer Paul Heney is first on the left, and Disney's Ken Potrock is third on the left. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Adventures by Disney

Does the company’s expansion into year two and bullish outlook mean that we can expect to see a Disney flag on a river ship one day?

“That’s not our intent,” Potrock said, explaining that the AmaWaterways partnership is right where Disney wants to be. He said that the partnership is a win-win for companies that complement each other with a shared belief in high-quality product and “spectacular service levels.” The food and programming are great and bring added value, he said — and Disney embellishes the service with eight Adventure Guides aboard. The Disney staff helps with the details needed for multi-generational families.

Summer cruising, he noted, is not the strongest market for older couples who are the mainstay for river cruises, due to the heat and crowds in Europe. But that’s perfect for Disney’s family-oriented approach.

“It’s a perfect time for us to trade off,” Potrock said. “I think the complementary aspect of that is great.”

Potrock said that now that the company has expanded to itineraries on two rivers for 2017, the next area of growth may be on timing — possibly May or September dates. Beyond that, he sees an opportunity to focus on the adults-only market and get “creative in terms of thematics.”

With the popularity of wine cruises, he feels maybe Disney can find a tie-in with the Epcot Food and Wine Festival to create a new product within that vein.

The photos with this article were provide by Adventures by Disney. A previous version of this article incorrectly credited the writer.

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