Luxury tour operator Classic Journeys is tapping the growing demand for river cruising with the launch of private tours aboard European river ships.
Like Abercrombie & Kent and other operators, the company will offer small group tours aboard existing cruises, but with their own guide leading private excursions.
Classic Journeys' "tours within a cruise" are capped at 18 participants. Itineraries include sailings on the Douro, the Danube and the Rhone.
The move is part of growing trend, according to Marcus Leskovar, executive vice president of Amadeus Waterways, one of the original European river lines and one that focuses much of its business on charters.
“We continue to see tour operators either adding river cruises to their portfolio or increasing the number of departures and commitments year over year,” he said. “A lot of them opt for charters and part-charters but we also see a good amount of group space agreements requested by these companies. We are excited by the growing interest for river cruises from tour operators as it validates the great experience of a river cruise all around.“
However, Leskovar cautioned that as more tour operators add or expand their river cruise offerings, it can be harder for advisors and consumers to compare products.
“Some of the operators camouflage the river cruise suppliers they are working with,” he said. “And while this is understandable and makes sense, it is more difficult for the consumer to discern between all the different river cruise options offered and available to them.”
Indeed, Classic lists the names of the ships with short descriptions on its river cruise web site, but it doesn’t provide any information about the operator. A spokesman said Classic is tapping another new entrant to the river cruise industry, the British-based Riviera River Cruises.
Leskovar said Amadeus does not requires operators that use their ships to name them, and some don’t.
"However, we do encourage them to be specific and disclose as much of the information about the cruise product as possible so their passengers can make an educated decision and have the right expectations before coming onboard," he said.