Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

As the European ban on inbound American travelers drags on, river lines that cater to North American travelers are looking to other markets and new partnerships to get their ships and their passengers sailing again.

This month, both Amadeus River Cruises and AmaWaterways said they will launch their first sailings of the season, but with European passengers only.

Marcus Leskovar, executive vice president of Amadeus, said they are planning to begin limited sailings this month with five ships, first on the Rhine, Mein and Danube, then expanding into France and farther down the Danube to the Black Sea.

"Obviously, things are still are still developing, and we may have to make adjustments," he said.

Both lines said that in addition to wanting to get some ships back on the rivers, the limited sailings will enable them to implement and perfect their new Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

While Amadeus, which is based in Germany, has long had a more diverse international client base that enables them to more easily restart without North American guests, AmaWaterways said it has partnered with a German tour operator to begin sailing the AmaKristina on the Rhine on July 5 with German speaking guests.

AmaWaterways president and co-founder Rudi Schreiner said the company, whose clientele is generally about 95% North American, is also exploring partnerships with other European tour operators and may add more sailings for the European market before Americans are allowed back into Europe.

Likewise, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection CEO Ellen Bettridge said that in addition to their U.K. sales office, they are beefing up their international marketing, including hiring a German consultant to explore ways to diversify their also largely North America-based clientele. Bettridge said her crews have long asked about getting more European passengers. And while she said Uniworld has always been able to fill their ships with North American passengers, adding a more diverse clientele will make the experience more interesting for everyone.

Additionally, Uniworld recently announced a marketing partnership with American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) to promote one another's sailings.

While international borders remain closed, Bettridge said they have reached out to advisors and guests to offer a special deal including an on-board credit for AQSC, which sails only in the U.S. In return, she said, AQSC will promote to their guests Uniworld sailings in Europe, Vietnam, Russia and Egypt.

Bettridge said it's a great partnership because "we don't have any intention to sail in the rivers of the United States, and they don't have any intention of sailing on the rivers of Europe."

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