Why have just one river cruise line when you could have two, each aimed at a different demographic, with different amenities and price points?
That’s the approach Scenic Tours is taking with the launch of its new river cruise line, Emerald Waterways, intended to be a more value-oriented alternative to its existing river cruise brand, Scenic Cruises.
Scenic Tours owner Glen Moroney felt there was a need to push into the four-star river cruise market, where lines like Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways reside, a spokesman for the company explained.
The result is Emerald Waterways, the first new river cruise line to launch since Scenic Cruises came onto the scene in 2008. Emerald will kick off with the launch of two newbuild ships in Europe, the 182-passenger Emerald Star and the 182-passenger Emerald Sky, on April 15.
Defining features of the new ships will be a heated swimming pool in an area with a retractable roof, which transforms into a movie theater in the evening; and two restaurants: Reflections, the main dining room, and the Terrace for breakfast and lunch.
There will be 20 cabins, two of which will be built for solo passengers, and 72 suites.
Staterooms and suites on the upper two decks will have retractable windows that enable passengers to essentially convert their cabins into open-air balconies.
“Passengers are expecting more because they have experienced it on the larger [ocean] ships,” the spokesman said regarding the additional amenities at a competitive price.
And passengers are less willing to sacrifice their comforts, even in exchange for good prices, a phenomenon made clear by Emerald’s emphasis on spacious cabins and suites, which range from 162 square feet for single cabins to 210 square feet for standard suites.
“Larger bathrooms with walk-in showers, more storage, ability to sit on something besides your bed while in the cabin, balcony, even meals are all part of what is drawing so many more people to river cruising,” the spokesman said.
“This does not mean people are preferring to spend more time in the cabin; they just want to be more comfortable when they are in them.”
Some of the main differences between the new Emerald product and the existing Scenic product are that the Emerald ships will have two restaurant options vs. five — Emerald Waterways is a mostly inclusive product vs. the fully inclusive Scenic — and there are more excursion options on Scenic, as well as electric-assist bikes and personal butlers.
Perhaps the most notable difference is the price. Emerald Waterways will offer four itineraries in 2014 along the Danube, Rhine and Moselle rivers, ranging between eight and 15 days. The eight-day cruise starts at $2,230 per person.
For 2014, Scenic Cruises’ lowest-priced cruise is an eight-day sailing through the Netherlands that starts at $2,735 per person.
Like Scenic, Emerald Waterways will rely on a strong agent channel in North America, which it will supplement with direct-to-consumer efforts. While Emerald has not yet announced plans for any additional ships, the company is discussing options for more ships in 2015.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.