Riviera River Cruises sent big waves through the industry when in early 2020 it announced that in North America, the company would accept bookings for its European river cruises only from travel agents. “I have always been an advocate for our travel partners and plan to continue supporting them in any way possible,” says Marilyn Conroy, Executive Vice President Sales & Marketing North America for Riviera River Cruises in this edition of Take 5.
1. Is Riviera River Cruises’ pro-agent policy still in place (i.e. accepting bookings for its European river cruises only from travel agents) and have the results from that policy been positive?
“Yes, we have the policy of dealing only with travel advisors. When a direct client calls us we take the booking and then give the booking to an agent with whom we are working proactively and who is near to where the client is located. We give that booking over to the advisor at full commission.
“When I announce during seminars that that’s our policy, the reaction is very positive, however I cannot confirm that agents actually sway business our way because of this policy. I have always been an advocate for our travel partners and plan to continue supporting them in any way possible. Therefore we will not be marketing directly to agents’ clients in the foreseeable future.”
2. What can you tell us about Riviera’s itineraries for 2023 and 2024 – what do you want agents to know about where Riviera is sailing, and with how many ships?
“We have 11 beautiful ships currently, and we are getting a third ship next year on the very popular Douro River.
“Our itineraries were always seven days, or 14 days. For 2024 we are announcing four new 10-day itineraries – perfect for guests who say seven days is too short and 14 days is too long.
“Below are the new 2024 itineraries …
- Lyon, Provençal Rhône & the Camargue River Cruise (2023)
- Cologne, the Rhine Gorge & Medieval Germany (2024)
- Paris, Normandy & Historic Treasures of the Seine (2024)
- The Moselle, Luxembourg & the Majestic Rhine (2024)
“Riviera prides itself on its innovative itineraries. So many of our itineraries have been ‘tweaked’ to give a more immersive experience for our clients.
“As an example, the Rhine cruise to Switzerland is normally operated Amsterdam to Basel for seven nights. On this cruise you will not see Switzerland unless you take a post-tour. Our competitors start in Amsterdam, taking one and a half days to sail down an industrial river before arriving in Cologne. We start in Cologne and sail to Basel giving our clients a full day tour of Basel where they can actually see the Alps and overnights in Basel. There are many more instances where we have modified the itineraries to make them more interesting.
“In 2024 we have ‘raised the bar’ on the product by including, at no additional cost, our superior drinks package: wine beer and soft drinks during lunch and dinner and then from 6 p.m. to midnight in the bars and restaurants we are offering open bar to include:
- Our cocktail and mocktail of the day
- House spirits and mixers (gin, vodka, rum and whisky)
- A recommended regional wine during dinner (martini & sherry pre-dinner; port & brandy after dinner)
“Riviera offers spacious accommodations. For instance, on our long ships, the standard French balcony is 183 square feet – significantly larger than one of the top river cruise companies. The long ships hold 167 passengers which leaves a lot of room for other features – gym, sauna/steam room, beauty salon, alternative restaurant for which there is no charge.
“The ships are bright and modern. I usually describe them as ‘traditional glam’. They are traditional but not stuffy, glamorous but not glitzy.
“We get very positive comments about our food and service. Our food takes on a regional concept – namely when in France we have a French theme, Germany a German theme but always available is grilled chicken or fish.”
3. How is summer 2023 performing for the company?
“Riviera has been in business in the UK for 39 years and is market leader for river cruises. This year has been very good overall for Riviera in all markets with a particular uptake in North America.
“Being a relatively new brand as we have only been marketing in North America for five years (and you can’t count two of them) it takes time to get traction in a market.
“Now that every year we are taking more guests and they come home happy and spread the word, our business is really very strong for 2023 and 2024 forward.
“We do still have some space for 2023 so I would ask our travel partners to keep looking at our web page for the most up to date information.
4. Riviera always keeps its Canadian travel agent partners in mind with great at-par pricing incentives. Why is it important to Riviera to make sure it caters to the Canadian market?
“Yes we have had a program for three months, expiring at the end of this month, offering Canadian dollars at par. This is a huge savings for our Canadian friends. Canada should be, and is, a good market for us [with] the connection between Canada and the UK.”
5. For travel agents who want to book Riviera but are unfamiliar with the company, how can they learn more?
“We have a general information webinar posted on the agent site of our website at www.rivierarivercruises.com.
Here our partners can see the recorded webinar, view videos on the ships and order brochures.
“I would always recommend they attend our webinars, which are held frequently, usually once a month.
“From time to time we offer fam trips. The usual fam policy is 50% discount confirmed 90 days out but we are often able to offer fams at US$499 per person.”
More information about Riviera River Cruises can be found at rivierarivercruises.com.