Ocean-river combos alluring option for cruise lovers

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It seems like something true cruise enthusiasts could really get onboard with: the marriage of a blue water sailing with one that ventures into the inland waterways.

So, it comes as little surprise that the one company with a solid stake in both the ocean and river markets, Viking, quietly launched itineraries that combine an ocean and river cruise.

Viking currently has three itineraries it calls its Ocean & River Voyages. The 15-day Rhine & Viking Shores & Fjords combines a Rhine river cruise with a North Sea sailing (with both 2018 and 2019 departure dates); the 22-day Grand European & Viking Fjords combines a Danube, Rhine and Main cruise with a North Sea sailing (with departures in 2019); and the 18-day Rhine and Amsterdam to Catalonia brings together a Rhine cruise with a sailing along the Atlantic Ocean (with departures in 2018).

It’s an approach worth watching as a slowly growing number of cruise lines build and offer both ocean and river products. In addition to Viking, Crystal Cruises now has vessels that sail both blue and inland waters, and Scenic is gearing up to make its first foray into ocean cruising with the launch of the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse this summer.

On a smaller scale, Pandaw River Cruises has started to offer coastal sailings in Southeast Asia in addition to its numerous river cruises on the Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers. Closer to home, American Cruise Lines has cruises both along the U.S. and Canada coastlines as well as on U.S. rivers, and UnCruise offers a Columbia and Snake river sailing in addition to its numerous coastal cruises. French river cruise company CroisiEurope has some coastal ships as well. Since for the most part, river cruises can’t go where ocean cruises can and vice versa, it seems the two would work well together as a combined offering for passengers that have the time and the willingness to experience two very different types of cruising.

Perhaps for Viking, there’s a larger goal at play with the combination cruises, too. Travel Weekly’s cruise editor Tom Stieghorst recently reported that Viking’s senior vice president of marketing Richard Marnell admitted that one of Viking Ocean’s core challenges is that the Viking name is still associated primarily with river cruises. Combining the company’s ocean and river offerings could be seen as a way to introduce those river cruisers to the ocean product.

For companies with access to both markets, the opportunity to cross-market and introduce river cruisers to the oceans and ocean cruisers to the rivers is definitely an advantage worth weighing. While some might argue that they are very different markets with distinct passengers, river cruise line surveys of their passengers often find that many of them are ocean cruisers as well, suggesting that there is a potential marketplace for the ocean-river combination cruise.

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Scenic Eclipse: Scenes from the Shipyard

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Click the above image to watch the Luxury Yacht Video.

The Scenic Eclipse is well on her way to a 2018 debut, and is currently under construction at a shipyard in Croatia. Scenic recently released new photos of the newbuild process.

Advanced retractable zero speed stabilizers arriving at the shipyard.“Currently, 60% of the ship’s steel construction is complete and soon she will be taking shape on the slipway. Here we can see the retractable zero speed stabilizers being delivered to the shipyard. These stabilizers are a major innovation on Scenic Eclipse, which not only stabilize the ship but also allow safer entry and exit in isolated locations,” the company said.

Azipod Thrusters ready for mounting to hull.

Ice Class 1A Super Hull.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines May Open Rivers to Big 3

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines May Open Rivers to Big 3

PHOTO: Amadeus Princess. (photo via Flickr/Lutz Blohm)

After Crystal Cruises decided to venture from the oceans to rivers, we speculated that other brands might follow suit, and now Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has: The UK company plans to sail the Brabant beginning in 2018.

Upon further inspection, it turns out the Brabant will actually be the 2006-built Amadeus Princess renamed for Fred. Olsen’s purposes. That means its presumably chartered program will more closely mimic how Celebrity Cruises once collaborated with Amras Cruises, or how Adventures by Disney is still partnering with AmaWaterways.

Crystal Cruises, on the other hand, started its Crystal River Cruises division with a permanent takeover of an existing riverboat followed by complete new-builds.

Either way, Crystal and Fred. Olsen will essentially be the only two ocean operators on the river. (Adventures by Disney doesn’t quite count as an independent brand from Disney Cruise Line.)

So, again we ask: Might even more ocean cruise lines soon be inclined to roll down the river?

The river cruise market boom is beginning to slow a little. Ubiquitous Viking River Cruises only christened two of its signature Longships this year and does not have any additional new ones currently scheduled to launch next year. (It does have the Viking Ra, a heavily redesigned existing vessel, set to come online in Egypt in 2018, however.) Conversely, AmaWaterways is growing even bigger with the new double-wide AmaMagna planned for 2019.

With such characteristic ebbs and flows, there definitely remains room for other players to make a move.

European rivers often appear saturated with ships, but additional charter opportunities seem to abound. Major US companies like Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Limited and Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited are the most likely to consider, albeit likely with purpose-built riverboats.

The question is whether or not they would apply any of their current ocean brands to the river or if they would establish new lines for the purpose.

The decision would have to be made whether a Holland America River Line, Oceania River Cruises or Celebrity River Cruises make sense as example sub-brands for each of the big three corporations respectively.

Previously, it appeared that Norwegian might corporately want to stay out of the river market to give Crystal Cruises the edge with their link via Genting Group, but now the financial separation is growing wider, making direct competition fair game.

It’s still possible that the domestic brands would prefer to test the waters locally, however, heading out on the Mississippi over the Danube first. Getting loyalists to try a new product closer to home is always an easier sell. Then if it proved successful, it could be expanded abroad.

Otherwise, a completely new brand under one of the corporate umbrellas could be a better approach to drawing from several pools of loyalists at once to build up a new river cruise base.

Of course, the timeline for any of this is likely dependent on the success of another current experiment: Cuba.

As long as the Trump administration does not reverse relations with the island nation, ocean cruise lines are focused mostly on sending existing hardware there now and into the immediate future. Any likelihood that new river hardware and software is next established by such companies will likely be put on hold until they can better measure success or failure in the Caribbean.

In the meantime, keep looking to Crystal River Cruises and Fred. Olsen River Cruises to pave the potential way for others.