Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Update on river cruising -- Our September 2012 Newsletter

September 2012 Travel Report "River Cruising: witnessing history inland"
by Joe Rochemont
Cruise Holidays of Clarkson
Experts at land and cruise travel
Joe, Zaneta, Mairead, Tal, Vctoria

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On River Cruising … Past and Present
River cruises. Source AMA Waterways


Detailed information on river cruises contained herein can be found at our website: www.clarksontours.ca and select "Rivers and Land". In this newsletter we review river cruising in general, excluding rivers in the Americas. We draw conclusions at the end of the newsletter employing the market stratification model adopted by the travel industry for ocean cruising -- specifically, "luxury", "premium", and "mass" markets. We trust you will find this information useful and welcome your queries as to availability and / or advice on the many voyages we identify herein.

Canals; an enabler for our inland waterways

Let’s turn the clock back a few thousand years to the days of Nero – an Emperor of Rome. Nero engaged Egyptian engineers to design the Corinth Canal to join the Ionian and Aegean Seas. Nero was assassinated before work could be completed. Going back just one thousand years takes us to China’s Grand Canal that connects Beijing and Hangzhou – a distance close to 1,800 kilometres. The idea of cutting across land to reduce travel time has been with us for some time; however it was not until 1992, when the Rhine and Danube rivers were interconnected, that river cruising, as a segment of the cruise industry, took hold.

River cruising; the concept

Driven by the needs of trade, the connection of rivers in Europe saw a concept come to full life – that of a floating hotel on rivers (i.e. river boats); tourists could visit far distant, historical and major cities from a vessel literally docked downtown; all from the comfort of their “hotel room” – their cabin or stateroom on board their river boat.

Since 2007, river cruising has grown at the rate of 15% annually (see chart). At this rate, capacity doubles every five years. 
Rivers, the main inland thoroughfares of the past, afford us an upfront and close look at major cities; the fact is that most were built on the banks of rivers or at seaports.

Europe, and river cruising in general

Passenger capacity on river boats ranges from a low 92 to over 200 passengers and the size of staterooms from 140 to over well over 350 square feet. River cruise lines include excellent tours at virtually each port of call, where knowledgeable tour guides are capable of making your head spin – they can provide such detail.
The European Waterways in particular served as natural land boundaries that helped define and develop countries. And they facilitated trade – the main driver for interconnecting these rivers through a system of locks. It does boggle the mind that one can sail from Amsterdam to the Black Sea  (link takes you to a voyages ending in Budapest) by way of the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. This voyage traverses nine countries (see map), the Continental Divide, and an elevated waterway.
Let’s have a brief look at some of the rivers and the itineraries they afford.

The Rhine

As one travels the Rhine from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands, we have the ever-present reminders of a toll-collecting practice, evidenced today by enormous mountaintop castles (or ruins thereof), some still functioning as converted restaurants. The story goes that in some places, logs were placed in the river, thereby impeding travel and enabling toll collection.
Seasonal cruises on the Rhine include “Tulip Time”, and theme cruises such as wine with attending renowned sommeliers with starting points in Zurich, Paris, Basel, and Amsterdam.

The Danube

A popular and satisfying voyage is that of Budapest to Nuremberg then on to Prague – a jewel of a city, not taking anything away from Budapest – with its many points of interest and iconic Parliament Buildings – a photographer’s delight particularly when viewed from Fisherman’s Bastion at the opposite side of the river.
The voyage from the Black Sea, starting in Istanbul with its bazaar and Blue Mosque past the Iron Gates ending in Vienna is another historic delight and visits places mentioned in the Bible.

The Rhone

Start in Paris, travel by high-speed train (the TGV) to Lyon. Sail from there to the Beaujolais area up the Soane River then down the Rhone past medieval towns – the Provence area. Enjoy a flamenco show in Barcelona. Wine theme cruises are a real treat. Or travel the Seine and the Rhone on the Grand France.

The Duoro

Love port wine, or just good wine? Enjoy a country with rugged and inviting coastlines? A country with rich history and excellent foods? Visit Portugal and Spain. Start in Lisbon, end in Madrid. Join our President’s cruise in October 2013.

Other European Rivers

Still more river cruises are offered on the Elbe which flows from the Czech Republic through Germany into the North Sea, the Dnieper River which flows through Belarus and the Ukraine into the Black Sea, and the Po River which features Venice, Italy.

Russia: the Volga River

Each June, at the time of the “White Nights”, we at Cruise Holidays of Clarkson offer this voyage between Moscow and St. Petersburg; opulence is the byword here, when one visits Hermitage and Catherine the Great’s Palace in St. Petersburg. But travelers also experience the simpler things of Russian life, like sharing a meal with a Russian family.

China: the Yangtze River

In China, the Yangtze River cruise travels between the cities of Chongqing and Yichang. Chongqing has a population of 33 million people and was once the capital of China. This tour visits Beijing, where the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall of China can be visited, then Nanjing, home of the Terra Cotta warriors, Shanghai – its Financial Centre, other mainland China locations and Hong Kong. To avoid crowds, travel late in the year.

Egypt: the Nile

Start in Cairo, where the pyramids and the famed Sphinx are located near the city; at the Cairo Museum, see the mummy of the Pharaoh Ramses II, over 3,200 years old still with recognizable features. The tour continues to the Valley of the Kings, where multiple tombs were discovered on the west side of the Nile, then on to Luxor and Abu Simbel, at the south end of Lake Nasser.  Travel in the spring or in the fall to avoid extremely high temperatures.

South Africa: Chobe River

This tour includes visits to game reserves, Cape Town, and a cruise ending at Victoria Falls. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Vietnam and Cambodia: The Mekong

The tour commences in Hanoi, with its French influence, then on to the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, Ha Long Bay, before flying to Siem Reap in Cambodia. See UNESCO sites such as Angkor Wat, before boarding for a cruise along the Mekong to Ho Chi Minh City. This tour is mind-altering … one has much opportunity to mingle with the locals; to us westerners, their lifestyle is extraordinary. See floating villages and more. Best time to travel: February / March.

Cruise Lines, market segmentation and coverage

Let's have a look at market segmentation within river cruise products; and let's use ocean-cruising's segmentation model: specifically, "luxury", "premium" and "mass" markets. In ocean cruising, we have a mature product wherein the players differentiate their products by how the products and services are delivered and the level of service. Examples of points of differentiation are the quality of linen, butler service, suites, quality and choice of shore excursions, etc. 
Carnival Cruise Lines for example, own eleven brands and operate in all three segments. Seabourn operates in luxury, Holland America Line operates in premium and Carnival (the brand) operates in mass. 
Until recently, river cruise line companies all claimed "luxury" level services and indeed the cruise experience was, and still is, reasonably uniform. We do see, however, the emergence of two luxury companies -- Scenic Tours and Tauck (see chart). Each of these companies has tour beginnings, and operates worldwide. They have proven to be game changers.
About Cruise Holidays of Clarkson
We are a full-service travel agency and provide expert advice and services in land and cruise vacations.
We have been a member of the Cruise Holidays President Circle (awarded to the top 20 stores in North America) for the last three years running and won Best Group Promotion Awards in 2008 and 2011. We are dedicated to deliver travel experiences that match our clients' individual lifestyles and pride ourselves in managing lasting relationships earned through the integrity of our service. We thank you for your business and we stand ready to review, discuss, and help you maximize value from your travel investment.
Call us at 905 855 1700 or email info@clarksontravel.ca for more information.
Our address is 1739 Lakeshore Road West, Mississauga ON L5J 1J4 and there is ample free parking at the rear of our store. Drop in!

Zaneta Rochemont
Cruise Holidays of Clarkson
1739 Lakeshore Road West
Mississauga ON L5J 1J4

T: 905 855 1700 | F: 905 855 1701 e: info@clarksontravel.ca| w: www.clarksontours.ca


  1. Thanks for Sharing this wonderful information I found your site on google search and I must congratulate you for your efforts . Do you have rss feeds or newsletters ? Cant see those options .

    President Cruise<

    1. Hi Allen: thank you for your kind comments. The article you read on river cruising is indeed our September 2012 (monthly) newsletter. I send a copy to clients, and while I'm at it, post a copy out to our blog. This is your second kind comment and I say "thank you" for taking the time to do so. Best wishes for the New year. Joe Rochemont.