For Tauck’s river cruises, tours, small ship cruises, and destinations, it’s all about bringing guests back by delivering a high-quality guest experience. Arthur Tauck, Jr., the son of Tauck, Sr., who founded the company in 1925, still reads guest’s comments cards that are filled out at the end of the sailings and trips.
“The report comes out every Thursday, by the time you get into work he has sent emails,” Senior Vice President of River and Small Ship Cruising Katharine Bonner told TMR during this week’s CLIA Cruise 350 conference in Ft. Lauderdale. “That’s how you keep you guest satisfaction up.”
That level of guest satisfaction leads to success not only for the brand, but for its agent partners.
“It’s really key to delivering the guest experience that the guests actually want,” she added.
For agents, the variety of products offered by Tauck also allows them to shuffle clients between rivers, land, and sea, giving them opportunities to keep that client who might want a different sort of vacation, with a company they trust.
“A number of our patrons book so early in advance, before we have price and before we even published the itinerary,” Senior Brand Manager Chrissy O’Keeffe said. For example, Tauck has planned Great Lakes itineraries two years out, which are already half sold, as are its itineraries to the Passion Play in Oberammergau in 2020.
For agents who want to start booking Tauck, getting guests on a river cruise and then pitching a land or small ship vacation is typically a smart way for agents to score returning business, O’Keeffe said.
“If you sell them on Tauck, you don’t have to worry about them anymore,” she added.
Earlier this month, Tauck announced that vessels ms Treasures and ms Esprit underwent “down-to-the-studs” renovations.
According to Bonner, Tauck realized that most of their ships were selling from the top down, so the renovations were an effort to provide an even higher percentage of those higher-tiered cabins.
“When we first set down in 2005 to build the Emerald, we knew we wanted suites on the top deck, but the rest of cabins were 150 square feet,” she said. “Our guests want larger cabins.”
Tauck also wanted to create a more intimate experience for its guests.
“The company, overall, is seeing ‘small is the new big’ — people really want a more intimate personal experience. Maybe we’re bucking the trends in some of the cruise industry,” Bonner said.
More small ship capacity
Tauck has been a partner of luxury expedition line, Ponant, for the last 25 years. Through that partnership, Tauck Small Ship will grow its passenger volume by 40 percent in 2019.
“We always want more ships in different places and you can’t do that when there’s only five vessels that you’re playing with,” said Bonner.
To be able to get guests to see the Galapagos, something that Tauck could not offer, it added a partnership with Silversea Cruises.
“Silversea came along with Silver Galapagos,” a perfect fit for Tauck, O’Keeffe said. Tauck has since added 40 passengers on a couple of select sailings on Silver Galapagos. Though its price is $3,000 more on average per person than any other product, it is sold out.
Tauck also has a partnership with Scylla Cruises —with 28 river boats, eight of which were built for Tauck — which allows them to have even more itineraries.
Because of all of those partnerships, there is increased space on Tauck’s small ship itineraries, which means more opportunities for agents.
“For small ship, there is a perception among the agent community that you shouldn’t’ look at small ship because it sells out so early, so far out,” O’Keeffe said. “Now it’s the perfect storm to be able to go.”
Something for everyone
Even though the typical river cruise customer is still the one filling most of Tauck’s space, Bonner admitted that “we see a greater age range onboard than we used to. Our age has steadily come down, bit by bit.”
Part of that trend is Tauck offering more choices than ever, including options for cruisers wanting to be active during their sailing and more options for families wanting to take a river cruise with an extended family.
“We find that guests want a more personalized experience and choice is part of that. Now you can be as active as you want to be,” Bonner said. “Our Bridges family product is a great product for that. Traveling with young children, it’s a much easier way for parents and grandparents to travel.”