With a route that takes guests through one of Europe’s oldest wine regions, river cruises on the Douro River are trending across the industry.
While the river isn’t the most popular among agents — CLIA’s Travel Agent Cruise Outlook shows that more than half of travel advisors are seeing a growth mostly in Central and Eastern Europe (53%), while a quarter (24%) saw the growth in the Southern region — the river is quickly becoming a perfect destination for returning river cruise guests who are looking for something outside of the Danube and the Rhine.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will have its own Douro-specific ship, S.S. São Gabriel, debut in 2020. The river cruise line’s President and CEO Ellen Bettridge took some time to talk to Travel Market Report about what’s trending and what kind of attention Uniworld’s Douro river sailings are getting.
What regions of the world are seeing interest from first-time guests and from returning Uniworld guests?
Cruises on the Rhine and Danube are always popular with our new guests, and we’ve also seen an increase in our France itineraries with these guests over the last two years. For our returning guests, we see a lot of them book our more exotic itineraries, like Vietnam and India.
Our returning guests also commonly choose their next Uniworld cruise based on the ship, as they want to experience each of our one-of-a-kind ships, particularly when we introduce a brand-new Super Ship featuring more suites, more dining venues, and the most luxurious finishes. For example, our newest Super Ship S.S. Bon Voyage, which launched this past April in the Bordeaux region, has been one of our bestsellers for 2019.
In particular, I want to ask about Uniworld sailings on the Douro River. What makes the Douro River special?
The Douro is a really incredible river that can sometimes be forgotten when travelers think of river cruising destinations. It has become more and more popular with our guests, however, and for good reason – there is no better way to travel through the Douro Valley, offering miles of picturesque vineyards along with a fascinating look into the history of wine making and cuisine. The river flows from Spain to Portugal, and our Douro itineraries visit both countries, providing a unique perspective on the similarities and differences between these history-rich neighbors.
Is Uniworld seeing an increase in bookings on the Douro river?
Yes, we’ve seen a steady increase in Douro bookings in recent years, and today, Portugal is an extremely popular destination. We’re excited to launch a brand new Super Ship, S.S. São Gabriel, on the Douro in 2020 to match the incredible experience the destination offers with the highest level of luxury on the rivers.
Is interest in a ship’s hardware rising or are buying decisions still being made mostly because of the itinerary provided?
Our return guests often choose their next itineraries based on the ship, with the goal to experience many different ships from our unique and luxurious fleet. Of course, destination also comes into play, which is even more common with first-time Uniworld guests. However, when we launch a new Super Ship, new and return guests are eager to experience both – to be the first onboard to see the extraordinary custom design work that Uniworld is known for, and to check out the enhanced itineraries with even more offerings to explore the destination.