TUI aims at the most desirable priority places for guests
Traditionally the preserve of the older generation, river sailing is rapidly gaining popularity with a wider demographic of guests – and it’s easy to see why.
Although small and intimate, the ships are packed with fine dining, high-quality interiors and facilities, comfortable accommodations, and more. They can also sail into the heart of many countries to moor in the midst of destinations, allowing guests to take in the ever-changing scenery and instantly immerse themselves in the local culture the moment they reach shore.
Recognizing the growing appeal of the formerly niche cruise product, TUI launched its first ever river cruise ship, TUI Maya, on the Rhine in August 2021, and soon introduced TUI Skyla in November 2021 and TUI Isla in April 2022. Cruises only on Europe’s most popular rivers . Planning itineraries was an exercise in overcoming unique logistical challenges, according to Katie Berzins, president of TUI River Cruises.
“We have to consider whether we are traveling upstream or downstream because this can greatly affect sailing times between ports – and in some cases it can even affect whether a ship is allowed to dock,” Berzins says. “Some locks and rivers are closed at certain times of the year - for example, the Main-Danube canal is not accessible in March and April. At the same time, some rivers, such as the Main and Moselle, have low embankments, so we have to close the surface the top of our ships for what would take several days at a time if we were to pass under it.”
In addition, TUI must carefully coordinate departures to ensure that its ships pass through scenic areas at the optimal time. “We prefer to sail in places with great scenery - like the Rhine Valley or the Wachau Valley - during the day so that passengers can enjoy the views,” explains Berzins.
Careful consideration is given to the selection of suitable ports and destinations as well. First and foremost, TUI prioritizes customers’ desired locations. “Large cities like Amsterdam are always popular as there is so much to see and do, but it’s also important to incorporate lesser-known destinations for diversity,” says Berzins. “For example, on some of our cruises we visit Krems in Austria, which is a small city but full of surprises like castles and historical buildings. Moreover, we want to showcase the best places we visit, so we try to connect in destinations where customers can try local dishes and enjoy nice walks. also “.
Finding docks in the correct location is also crucial. “People with direct walking access to the main sites of a town or city are preferred,” says Berzins. “Proximity to points of interest is also very important; they must be easily accessible from the dock to allow customers to make the most of their time in port.”
According to Berzins, there are several destinations that resonate particularly well with TUI customers. One of these is Budapest in Hungary. “There’s so much to see and do, the docks are centrally located, and there are amazing views of both sides of the river, especially in the dark when the buildings are amazingly lit,” Berzins says. Clients also love Koblenz in Germany because the marinas are close to all major attractions and the city is easy to navigate. Many of them enjoy riding the cable car across the Rhine to the castle because it offers great views of the city.”
Rudesheim is another popular destination in the Rhine Gorge. “You’re surrounded by beautiful scenery as you sail across the strait and it’s also a lovely little town with historic buildings, cafes, and attractions like the Museum of Musical Instruments,” says Berzins. “Plus, it’s close to several vineyards and even has its own style of coffee made with brandy brewed in the town itself.”
TUI River Cruises has also organized a varied program of shore excursions that include everything from active adventures to guided sightseeing visits. Wine and city tours are always a favorite, Berzins says.
“Our customers love knowing where their wine comes from and how it varies depending on where it was harvested, so we offer wine tours on every itinerary,” she says. Meanwhile, tours led by local guides allow them to learn about the history or culture of the destinations.
“Similarly, we offer unique excursions to destinations, such as classical concerts in Vienna, the chance to sample Kolsch beer culture in Cologne, or visits to the archaeological site of Lepenski Vir in Serbia, one of our top excursions.”
With so many destinations already in its portfolio, TUI River Cruises will focus primarily on enhancing its existing itineraries and updating its shore cruise offerings in 2023.
“We were ambitious from the start when creating our itineraries because we wanted to give customers as much choice as possible across the most popular rivers, the Danube, Rhine and tributaries,” Berzins explains. Thus, there is little scope to add more destinations in 2023 and 2024; Instead, we’re making subtle changes to make a little difference and reflect the feedback from customers who traveled with us in 2022. We’re working hard to give guests a greater choice of things to do at each destination.”
This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may have changed since then. Sign up for FREE Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning here to get the next issue straight to your inbox or door.