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How do you make river cruising appeal to everyone? Give them what they want and freedom of choice, says Avalon’s Chris Fundell.

As river cruising continues to grow, we’re watching it open up to a much broader, diverse audience; both in terms of age and also the type of person it attracts.

No longer are mature-aged travellers the only ones acknowledging the ease with which cruising lets you make the most of multiple destinations without packing and unpacking your bag over and over again.

At Avalon Waterways we’re increasingly seeing a younger demographic, such as couples in their 40s, opting for a river cruise holiday.

With this shift in clientele, river cruise companies are always on the lookout for ways to entice this audience. We knew we needed to adapt our product, and ensure one of our core promises around freedom of choice was reflected by our product and the experiences on offer.

What our customer feedback overwhelmingly told us was that many of our guests were looking for more interactive and immersive experiences – and this was not only younger travellers; our guests who are 60-plus are more active than ever before, too. Lesson learned – and so our Active Discovery itineraries were born. Last year we launched the nine-day Active Discovery on the Danube. The program offered a variety of engaging excursions that allowed people to get their hands dirty and get deeply engaged in the local culture…and they loved it, so we knew we were onto something. It was a shore thing.

Today, the Active Discovery itineraries offer a range of active experiences such as a jogging tour along Vienna’s grand boulevards, cycling or kayaking in the picturesque Wachau Valley and trekking along secret World War II smuggler routes.

The discovery aspects include an array of hands-on and engaging experiences for example bread baking and cooking classes in Vienna, wine tasting among at local vineyards in the Wachau Valley or a “Fungarian” language class during a walking tour of Budapest.

We’ve had such a positive, upbeat response to the new itinerary that in 2018 the Australasia Managing Director Stewart Williams will be hosting the first Active Discovery on the Rhine itinerary, departing Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt on June 3, 2018, and concluding in Amsterdam on June 10.

We’re really excited about the new Active Discovery experiences on this trip, which include a culinary city walk, bike or jogging tours, taking part in a Roman clothes workshop, visiting a coalmine and chocolate museum or joining a painting class.

Active Discovery itineraries are allowing us to really embrace this new style of traveller and we see a lot of potential for further development of similar types of cruises offering more choices than ever. Without this product evolvement, we know we’d be neglecting a huge market and that’s not something anyone in this competitive industry can afford to do.

  • Chris Fundell is National Marketing Manager Avalon Waterways.