Two years ago, Glen Moroney decided to build his own European river cruise ships rather than charter others. Now he has two ships and is launching two more this spring.
Moroney is the creator, owner and chief bottle washer for Scenic Tours. Their new "spaceships," as he calls them, are unique on the rivers of Europe. They are 135 metres long which is the maximum length for sailing rivers like the Main, Danube and Rhine.
Scenic Tours' main cruise is a one-way, 14-day trip from Amsterdam to Budapest. The same cruise is available in the reverse direction. See scenictours.com for more information.
Scenic Tours has grown over the past 20 years from a ground operator out of Australia to a company running trips to many destinations from its offices in England, Canada and Australia.
You get the feeling when talking to Moroney that he has a passion for travel and especially for river cruises. "As of right now we are 93 per cent booked which is good considering the economy. What surprised me was that our suites were selling first, we expected different in this market," he said.
Single cruisers. who get very few breaks when it comes to cruising. were offered cabins at the same rate as per person based on double occupancy. Singles being treated as equals is almost unheard of in the cruising business.
We are reaching capacity on some days at Caribbean ports. Do the river cruisers have the same problem? "No net yet," he said. "Amsterdam and Budapest can be a problem so we decided at the outset to leave on Mondays to avoid the other ships."
Is the Industry growing? "Yes, no doubt about it, but we all have some short-term growth problems in this economy. For us this is going to be two record years in a row," he said.
"We find the satisfaction level high. We have a lot of repeat customers and we know our market - its Boomer plus."
What makes your line different? "The space I've been talking about. We carry 169 passengers but the dining room holds 189. There is room for double tables. The lounge has room for everyone on the ship at the same time. That is unique. Also, we have a five-metre outdoor veranda around the lounge ensuring that our passengers can stay outside when we are traversing low bridges."
Why river cruising? "Where else, except for a few ports, can you pull right into the heart of town? Most cities in Europe were built on rivers and this allows us to land right in the middle of all the activity. In many cases you can see what the city has to offer by just walking."
Here's a deal right in the middle of summer. The cruise starts July 28 on Holland America's Noordam. It's a 20-day cruise, actually two back-to-back cruises, with prices starting at $2,300.
The first cruise sails out of Civitavecchia, Italy, which serves Rome, to ports such as Dubrovnik, Corfu and three other Greek ports with a final stop in Turkey then back to Rome. The second cruise on the Noordam departs Rome to Florence, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Mallorca and Tunis with two more ports in Italy before returning to Rome. You can find out more at hollandamerica.com. For additional weekly specials, sign up our e-mail newsletter at portsandbows.com.
Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind the scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an e-mail newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil can be contacted directly at preimer