How romantic can a river ship get? Picture the new 172-passenger A-ROSA Silva and her predecessors in the stylish fleet of A-ROSA Cruises. Splashed across their snowy bows are lushly painted ruby lips. Captured between those eye-catching lips is a long-stemmed crimson rose. Boarding passengers are presented with a similarly long-stemmed rose for a waiting vase in their stateroom…the door to which is the color of a fine red wine lifted to the light. (Travel agents with clients planning an anniversary vacation, are you listening?)
The ship’s signature, in short, is a sensual, casual-but-high-voltage vibe. Backed by a chic, contemporary look and a European accent. Add friendly efficiency, impeccable service and polished surroundings, and you’ve got yourself a winner for active clients of any age—as discovered when Recommend recently visited Bavarian ports with a contingent of company principals, travel agents and travel journalists aboard A-ROSA Silva, christened July 2 to ply the history-rich waters of the Rhine, Main and Danube.
One of the latest takes on European river cruising, and quite possibly the sexiest to date, Silva is the current newcomer in the 10-ship A-ROSA fleet (sister ship A-ROSA Flora, slated for a 2014 debut, will make 11), based in Rostock, Germany. Founded by Seetours, the line has traveled the Rhone/Saone, Rhine/Mosel/Main and Danube rivers since 2000. This year, taking note of the exploding popularity of river cruising and escalating numbers of sold-out sailings, the privately held company’s two managing directors—CEO Lars Clasen and COO Markus Zoepke—moved forward with plans to dedicate three of the 10 ships to the U.S. and Canadian markets for the first time in 2013, signing on Newport Beach-based David Morris International (DMI) to manage the product launch.
Says David Morris, president of his eponymous company, “The most obvious change in A-ROSA has been adapting the product for the North American English-speaking market. In working with the executive management team at A-ROSA, DMI delivered a comprehensive report defining a luxury brand to meet North American expectations. This overview covered food and wine, stateroom amenities, ambiance, service, and a wide range of other important aspects for the luxury consumer.
“Under DMI,” Morris continues, “A-ROSA will feature a fully inclusive product—all wines, liquor, tipping, shore excursions, and airfare are included! A-ROSA will focus on an active demographic—guests seeking physical activities as part of their trip.”
discovering the destination
“One of our major points of differentiation from our competitors is the shore excursion,” points out Marilyn Conroy, directing DMI’s sales efforts as executive v.p. “We will of course offer the traditional city tour, but plan to also offer more exciting and creative events such as a kayaking trip, a carriage tour, a jeep tour and barbecue, hot air ballooning, and a private luncheon with famous local chefs, such as Paul Bocuse in Lyon.
“We plan on attracting the younger and more active luxury client. On board we will be offering fine cuisine focusing on foods from the areas we are visiting. And wine—German wines in particular. We will also have an alternative gourmet restaurant featuring dinners with specialty wine pairings.”
Indeed, all of the above features are potential top sellers. The all-inclusive program Morris mentions (as in, clients can put their wallets away and relax), along with air, gratuities and shore excursions, also wraps up transfers; all port charges, taxes and fees; open bar throughout the ship including soft drinks, tea and coffee specialties along with beer, wine and spirits; and bottled water in staterooms.
Along with the included shore options named by Conroy come still more adventures. On the Rhine, for example, most port stops will serve up both a walking and biking tour (the ship’s stash of bicycles is complimentary). In Strasbourg, look for a cheese-tasting tour, in Breisach a wine tasting. In Speyer, passengers can choose a flight over the wine region, or a side trip to Heidelberg. From Antwerp there’s a jaunt to Bruges to sample the justly famed chocolate. In Cologne, a perfume tour wins by a nose.
As for the cuisine that Conroy cites…ah, the food and drink. Clients can count on excellent, creative fare in the sunny yellow, open-seating restaurant. Breakfast and lunch are generous buffets with a cooking station for customizing omelets and other dishes. A typical dinner menu accompanied by red, white, and dessert wines: profiterole with duck liver pate and pink pepper; beef tartar with Waldorf salad, shallot tart and mushrooms; beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, white onion puree and fondant potatoes. Even room service snacks are inventive. How about a bento box with duck spring rolls, vegetable Thai samosas and shrimp sesame won-tons? Or, after a nippy winter’s walk, a hearty Hungarian goulash soup topped with sour cream?
Post dinner, the spacious lounge beckons with a dance floor, a midnight snack, and yes, that nonstop open bar. The lounge also serves up activities the likes of a chocolate tasting, and entertainment such as a show spotlighting the Schuhplattler, a traditional folk dance of the Alpine regions of Bavaria and Austria.
The signature stylishness continues throughout the meticulously kept vessel. The 85 comfortable, attractive staterooms—compact with ample stowage, night tables, desk and chairs, TV, phone, hair dryer and robe—sport a handsomely canopied bed. Most have a French or full balcony. Suites (four plus two grand suites) boast a soaking tub in addition to the standard shower.
On Deck One is a surprisingly sophisticated spa facility for a small ship. It encompasses fitness equipment, a sauna, a relaxation room with one-way windows (for enjoying the view without being part of it), and rooms for face and body treatments (including services for twosomes) with champagne at the ready. On Deck Two, along with the lounge, restaurants and reception, is a tiny library with games, plus display cases of shopping temptations from logoed clothing and designer fragrances to distinctive Coeur de Lion jewelry.
As always on river vessels when the weather is fair, the topside stretch of sun deck is action central. Not only is it prime territory for catching rays and soaking up vistas of the countryside from the vantage of a deck chair, it’s where Silva passengers can splash in a heated pool and test their skills at a putting green and giant chess board.
Then there’s the winter fun. Participants in the FAM trip were treated to Germany’s legendary “Christmas Markets” in big-city Frankfurt; in Regensburg, a treasure of a medieval town with its 11th to 13th century architecture; and in Nuremburg, overlooked by hilltop Nuremburg Castle where courts of the Holy Roman Empire once met. Each Christmas Market is a holiday wonderland of lights, caroling choirs, church bells, and countless booths displaying hand-crafted decorations and gifts. Not to mention the alluring aromas of warming local soups, potato pancakes and gingerbread. In Nuremburg, Clydesdale horses pull storybook carriages, complete with costumed drivers and footmen, through the festive streets.
Clients who would welcome the same opportunity should be pointed toward the 2013 list of 7- to 14-night sailings and the Dec. 3 Rhine Christmas Markets itinerary. It’s followed by a Dec. 21 Christmas & New Year Holidays cruise, both aboard A-ROSA Silva.
Summer journeys, beginning June 22, will spotlight A-ROSA Silva, Stella, and Aqua on the Rhone and Saone, the Danube, and the Rhine. Rates start at $4,952 pp dbl for a 7-night itinerary.
Selling the river cruise experience? It’s “the new darling of the travel scene,” declares Judy Parker, DMI’s senior v.p. of marketing. “The biggest challenge to overcome when selling a river cruise to a younger or middle-aged traveler is that they are afraid of being bored and not finding other guests in their same age group. Today on A-ROSA, travelers can experience fine cuisine, great local wines and spirits, exceptional staff, and have fun with like-minded individuals. This is the definition of contemporary sophistication.”
A-ROSA Cruises: (855) 55 AROSA; arosacruises.com