Emerald Waterways’ new Mekong ship, Emerald Harmony, was 90% sold ahead of its 30 August launch when TTG spoke to the line’s marketing chief this week.
Harmony, Emerald Waterways’ 8th river ship and its first outside Europe, has been designed specifically for the Mekong, capable of sailing into Ho Chi Minh City.
It is Emerald Waterways’ first vessel to ditch single-use plastics entirely – guests will be given a reusable metal bottle they can refill at water stations around the ship. Plastic straws, meanwhile, will be replaced with bamboo, steel, glass and paper alternatives, and miniature toiletries with refillable dispensers. Emerald is already rolling out these changes across its European fleet.
David Winterton, Emerald Waterways’ director of marketing and global brand curator, told TTG that Harmony was the next logical step in the line’s “organic” growth, being equally accessible from its core markets in the UK, US, Canada and Australasia, and a popular “second or third cruise” option.
“Guests tend to start with the Danube or the Rhine before moving on to the Rhone or the Douro,” said Winterton.
“With our agent partners, we’re good at guiding repeat guests towards different rivers. In the past couple of years, we’ve chartered on the Mekong, but if we’re serious about going into a new market, we’ll go in with our own ship and crew. That’s what we’ve done with Harmony. We’re growing with demand – not building loads of ships and saturating the market.”
Winterton said despite challenging market conditions, exacerbated by Brexit and the weak pound, “a lot of people had come into the market over the past six weeks”.
“We’re working closely with agents to provide great offers and keep them updated on availability,” he said. “Most sales are for 2020, but people are booking last-minute. They just want to get away. Asia is usually booked further out, but because a river cruise is almost all-inclusive, there’s not much to think about. It’s a great opportunity for agents to get bookings in.”
To coincide with Harmony’s maiden voyage, Emerald Waterways is giving away 50 metal water bottles for the first 50 south-east Asia bookings made with the line from 30 August (one per agent). It will also launch new online training resources focusing on the region on 26 August.
Additionally, the line is extending its no single supplement offer to spring 2020 departures.