The river cruise experience is supposed to be all about personalized service. So why do river cruise lines bury information about itinerary and sailing changes where their future passengers can't find it?
The luxury river cruise experience is supposed to combine the pampering of a five-star hotel stay with the personality of a destination-based vacation.
So why don’t river cruise lines bring the same level of service to social media that they provide onboard their ships?
The last few summers have featured particularly volatile river levels in Europe. Low water levels on European rivers this year, with the Danube being most severely affected, have forced river cruise lines to adjust and cancel itineraries over the last month.
Whether dangerous water levels are the result of global warming or pure chance, cruise brands should be more proactive about responding to customer concerns stemming from weather and environmental issues.
If this is the new norm, why not be honest about it?
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, for instance, was forced to cancel an Aug. 9 sailing of the S.S. Maria Theresa and adjust the sailings of at least eight other departures.
Viking River Cruises has cancelled two departures and adjusted a few other departures due to low water levels.
Neither line has posted detailed information on itinerary changes to their Facebook or Twitter accounts, instead housing all details of the changes somewhere buried on a traditional website.
“Links from Facebook to the more extensive postings on the Uniworld website allows us to keep the information current,” said Guy Young, president of Uniworld. “We have found this a streamlined way to keep our clients informed.”
Viking even used Twitter to point a concerned customer to its website, instead of answering concerns directly.
— Viking Cruises (@VikingRiver) August 11, 2015
A Viking representative said that its direct contact with affected guests diminishes the need to communicate online.
“Viking does post public updates about current sailing on the website, but that is not considered the primary way of keeping affected guests informed,” said a Viking spokesperson. “When an itinerary needs to be modified or cancelled, Viking Customer Relations reaches out directly via e-mail or phone to all affected guests or their travel agents. We prefer direct, proactive communication, rather than expecting guests to find information on their own on social media – particularly since a modified or cancelled itinerary would only be relevant to a small percentage of Viking’s social community at the given time.”
Other lines are more open and available on social media. Avalon Waterways has posted lengthy explanations on Facebook detailing the situation on individual rivers and the changes made to select itineraries.
“Avalon Waterways believes that open communication and transparency is the best form of customer service and interaction,” said an Avalon spokesperson. “We want our travelers to know what we know, when we know it.”
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Photo credit: Viking Rheya sailing the Rhine. Viking River Cruises / Viking River Cruises