First up: A-Rosa Donna
The upgrade program, which is going to extend over three to four years, takes off at Linz (Austria) this week where the 2002-built A-Rosa Donna will be getting a facelift this winter.
The Donna is expected back in service at the end of March. By that time, all public spaces—including the existing restaurant, lobby, atrium, lounge bar and the sun decks—will have been thoroughly renovated and vastly redesigned. This is complemented by the installation of a new gourmet dining area at the stern. Also, all cabins will be upgraded and redecorated with new materials and colours.
Matthias Lutter, A-Rosa's recently appointed head of the newbuilding division—which is in charge of refurbishments as well—said A-Rosa Donna will 'look like new' inside once the upgrade is completed.
Subsequently, other A-Rosa vessels will undergo, one by one, similar work, which goes beyond routine overhaul. Next in line are A-Rosa Bella, Mia, Riva, Luna and Stella. Project completion is expected in 2021/22.
While the vessels are gradually being redesigned, A-Rosa Flussschiff is also working on a newbuilding project.
The operator's strategic lifecycle service approach is relatively new to the river cruise industry and could serve as a blueprint for others. From a technical perspective, river vessels have the potential to continue in service beyond 40 years. Increasing passenger demands in terms of design, comfort and facilities, however, often make it difficult to keep pace. As a result, river vessels are often sold to 'lower' product segments, or even scrapped at an age far below their (theoretical) technical life span.
New UK office led by Lucia Rowe
As for the UK move, despite current Brexit uncertainties, A-Rosa plans to set up there early this year. Originally targeting only the German-speaking source market, A-Rosa started offering its first cruises to UK and Ireland customers in 2014. Sales have developed very well, and demand is increasing.
Lucia Rowe, who has been with A-Rosa Flussschiff since 2000, will become MD of the new UK branch. She'll have a dedicated sales and marketing team on hand locally to work on increasing UK and Ireland market penetration. A-Rosa's fleet lifecycle project, along with prospective newbuildings, could help the German operator get a larger piece of the growing UK/Ireland river cruise cake.