Transcend to shake-up European river cruise group market

New B2B player plans dual "wellness-enabling" luxury ships for charter business

A new B2B charter-only cruise is set to shake-up the river cruise market by introducing a business model centred on group travel, with ships designed by the same company behind Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ newest ship, Seven Seas Splendor, and The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s superyacht, Evrima.

Transcend Cruises is slated to enter the industry in the spring of 2024 when the first of two “wellness-enabling” luxury river sister-ships launches. The ships are earmarked to sail European waterways including the Rhine, Danube and Moselle.

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“Transcend Cruises will target corporate meeting and incentive planners, tour operators, affinity/alumni groups, private family groups, lifestyle brands, third-party agencies, and other companies marketing trips under their own brand,” the business said. Backed by a team of industry “innovators and investors” with deep knowledge in river cruising, ship design, construction, hospitality, wellness and group travel, Transcend Cruises is headed by Matthew Shollar, CEO and co-founder.

The custom-built 135-metre ships will cater for up to 120 guests in oversized staterooms, or up to 60 guests can be accommodated in two-room, two-bath suites. That’s about 30-to- 60% fewer guests onboard than current retail-focused European river cruise lines.

Transcend Cruises, Lounge

Transcend Cruises has partnered with Tillberg Design of Sweden, and Den Breejen Shipyard, to design, engineer and build the initial fleet, via operating partner United Rivers – a longstanding leader in premium river cruise management.

“Transcend Cruises was born because the complex needs of charterers are incompatible with the existing river options,” Shollar said.

“I have long experienced – first-hand and repeatedly – how existing river cruise lines had not been designed to prioritise the needs of groups. Similar experiences were shared with our founding team and by many travel organisers, up to and through the pandemic. Coupled with unprecedented new demand for smaller, experiential group travel programs, the opportunity for Transcend Cruises’ leadership position in the marketplace became very clear.”

Transcend Cruise, Dining Room

The ships will offer spaces and services that redefine a luxury group experience on Europe’s rivers. A distinctive, convertible design allows for a configuration of all staterooms, all suites, or any combination of the two on each sailing. The ships will boast five venues that accommodate all guests, as well as intimate settings for events, dining, presentations and breakouts.

There will also be a 240-square-metre indoor/outdoor fitness, spa and guest wellness facility – billed by Transcend Cruises as “the largest and most comprehensive of any river cruising vessel”.

Transcend’s food and beverage program will be rooted in European culinary and wine excellence with a chef-driven restaurant and speakeasy bar/lounge experience, with a mixologist and sommelier onboard. Additionally, Transcend ships are built to deliver a responsible travel experience. Sustainability is a core pillar of the company’s culture and strategy, embedded in elements of the ship build, onboard experience, product inclusions and nature-inspired design.

Exterior render, Transcend Cruises

The company’s operating model allows clients to build bespoke sailings around their individual needs, including round-trip itineraries and variable durations – enabling significantly more flexibility than retail-focused offerings. Clients will be able to develop programs that balance desired destinations with one-of-a-kind experiences in less-visited ports.

“Transcend recasts proven, popular European river cruises to exclusively serve private groups, meetings and events – our only focus,” said Shollar. “We are introducing a new category to the industry with wellness-enabled, luxurious, river cruising venues, providing unmatched support to our clients, all while expanding the market to audiences that typically have only considered hotels and resorts.”

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