As Tui enters the river cruise market, Janine Kelso spends a few days onboard Tui Maya to find out about the new line’s unique offering
Tui has expanded its portfolio by entering the river cruise market with three adult-only vessels sailing across Europe’s five main waterways, including the Rhine, the Moselle, the Main, the Danube, and the Dutch and Belgian waterways.
The tour operator’s first river cruise ship Tui Maya was christened on August 12 and made its maiden voyage on August 15 on the Moselle Valley itinerary. Tui Skyla will begin sailing later this year, while Tui Isla will set sail in spring 2022.
The three ships were given a multi-million-pound makeover after being previously operated by Werner-Tours and Reisebüro Mittelthurgau Fluss until October 2019.
Cruise Adviser was lucky enough to spend a few days on board Tui Maya and here’s what we learned about Tui River Cruises:
Perfect for eco-conscious cruise passengers, Tui River Cruises has impressive sustainability credentials. “Sustainability is at the heart of what we do,” says managing director Chris Hackney. “Cabin carpets are made from recycled fishing nets and there are no single-use plastics on board.” Guests are given reusable water bottles, which they can keep. The cabin water is drinkable, so bottles can be filled up with that, and all cruise information is provided via the onboard Navigate app to reduce paper waste.
Every ship has a small wellness area with a sauna and whirlpool, both of which are situated next to circular portholes offering pretty views of the river. Passengers need to book a slot in advance to use the spa: an ideal spot to soothe aching muscles after a day of sightseeing.
Passengers are given a £120 shore experience voucher per week as part of their holiday package. The new cruise line offers an average of 14 excursions per one-week itinerary with prices leading in at £12 for a walking tour. Must-do experiences include a classical music concert in Vienna on a Danube cruise, and a tour of Reichsburg Castle on a Moselle cruise.
There are a number of exclusive things to do on board at night: stargazing on the top deck; movies under the stars on LED screens; interactive quizzes and silent discos with wireless headphones. There’s also live music in the lounge area. During the day, there’s stretch yoga and pilates on the top deck, as well as language classes.
Every ship has two restaurants – the casual Bistro, strikingly decked out with mint-green and pastel-pink interiors, and the fine dining venue Verdastro, where a six-course gala dinner is served once per cruise. To support local communities, passengers can buy local wines when they are on-shore and waiters will serve it up to them at dinner without paying a corkage fee.
During fine weather, there will be al fresco dining events, including barbecues, on the top deck: a dreamy Ibiza-style space with white lounge furniture and deckchairs facing the water. Fun fact: the top deck of all ships can collapse down to deck level to pass under low bridges!
The Club Lounge is Hackney’s favourite venue on board because “it’s an intimate venue that works night and daytime”. With plush purple interiors, the cosy Club Lounge is a coffee shop by day and a chic cocktail bar by night. Boasting a homely fireplace giving off the scent of crackling log fires, the lounge is a festive spot to snuggle up in during a Christmas market cruise.
There are 79 stylish cabins on every river cruise ship, with a capacity for 155 passengers, giving it an intimate feel. All cabins are outside facing and come complete with a flat screen TV, Molten Brown toiletries, a hairdryer and air-conditioning. The French balcony cabins are particularly popular thanks to their floor-to-ceiling glass doors offering knockout views of the passing scenery. The fanciest suite is the 24 square metre French Balcony Suite featuring a sofa, coffee table, fridge and dressing area.
If any customer issue can’t be resolved by the onboard team during their cruise, they can get a full refund when they return home.
Chris Hackney explains: “We are so confident people will love sailing with us, if for any reason we do not fulfil our promise to deliver a fantastic holiday with excellent service, and a customer is genuinely not satisfied, we’ll give them their money back.”
Ranging from three to 14-night itineraries, travellers can sail past fairytale castles on the three-night German Gems cruise or journey through six countries on the two-week Danube Delta Discovery cruise. Four themed itineraries run from October 31, 2021, including Wine on the Rhine, a must for oenophiles, and Dancing down the Rhine, featuring onboard dance lessons and performances.
Cruise customers can get into the festive spirit with 11 seasonal itineraries to Germany’s popular Christmas markets, departing in winter 2021 and 2022. Onboard activities include festive film screenings, mulled wine, Christmas crafting and stollen making.