New B2B Charter-Only River Cruise Company, Led by Industry Veterans, Brings to Market Sustainable, Luxury Ships as Group and Event Venues
Transcend Cruises, a new, global company and concept in river cruising, was announced today at the Seatrade Cruise Global Conference in Miami. Filling a void in the river cruise market, the company introduces a business model uniquely customized for group travel. Through a purpose-built fleet of wellness-enabling luxury river cruise ships, and an innovative service model designed for multi-day tours, meetings and events, the company custom crafts experiences for each client. 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 driving force behind the creation of Transcend Cruises is an exceptional team of industry innovators and investors with deep expertise in river cruising operations, ship design and construction, hospitality, wellness and group travel. Transcend Cruises has partnered with leading cruise and yacht interior design firm, Tillberg Design of Sweden, and Den Breejen Shipyard, a world-renowned specialist in building passenger river vessels, to design, engineer and build initial orders of two identical, custom-built 135-meter ships in the coming months. Transcend Cruises’ operating partner is UNITED RIVERS, a longstanding leader in premium river cruise management. The first of these sustainably engineered and operated ships sets sail in the spring of 2024.
“Transcend Cruises was born because the complex needs of charterers are incompatible with the existing river options,” said Matthew Shollar, CEO and co-founder of Transcend Cruises, who brings two decades of luxury travel sales, marketing and cruise charter experience to the company. “I have long experienced – first-hand and repeatedly – how existing river cruise lines had not been designed to prioritize the needs of groups. Similar experiences were shared with our founding team and by many travel organizers, 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 Cruises’ 135-meter ships will have an industry-high guest-to-team member ratio with 30 to 60 percent fewer guests onboard than current retail-focused European river cruise lines. Transcend’s ships will offer spaces and services that redefine a luxury group experience on Europe’s rivers. Up to 120 guests can be accommodated in oversized staterooms, or up to 60 guests can be accommodated in two-room, two-bath suites. 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 separate venues that accommodate all guests, as well as intimate settings for events, dining, presentations and breakouts.
There will also be a 2,600-square-foot indoor/outdoor fitness, spa and guest wellness facility – 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.
“We are honored to have the opportunity to work alongside the Transcend team to conceptualize and design the first yacht-inspired, purpose-built ship for the group market,” said Michał Jackiewicz, partner and executive director, Tillberg Design of Sweden. “The exclusive design concept will create an unmatched vessel on the rivers of Europe, specialized for meetings and group venues. This highly customizable and adaptable design is rooted in current sustainability practices and wellness offerings.”
Transcend’s vessels will sail the highest-demand European waterways including the Rhine, Danube and Moselle. 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. Transcend’s clients will be able to develop programs that balance iconic, desired destinations with one-of-a-kind experiences in less-touristed ports.
“As the river cruise operations leader, we’re excited to partner with Transcend’s highly experienced team to deliver unmatched luxury service for the group and meetings market,” said Robert Straubhaar, CEO and president, UNITED RIVERS. “We are thrilled to bring our depth and breadth of expertise alongside Transcend’s proprietary brand standards and specifications to create remarkable onboard guest experiences. The Transcend concept, centered on experiential group travel that brings like-minded guests together in private venues is truly a future forward concept that no doubt will be in high demand.”
Transcend Cruises also revolutionizes the pricing model for groups. Transcend is pioneering a new sales approach that provides flat, clearly defined pricing with no blackout dates or retail booking surge pricing risks. Proprietary technology to simplify and support pre-trip planning and to provide a seamless onboard experience will also be a signature offering.
“Transcend recasts proven, popular European river cruises to exclusively serve private groups, meetings and events – our only focus. 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,” said Shollar.