Sitting on the deck of a river cruise ship sipping a local wine as you pass picturesque European villages and chat with some of Canada’s top journalists sounds incredible, doesn’t it? We thought so, too.

In summer 2018, we launched the first Globe River Cruise in partnership with luxury tour operator Scenic. Running for two weeks, the French River cruise set the standard for a new type of Globe experience, offering superb food and drink, tours with Globe wine and food columnists, and onboard discussions with Globe reporters.

The Globe’s brand extension to river cruises offers an elevated level of customer interaction.
The Globe’s brand extension to river cruises offers an elevated level of customer interaction.

In April 2019, The Globe will launch its second sold-out river cruise in Portugal (Lisbon, Porto, and the Douro River Valley), and in July 2019, a third group is traveling to Normandy, France.

I spoke with The Globe’s vice president of marketing, Sean Humphrey, about what makes these unique Globe product offerings successful.

Customisation

We know from our events business, Member Experiences, and our Globe Insider research that Globe readers have discerning tastes, strong intellectual curiosity, and a passion for travel. They also welcome opportunities to interact with our journalists as well as other Globe readers.

To meet all these expectations, The Globe works closely with Scenic and our newsroom to ensure each river cruise is a true extension of our premium brand experience. We leverage our relationships to gain access to unusual places or meet exceptional people.

For example, in France this past summer, we took guests on a truffle hunt and toured storied vineyards such as Château Beaucastel with The Globe’s wine critic. For the upcoming Portugal tour, our architecture critic will collaborate with a local architect to introduce guests to Lisbon through its astounding architecture.

“While we ensure our guests experience the highlights of the regions we’re visiting, we are very focused on creating unique experiences that go beyond the guidebooks,” Sean says. And we make sure to build in plenty of unexpected touches, like printed copies of The Globe and Mail every morning, that make guests feel pampered and appreciated.

The Globe River Cruise features food and drink experiences and special access to Globe journalists.
The Globe River Cruise features food and drink experiences and special access to Globe journalists.

Interaction with Globe journalists

Guests have an incredible degree of interaction and access to Globe journalists. The ships are intimate yet still provide enough room for larger interactive forums, tastings, or cooking classes as well as casual encounters. “There are also ample opportunities to just hang out with our journalists and other guests whether over a meal, a drink on the rooftop deck, or during an excursion,” Sean says.

At daily Insiders’ Breakfasts, guests and the editor-in-chief or publisher enjoy informal discussions about the news of the day. Journalists also host forums to share specific aspects their work, while our food and culinary hosts facilitate tastings and cooking classes with celebrity chefs and winemakers.

Challenges

Managing every detail of our readers’ holidays also comes with challenges, from weather to river water levels to local holiday closures and how we’re going to park a tour bus in the parking lot of an intimate Michelin-starred restaurant. “We travel to the destinations, walk through the tours, and scout restaurants and wineries nearly a year ahead of time,” Sean says. “We then work closely throughout the year with Scenic, local experts, and our journalists on the details. We try not to leave anything to chance.”

The entire experience has been a huge win for The Globe as both a revenue opportunity and for brand growth. Most important, the guests on our first tour were asking where to sign up for the next one even as they were leaving the ship.