Buoyant sales

Smooth Sailing

Going head-to-head with the ocean liners.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Big cruise companies such as Viking and Tui have had their fingers burnt in the German river cruise market as its traditional customer base faded. A-Rosa’s rebranding shows the sector could be as profitable as ocean liners.

  • Facts


    • River cruise sales in Germany fell by 8.5 percent in 2013 to €416 million, or $521 million.
    • But A-Rosa has achieved 92 percent of its 2014 bookings target already this year.
    • Almost 40 new river cruise ships will be built for the European market this year.
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Horst Rahe must be kicking himself.

Five years ago, the hotelier and founder of Aida Cruises gladly sold his German river cruise business, A-Rosa. The days when money could be made from cruises on the Rhine, Mosel or Danube were over, he thought. Cheap ocean cruises were leading to sinking profits on the waterways.

“Riverboats need at least €800 ($1,010) per passenger for a week of vacation,” Mr. Rahe calculated. “Ocean liners can offer rates of €399 because of their large size.”

But today, A-Rosa, bought and now managed by the Düsseldorf-based private equity investment firm Waterland, is on the verge of a spectacular turnaround.

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