David Winterton – UK Brand Manager for Emerald Waterways
Given the number of LGBT cruise fans, it’s no surprise that the cruise industry includes many LGBT executives. In the latest in our series of interviews with the LGBT movers and shakers making the cruise world a gayer place, we talk with David Winterton. As UK Marketing Manager for Emerald Waterways, he helped create a cruise-industry first: planning the first cruise line-sponsored LGBT cruise. (Editor’s note: unfortunately, this cruise was cancelled subsequent to the publication of this article.)
Can you briefly describe the scope of your responsibilities as UK Marketing Manager for Emerald Waterways?
I joined Emerald Waterways 3 years ago, when we launched our first ship, the Emerald Sky. To date, my role has been to launch and develop the brand with in the UK. Recently my role has expanded in to developing the brand throughout the complete guest journey from brochure development, digital marketing (website) and on to guest documentation and finally the on-board guest experience. It’s a very exciting role as it truly is a great product.
Emerald Sun, Budapest. Photo ©Emerald Waterways
Grand Balcony Suite on Emerald Waterways. Photo ©Emerald Waterways
What are some of the advantages of riverboat versus ocean?
Although both ocean and river cruising are essentially traveling on a similar vessel, the two types of cruising offer very different experiences to a cruising holiday. When cruising on a river ship you’ll experience an intimate environment with most ships only holding between 150 and 180 guests, by the end of the cruise you will have over 100 new friends.
Evening entertainment is low-key but don’t expect to be bored, your days will be filled with immersive excursions through the heart of Europe. The fact river ships are small, means they get you right in to the heart of a city. For instance in Amsterdam, you will be just minutes from the famous Dam Square. In Budapest, you moor opposite the stunning Parliament Building.
The Horizon Bar. Photo ©Emerald Waterways
Complimentary biking tours allow you to enjoy some of Europe’s must-see sights and hidden gems. Photo ©Emerald Waterways
The growth in European riverboat cruising is huge. What sets Emerald Waterways apart from the others?
Each river company offers something slightly different and, just like when taking an ocean cruise, guests should research their holiday. For our part we have set out to offer modern, contemporary & stylish ships with innovative features such as an indoor heated pool with retractable roof which magically turns in to a cinema at night. With 3 brand news ships for 2017, all 7 of our ships are less than 3 years old.
The ships boast a heated swimming pool complete with retractable roof – creating a brilliant onboard oasis for you to relax . Photo ©Emerald Waterways
Your decision to offer an LGBT cruise is (as far as we know) the first time a cruise line has done so. What was the genesis of Emerald Waterways’ decision to offer a cruise specifically to LGBT? Why do you think this has never been done before?
We are very proud to be the first cruise line to offer an LGBT river cruise although there are travel companies chartering ships to then promote an LGBT cruise. The idea came from the encouragement I gained from my own friends via social media. Many of my friends regularly take ocean cruises and when I started to post updates from on board one of our ships, they started to encourage me to promote an LGBT cruise.
What sort of marketing/PR/advertising does Emerald Waterways do to reach the LGBT community?
As a gay man myself, I’m very cautious of large companies coming in to get their share of the pink pound without really understanding the market. Right from the start I have worked with the LGBT community from supporting LGBT charities through to working on joint promotions with Gaydio (the UK’s gay radio station). I’m also very keen to hear work with many travel agents/travel professionals. Here in the UK over 80% of current sales on the LGBT Danube Explorer are through travel agency partners.
Dinner in Reflections Restaurant. Photo ©Emerald Waterways
From your perception, do you think the industry could do a better job to reach LGBT travelers?
Our industry has to keep looking forward and innovating. We also have to keep offering value for money to ensure our guests come back to us time and time again. With events around the world-changing the political and cultural environment on a daily basis we need to find a better way to ensure the information (safety, local laws, etc) we give our guests is accurate and up to date. Thankfully for Emerald Waterways, most of Europe is a very modern and liberal place and welcomes all LGBT guests.
What is your personal favorite river cruise itinerary and why?
I’m just back from a trip on the Douro river in Portugal, it’s a new river for us in 2017 and it is defiantly one to watch in the next couple of years. A great time to go is September as the vineyards are harvesting the port and wine. But my absolute favourite is the Danube for the share contrast that it brings. From the historical cities of Budapest and Vienna to the picturesque villages along the river banks. A most do is take one of our on board bikes and race the ship up the Danube from Melk to Durnstein. It’s 33 km. so I always lose to the ship.