Q – Really amazing site. Kind of makes your competitors look like they’re in someone’s pocket. We have a TA who is urging us to book Tauck, which seems to be the most expensive of the river boat lines, because they have membership in something called CLIA. This is supposed to give passengers an advantage in terms of knowing about river level conditions in Europe far enough in advance to make alternative plans. Is this a legitimate consideration?
A – No, your travel agent is feeding you a half-truth which, we suppose, is better than an outright lie. CLIA stands for Cruise Line International Association. This is the marketing arm of the cruise industry. They advertise, lobby, and train travel agents at the direction of their cruise line members. Virtually every major cruise line and riverboat company belongs to CLIA including every line in our full ratings coverage.
Your agent is referencing a new provision in CLIA called “The Passenger Bill of Rights” which requires river boat operators who are members to offer booked guests and agents “timely information updates” when an itinerary is adjusted resulting from some sort of “emergency”.
This is mostly PR babble and it makes it seem as though CLIA is really requiring its member lines to do strict monitoring and reporting so guests may be able to cancel with several days notice int he case of water level issues. We’ve seen no evidence that this has made any significant difference in the number of guests who arrive in Europe only to find their itinerary disrupted by water issues that the lines usually claim only developed hours before. Very few guests are getting updated weather information prior to departure unless they are booked with one of the better river cruise specialists in the country. Despite the fact that it could have access to weather and water-related data from every single one of its river cruise line members, CLIA makes no attempt to provide either the public or the travel agent community with water-level updates.