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Evergreen Tours’ Europe Product Designer Andrew Kelleher – the brains behind the adventures – tells us what makes the company’s tours the best in the business.

Let’s set the scene: Most of our passengers are either semi-retired or retired, typically over 50 years of age. That’s not to say they’re the only guests we welcome – we do, of course, get younger people taking our river cruises in Europe.

Despite the age difference, they all have one thing in common: They don’t like being locked in. When I’m designing itineraries, I aim for flexibility and variety. There is nothing worse than going on a tour or cruise where you feel that one day is the same as the previous day.

The average Australian passenger doesn’t want to hear how old every building is all the time. They want a bit of history, but they also want to find out what the local people get up to, so what we’ve done is trained our local guides – we have guides in each place we visit – to give an insight into the way people live there. For example, when we go to Cologne in Germany, we do an orientation of Cologne – but then we take passengers to a typical Cologne beer hall for a drink.

Our passengers appreciate that we don’t hold their hand every minute of the day – we give them a town or city tour, then they’re given the freedom to explore at their own pace, if that’s what they’d like to do. Otherwise, they can stay on the ship. It’s completely up to them!

The average Evergreen couple are taking a few trips a year, so we want to make sure they’re experiencing new things when they travel with us.

I mention ‘couples’, but solo travellers are attracted to our brand too. The Emerald ‘Star Ships’ we use – Emerald Sky and Emerald Star – have each been designed to include two cabins just for solo explorers. We also often offer special deals on twin-share cabins where, in many cases, we can offer the solo traveller a twin-share price for their own cabin – even though it’s a double cabin. With a lot of other cruise lines, solo travellers are expected to pay double to have a cabin to themselves.

A lot of the ships out there have cabins and suites on the back of the ship, but the rest of the passengers have no access to the rear, except on the roof. What we did in the design of Emerald Star was to put a social area at the back, which is really like an observation car, where people can sit and watch the world go by.

Along with that area comes the pool – almost the size of your average backyard pool – and what happens is the floor of the pool actually rises up while the passengers are at dinner and forms a flat entertaining area where we put movies on at night. So it’s a dual-purpose area that’s been very, very popular. We hold cocktail parties there too!

One of our newer points of difference is our partnership with Princess Cruises. Now, if cruisers can’t decide whether to take a river or an ocean cruise, they can do both. In the Baltic states and the Mediterranean, we can link our river cruises seamlessly with Princess’ ocean cruises.

Stay tuned for 2017 – I’m working on some new itineraries…