Mike Bowers, national sales manager at Shearings Holidays, talks royalty, river roaming and Rudesheim…

Why is your travel company the best of all travel companies?
Shearings Holidays features river cruises across Europe – from the main rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Seine, to Portugal and the Douro Valley, and the Black Sea. There are options to suit all budgets, from three-star with great lead-in prices to premium standard with all-inclusive drinks. For total exibility, cruises can be combined with coach, rail or ight options, and there is a variety of themed options, from festive breaks to food or music-focused cruises. We’ve also recently introduced small ship cruises along the Croatian Coast.


If Shearings was a famous person, who would it be?
It would have to be the Queen. She’s a British institution and long standing with traditional values, but not afraid to move with the times. I like to think that sums us up pretty well. Shearings are a household name and have been taking people away on holiday since 1903, but we are constantly evolving to give customers the kind of holiday they want.


What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on the road?
Once I took 40 agents on a fam trip to Belgium. The driver parked his coach in Brussels before settling in for the night. When we went to get on board the next day we found a vibrant market in full flow and no coach. We soon found out that it was 60km away in a compound. After complaining about the poorly located and illegible signs we were refunded the fine. It wasn’t funny at the time though!


What’s the strangest question that you’ve ever been asked about river cruises?
Some people ask if the river ships depart from the UK – it would be an interesting experience crossing the North Sea or Bay of Biscay on some river ships!


How many of your river cruise ships have you sailed on?
I reccently went on a ve-day Seine cruise on AROSA Aqua which was an all-inclusive trip, plus I’ve sailed on other ships we feature, including the Virginia, Rotterdam, Da-Vinci and Serenade 2. I have also experienced hospitality on others, including the CroisiEurope ships that we feature at various CLIA river conventions in Europe.


What do you love about river cruising?
I love the fact that you get to explore places that you wouldn’t usually visit – my recent trip included stops at Vernon and Rouen, and they were lovely medieval towns. I love that they usually berth close to the heart of everything and I can explore on foot at my own pace. I also like the fact that they carry smaller numbers of people and never feel crowded.


Which port would you definitely recommend disembarking in and why?
I’d get off at every port every time because there is always something to see and enjoy, even if it is an old favourite like a cake shop. On the Rhine I’d say Rudesheim because,
in addition to the charming cobbled streets and half-timber houses (some housing wonderful beer halls), you can also jump onto a cable car and get up into the hills for some great views – and to stretch your legs.


Which river cruise is on your bucket list and why?
That would be our Spectacular Danube to the Black Sea cruise on the MS Serenade 2 because it travels through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria over 15 days. Just think of all the amazing places I’d see!


If you didn’t work in the industry, what do you think you would be doing?
I’d like to think it would be something to do with wildlife and nature: photographer, park ranger, researcher or journalist.