Here’s a good way to start the day, a message from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) to travel agents outlining a number of initiatives that the industry association is putting in place to help them out …
A Primer On River Cruising From Avalon Waterways
Over the past decade, river cruising has grown by 250%, proving that when it comes to bodies of water and ships, bigger is not necessarily better.
Avalon Waterways has led the river cruise trend, unveiling for travellers an unforgettable fusion of distinctive sights, colourful cultures and enduring traditions while sailing aboard innovative and award-winning Suite Ships.
Pam Hoffee, managing director of Avalon Waterways, points out that: “Our guests know that it’s possible to cruise without a crowd, explore new cultures with ease and sail in intimate settings. Aboard our spacious, state-of-the-art Suite Ships, travellers enjoy the company of an expert Cruise Director, appealing crew-to-passenger ratios, the personalized attention they deserve and seamless dock-and-go sightseeing with insider tips and experiences only the locals can provide. River cruising is the perfect way to see and explore the world.”
As for what makes river cruising special, Avalon Waterways offers eight reasons that it has become one of the preferred ways to see the world.
Size is seismic. It matters.
River cruise vessels are built to slowly ply the world’s weaving and meandering rivers. To port in storybook settings. To sail under centuries’ old bridges and squeeze between 12-meter-wide locks. Avalon Waterways’ floating “boatique” hotels hold an average of 150 guests, although some are much smaller. Suite Ships on the Mekong River, for instance, have just 18 staterooms, accommodating 36 cruisers.
And, while fellow passenger numbers are low, Avalon’s onboard crew ratio is high. In fact, on every ship, the average guest-to-crew ratio is 3:1 which means travellers are privy to copious amounts of attention to detail with crew members easily and happily catering to guests needs, every moment of every day.
See not sea. There’s a (big) difference.
On a river cruise, travellers are not at sea. Instead, river cruises wind and bend through the heart of fascinating countries providing a panoramic view of the Old World. Always within a few feet of shore, on a river vessel, travellers pass clifftop castles, hillside vineyards, ancient villages, and capital cities. Every day – and night – travellers have quick and easy access to ports-of-call.
Cruising focused on “to dos,” not crowds and queues.
River cruise itineraries are destination-focused, with local guides who help travellers experience – and connect with – the world around them. Most river cruise itineraries also sail off-the-beaten-path, visiting small fairytale villages, quaint village squares and family-owned wineries, bakeries and restaurants, along the way.
Further, queues are not news on the world’s rivers. Avalon Waterways’ excursions typically accommodate no more than 30 guests at a time, providing every traveller an immersive and authentic experience.
Fresh air and perspectives.
On board Avalon’s innovative and award-winning Suite Ships, guests on two full decks are welcomed with 200-square-foot Panorama Suites, each featuring a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that open 7-feet wide (the widest-opening windows in cruising). This wall of glass converts into an Open-Air Balcony, but that’s not all. No Avalon Waterways ship has interior-only cabins. Instead, every Deluxe Stateroom and Panorama Suite offer guests natural light and most feature beds facing the views for which river cruising is famous.
Public spaces also provide guests room to move and views galore. And, Avalon’s Suite Ship Sky Decks run the length and width of each vessel (approximately 20 meters longer and 2 meters wider than a football field) with wide-open spaces, fresh air, and lounge chairs aplenty.
Warm “welcomes” along the way.
Avalon works tirelessly to engage with communities visited by hiring local drivers, guides and operators for land activities. This “give back” mentality extends to the purchase of local produce, wines, beers, and even bread, further connecting our guests to people, places, and culture. As a result of our partnership approach to tourism, Avalon Waterways has been actively pursued by new towns along the world’s rivers – always promising our passengers an authentic experience.
Charting a new course in sustainability.
The vibrant and beautiful natural surroundings of the world’s rivers are a benefit of river cruising. And, it is up to river cruise companies to preserve the precious environment and limit our footprint.
As a result, Avalon Waterways has taken great strides to improve monitoring and measurement to reduce our environmental impact, to save water, to limit waste and to foster a sustainability culture among our crew and guests. This work includes supporting Ocean Cleanup in its unprecedented efforts to clean-up the world’s river and oceans.
Ship-Shape Suite Ships.
The world has changed but what remains certain is Avalon Waterways’ steadfast commitment to guest safety, comfort and peace-of-mind. To that end, the company has developed a new Avalon Assurance program, with help from its Global Health & Safety team, dedicated to ensuring that the cleanliness of all operations exceeds today’s standards from start-to-finish.
The river cruise operator’s new Avalon Assurance program currently features seven major categories and protocols that span across guest experience touch-points – all of which are being shared, explored, reviewed and renewed, accordingly. Details can be found at http://www.avalonwaterways.ca/avalon-assurance/.
Not Everything in the World Goes as Planned …
That’s why Avalon Waterways is prepared to offer the highest standards in the lowest situations.
“Avalon Waterways understands that our value and our service is measured by what we do when things go wrong even more than when everything runs as planned,” said Hoffee. “We are there for our guests, offering refunds for missed services, alternative sightseeing or the opportunity to rebook and try again another time. We are a long-term business, prepared to tackle short-term obstacles. Our hope is that travellers choose to explore the world with time and time again.”
Go to http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/5f41a0a9#/5f41a0a9/1 for more.
Windstar Plans To Resume Sailing In Sept. 2020
Windstar Cruises has announced that the 148-guest Wind Spirit will be its first yacht to resume sailing after suspending operations further due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Wind Spirit will resume sailing in Tahiti with its first cruise departing on Sept. 3, 2020.
Andrew Todd, CEO of Xanterra and Windstar Cruises, said: “We have taken extraordinary measures to operate our yachts safely. While we look forward to welcoming guests aboard again, we believe this further suspension of operations is the responsible action to take. We have laid plans for a resumption of small ship cruising beginning in September.”
148-guest Wind Spirit: Resumes sailing Sept. 3, 2020 in Tahiti on previously scheduled itineraries.
342-guest Wind Surf: Returns Nov. 29, 2020 sailing in the Caribbean on previously scheduled itineraries before heading to the Mediterranean in April 2021.
148-guest Wind Star: Resumes sailing Jan. 16, 2021 with Costa Rica and Panama Canal sailings and then heads to the Mediterranean in April 2021.
312-guest Star Breeze: Due to a shipyard delay in Italy, sailings in Asia, New Zealand and Australia are cancelled.
Star Breeze will begin sailing Oct. 27, 2020 in the Mediterranean before moving to the Caribbean in December 2020 to pick up sailings from Star Legend and Star Pride. Then Star Breeze will offer a few new Caribbean itineraries until June when it heads to Alaska. A new 10-day Alaskan Splendors sailing was added on June 3, 2021 after which it resumes its previously scheduled Alaska itineraries.
312-guest Star Legend: Due to a shipyard delay in Italy, some sailings are cancelled and others will be picked up by the Star Breeze. Star Legend begins sailing March 1, 2021 in the Mediterranean and will pick up some sailings previously scheduled for Star Pride.
312-guest Star Pride: Due to a shipyard delay in Italy, some sailings are cancelled and others will be picked up by Star Breeze. The Star Pride will begin sailing July 5, 2021 in Northern Europe.
Future Cruise Credit
Guests on cancelled cruises will receive a Future Cruise Credit valued at 125% of all monies paid on the booking to Windstar Cruises. Guests who prefer a refund can request their FCC be converted to a refund equal to the amount paid on the Windstar booking once they receive their FCC. Guests will have 24 months to book and embark on any available Windstar cruise using their Future Cruise Credit.
Windstar Cruises will protect Travel Advisor commissions on the affected bookings following the normal policy for cancelled bookings.
Windstar’s reservations team is reviewing all affected bookings and will send a letter outlining details to guests with cancelled cruises and also to those with only a change in which Star class ship they’ll be aboard. The reservations team appreciates the patience and understanding of guests and travel advisors as they work through this process.
Windstar’s Travel Assurance Booking Policy allows travellers to cancel their cruise up to 15 days prior to departure and receive a 100% future cruise credit based on money paid on the booking to be used on all sailings through Dec. 31, 2021.
Sail on over to www.windstarcruises.com for more.
A New Ship For Silversea
Silversea Cruises is preparing to take delivery of its new ship, Silver Origin, following what the company describes as “a great display of resilience, determination and fine European craftsmanship from Dutch shipyard De Hoop.” Despite of the global lockdown, De Hoop implemented rigid safety procedures, reduced its workforce, and devised ingenious ways to overcome posed challenges, including a world-first during the ship’s sea trial.
On March 15, 2020—four days after coronavirus was declared as a global pandemic—the Netherlands implemented a national lockdown, and the country ground to a halt to safeguard the health of its people. Relatively isolated in Lobith, a remote corner of the Netherlands, De Hoop shipyard offered its approximately 250 employees the option to cease working.
While many were forced to return to their families or to their country of origin before borders closed, approximately 200 employees—mainly skilled carpenters—opted to continue, working tirelessly to apply their craftsmanship to the ship’s guest suites. Many employees were accommodated in an on-site residential facility, Barge Rossini, which had a reduced capacity from 200 to 100 for safety purposes.
In addition to the rigorous protocol imposed by the Dutch health authority, RIVM, De Hoop’s professionals were protected by sanitary procedures developed by the shipyard itself: they underwent daily temperature checks; enhanced cleaning procedures were established in the living quarters, the crew mess, and throughout Silver Origin; and strict social distancing measures were implemented, including a 1.5m separation rule and a one-way system throughout the ship.
Reducing The Circles
As a result, contact circles were reduced, meetings were cancelled, and fewer people were allowed in each area of the ship. Video calls replaced face-to-face conversations, as flights were cancelled and contractors could no longer reach the yard. Necessary supplies were cut off: carpeting, loose furniture and the onboard art collection were delayed in arriving, while the closure of Italy disrupted the installation of the ship’s windows and galley. The stringent lockdown threatened the project’s progress.
Small hurdles became giant obstacles, but still the team persevered and as the world around it came to a stop, De Hoop pushed on. The shipyard fundamentally changed the way it operated to continue the project. None of the employees caught the virus and the team maintained an unwaveringly strong spirit as Silver Origin took its magnificent shape, symbolizing the resilience and craftsmanship of European industry.
Quite A Trial
While shallow waters on the Waal River delayed Silver Origin’s float out from November to Dec. 30, 2019, the months of January and February brought heavy rain to Western Europe in 2020, leading to unusually high water levels. This prevented Silver Origin and Barge Rossini from passing beneath the 12 bridges that separate De Hoop Shipyard from the sea. Only on March 26 was a safe passage to Rotterdam accessible—more than a month later than originally planned. This left just four weeks between arrival in Rotterdam and the sea trial.
Held from April 27 to April 29 off the coast of Goeree-Overflakkee, Silver Origin’s sea trials were a great success, offering the Captain the chance to put the ship through its paces and enabling the shipyard to demonstrate proper operation of the machinery systems.
Necessitated by the travel ban, which prevented sub-contractors from reaching the ship, Silver Origin’s sea trials included a historic world-first: during the dynamic positioning acceptance test – which tests the ship’s ability to remain within 10cm of a fixed point without dropping anchor – the ship’s dynamic positioning system was remotely tuned and calibrated by a third party in St. Petersburg, Russia—over 1,800km away. A fast internet connection was set up on board to enable near-instant communication between both parties and, using a headset and a camera, an operative from St. Petersburg completed maneuvering tests. The ship’s Captain, meanwhile, acted as his lookout from on board.
Definitely A First
Fre Drenth, director of De Hoop Shipyard, said: “This was the first time such an operation has been completed remotely during a sea trial,” says. “The tuning was successful and took no longer than usual. It demonstrates that it is possible to tune dynamic positioning systems remotely. It could potentially save a lot of travelling time for engineers in the future. I am enormously proud of my team for their work.”
Vesa Uuttu, director of Newbuilds & Site Office NL, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, noted that: “We usually have a large team that participates in the sea trials, but this year was different because of the extraordinary situation. Hence, a limited team participated—enough to comply with regulations. It was a proud moment to see the ship perform as it did—for all involved, especially the team at the De Hoop Shipyard who have worked tirelessly to complete the project in these tough circumstances.”
Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s president and CEO, said: “We are so grateful to the professionals at the De Hoop shipyard. In the face of such adversity, their efforts were extraordinary and represent the resilience of European industry. Silver Origin looks magnificent. Our pioneering new ship represents the dawning of a new age of travel in the Galapagos Islands and we look forward to welcoming guests aboard when the time is right.”
The finishing touches are now being applied to Silver Origin, ahead of the ship’s delivery in the coming weeks. And the De Hoop team is still finding innovative ways to progress, in spite of the challenging circumstances. Currently docked in Pernis in the Netherlands, Silver Origin will set sail for the Galapagos Islands after being delivered to Silversea Cruises. 45 members of De Hoop’s workforce remain on Barge Rossini, and the shipyard intends on maintaining their strict new sanitary protocols for the long-term.
Silversea Cruises is using this time of pause, as well as the information that has become available, to improve its already exceptional sanitary standards further still, with the health and safety of guests and crew as the top priority. The cruise line is currently working on enhanced sanitary protocols across its fleet to ensure that all necessary precautions are in place to resume safe and healthy cruising when the time is right.
Read a first-person account from the Director of De Hoop Shipyard, Fre Drenth, and watch a video of Silver Origin underway:
Riviera River Cruises Committed To Agents
Amid these trying times, Riviera River Cruises says it is committed to helping travel agents learn about Europe’s rivers and waterways through a series of webinars.
Riviera’s advisor webinars are being held twice per month by its North American sales staff, focusing on the cruise line’s itineraries and destinations.
Additionally, Riviera’s sales team is available to schedule virtual training sessions for individual agencies and personalized virtual presentations for advisors’ clients. For more, go to https://www.rivierarivercruises.com .
Marilyn Conroy, Riviera River Cruises’ executive vice president sales and marketing North America, said: “As we eagerly await the day we can visit Europe once again, our sales team is here to share their insight on our itineraries and destinations with travel advisors.”
Conroy continued: “Join us as we highlight the rivers we cruise and destinations we visit, and answer any questions you may have about our product. You’ll learn about the different twists we put on our cruises to give your clients a more immersive experience, and the plans we have for our ships and itineraries in the future. Let us be a European river cruising resource for you.”
The twice monthly webinars are being hosted by Conroy and regional sales directors for North America, David Holmwood, Bruce Metzendorf and Barbara Sargent.
Webinars last about 45 minutes and include time for questions and answers. The next webinar will be held at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, May 21, and will include:
- Budapest To The Black Sea River Cruise: Gems of Eastern Europe presented by Holmwood
- Cruise the Heart of Europe presented by Metzendorf
- Yuletide Markets, and Christmas and New Year’s Cruises presented by Sargent
To receive invitations for webinars, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-838-8820. Recordings of previous webinars are also available. Additionally contact Riviera’s sales staff to schedule a virtual training session for an individual agency or a personalized virtual presentation for a client.