The Avalon View—Avalon Waterways’ latest river cruise ship—will set sail on the Danube this coming April. The christening of the road’s fourteenth “Suite Ship” in Europe had initially been scheduled to happen two years in the past (April 2020) till the pandemic put most journey on pause.
However with extra vacationers having been vaccinated and an infection charges predicted to drop within the spring, the river cruise business appears poised for a comeback.
Like the opposite ships within the Avalon fleet, the Avalon View options two full decks of 200-square-foot Panorama Suites, all with open-air balconies. A sister ship to the Avalon Imaginative and prescient, the brand new ship is the primary to characteristic all-glass railings.
Forbes.com spoke to Pam Hoffee, managing director of Avalon Waterways to seek out out what vacationers can count on from the river cruise line through the coming season:
Avalon Waterways has reported working 100 river cruises since July 2021 with out a single case of COVID an infection. What well being and security precautions did the road put in place to make these voyages as protected as doable?
Pam Hoffee: The world has modified however what stays sure is Avalon Waterways’ steadfast dedication to visitor security, consolation, and peace of thoughts. We’re extremely pleased with our well being and security report.
Very early within the pandemic, we developed and unveiled our Avalon Assurance program, with assist from our World Well being & Security group. It options seven main classes and protocols that span throughout visitor expertise touch-points – all of which have been reviewed and renewed, primarily based on ever-changing suggestions.
We had been additionally one of many very first cruise traces, worldwide, to require all company and crew to be totally vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19. We have now prolonged that requirement by 2022.
Why are river cruises such a handy strategy to journey and see Europe up shut?
PH: River cruisers comprehend it’s doable to cruise with out a crowd, discover new locations with ease and sail in an intimate setting. However that’s not all.
On a river cruise, legendary landmarks and landscapes are all the time in view. We make our splash at intriguing ports of name the place we lead vacationers down the paths much less traveled to the sights extra revered – all with out the wait. On an Avalon cruise, dock to discovery takes mere minutes.
The scale of river ships has all the time been interesting, particularly now. What’s the passenger capability of the Avalon View and the opposite ships in your fleet?
PH: Dimension issues – greater than ever. Our river cruise vessels are constructed to slowly ply the world’s weaving and meandering rivers, to port in storybook settings, sail beneath centuries’ outdated bridges, and squeeze between 12-meter-wide locks.
Avalon Waterways’ floating “boatique” accommodations maintain a mean of 150 company, though some are a lot smaller. Our latest ship, The Avalon View, is 443-feet lengthy and holds 166 company in 67 suites and 16 deluxe Staterooms. We even have Suite Ships in our European fleet that characteristic 52 suites and 12 deluxe staterooms holding 128 company.
Two full decks of each Avalon Waterways ship characteristic Panorama Suites, offering our company the area they crave on their cruise. Our Suite Ships on the Mekong River have simply 18 rooms – all Panorama Suites – accommodating simply 36 cruisers.
What are among the hottest European river cruise itineraries along with your passengers?
PH: For first-time river cruisers, the preferred itineraries are people who cowl among the most iconic waterways – and locations – in Europe. The Romantic Rhine and Legendary Danube are favorites amongst cruisers for various causes. The cliffside, castle-lined Rhine River weaves collectively a tapestry of historical past and tradition, to not point out numerous UNESCO World Heritage Websites. The Danube, against this, flows by or alongside the borders of 10 nations and options the vineyard-clad Wachau Valley in addition to storybook small villages and spectacular capital cities like Vienna and Budapest.
For vacationers in search of extra immersive, off-the-beaten-path exploration, Lively & Discovery on the Rhone is one among my all-time favourite itineraries. Flowing from the Swiss Alps to the Mediterranean Sea, the Rhône River winds its approach by the attractive landscapes that impressed Van Gogh, and this particular itinerary options 28 tour decisions.
River cruises are excursion-extensive with a lot of a passenger’s time spent off the vessel. Given altering border restrictions in Europe, has the road needed to modify itineraries because the pandemic?
PH: The quick reply is that we had been in a position to function practically each deliberate tour in Europe in 2021. We did have just a few last-minute border closures that required us to change itineraries. In these very uncommon circumstances, we ensured the integrity of the itinerary was intact earlier than working so our company may benefit from the trip they selected, with simply minor alterations.
Vacationers are extra keen than ever to spend as a lot time as doable outdoor. How will the ship and stateroom configuration of the Avalon View attraction to those vacationers?
PH: There’s just one point-of-view on an Avalon Waterways river cruise – the suite view. Our whole fleet in Europe and Southeast Asia is totally comprised of Suite Ships, every that includes our signature Panorama Suites with the widest-opening home windows in river cruising, the business’s solely Open-Air Balcony, and an inviting mattress dealing with the ever-changing surroundings on two full decks of each ship.
Dwelling as much as its identify, the brand new Avalon View additionally options clear-view glass panels on every balcony – changing exterior railings – for unobstructed views. Even seasoned vacationers have by no means seen – or skilled – the world like this.
Our open-air balconies had been designed with our company’ views in thoughts. The Panorama Suites have wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling home windows opening 7-feet vast in Europe and 11-feet vast in Southeast Asia. The balconies blur the road between outdoors and in whereas forming a snug and spacious seating space for six, concurrently creating an open invitation to find and dream. Maybe most vital, these outsized balconies don’t sacrifice room area.
Public areas additionally present company room to maneuver and expertise views galore. And, Avalon’s Suite Ship Sky Decks run the size and width of every vessel (roughly 20 meters longer and a couple of meters wider than a soccer area) with wide-open areas, contemporary air, and lounge chairs aplenty.
At all times inside just a few toes of shore, our Suite Ships provide vacationers quick access to take pleasure in out of doors experiences – from guided excursions to on-your-own-exploration – day and night time.
What alternatives does the road present for extra lively vacationers?
PH: On our luxurious ships, each visitor is the captain of his/her expertise. We name it “whim-powered” cruising. Not solely have we redefined the cruising expertise, however we’ve additionally redefined all-inclusive.
We have now unveiled a whole sequence of cruises – throughout all the main waterways of Europe – known as “Lively & Discovery” itineraries. On these cruises, vacationers take pleasure in a curated assortment of essentially the most intriguing experiences to immerse themselves in – as many as 28 of them.
“Lively” can imply various things to completely different cruisers. On these itineraries, Avalon company can stir-up a dish handed down by generations or mix-up paints on a palate; heat up with a guided sightseeing stroll or relax in a cave wine tasting; wander the halls of historical past or step-through the traditional citadel ruins; paddle on a kayak by spectacular surroundings or pedal an e-bike round scenic cityscapes.
We additionally present entry to an Journey Host on each cruise who arranges onboard train courses, guided hikes, bicycle excursions and can even assist our company check-out complimentary Nordic strolling sticks, bikes, and e-bikes for on-their-own exploration.
Have you ever deliberate any particular themed cruises to woo vacationers again to the rivers?
PH: Our 2022 cruise line-up is thrilling, together with a number of “unique” sailings for Avalon company.
We have now unveiled a brand new Storyteller Collection of cruises that includes award-winning authors and chart-topping musicians as hosts for a boatful of followers. Superstar hosts for 2022 embody Cheryl Strayed, Gillian Flynn, Candace Bushnell, Christopher Moore, Edwin McCain, and Sister Hazel.
On these particular sailings, company will participate in a number of, specifically deliberate actions onboard and can be capable of work together with their favourite storyteller one-on-one at dinners, throughout completely happy hours, and on excursions.
For vacationers in search of one other excuse to attempt river cruising in 2022, we’ve acquired two. Subsequent yr, for six months, the Netherlands will bloom brighter, and a Bavarian village’s religion will likely be restored because of once-in-a-decade experiences: The Floriade and Oberammergau’s Ardour Play. Whereas these particular occasions solely occur each 10 years, for the primary time, 2022 will see each play out throughout Europe. We provide particular departures that includes these “particular occasions” all year long.
Are there alternatives for solo vacationers?
PH: River cruising is likely one of the greatest methods to journey when going solo. You’re setting sail with a small group of like-minded vacationers and having fun with excursions with individuals who share your passions. In reality, ten p.c of Avalon Waterways’ company are solo vacationers. To cater to solo vacationers, we waive the only complement on each Europe departure for a choose variety of staterooms in addition to choose sailings on the Mekong in Southeast Asia.
Have reserving/cancellation insurance policies been modified to strengthen shopper confidence throughout unsure occasions?
PH: Avalon Waterways understands that our price and our service are measured by what we do when issues go improper much more than when every part runs as deliberate. Throughout the first few weeks of the pandemic, we created and unveiled a Peace of Mind Travel Plan to make sure want-to-be vacationers the chance to maneuver their plans to a later date, a unique location, and even an alternate model and journey type simply, risk-free and with out penalty.
Notice: This dialog has been evenly edited and condensed for readability.