Like the other lines, Uniworld is also adding to its fl eet with its second ship coming out on the Mekong in 2013 and still another new ship bound for the Douro in 2013. “It’s called the Queen Isabel and it’s going to replace the Douro Spirit, which we’ve had on charter,” says Young, adding that there’s going to be a lot of new features on this ship with the top deck containing all jr. suites, plus two additional suites. Young says the Portugal program has been doing quite well for them, mainly because, “We’ve been in that market for quite some time so we’ve built up over the years, but this year and last year, sales have been very strong on the Douro. It’s one of these untapped regions and we’re seeing a lot of our past passengers booking it.” At the same time he adds, “It’s not one of those traditional European rivers like the Rhine or Main, but it’s a beautiful region.”
The 11 day Portugal, Spain & the Douro River Valley Cruise/Tour package includes a 7-night cruise in a riverview stateroom as well as an additional 3-night stay in Lisbon at the deluxe Tiara Park Atlantic (or similar) with breakfast. On board there are complimentary soft drinks during lunch and complimentary fi ne wines, choice of beer, and soft drinks during dinner; bottled water in the stateroom; and 24-hour specialty coffee and tea bar. There are also nine excursions fully hosted by English-speaking local guides, local onboard entertainment, a signature lecture, “The Magical Douro River Valley”; and all transfers on arrival and departure days. Prices run from $3,049 to $3,649.
viking river cruises
Viking River Cruises (vikingrivercruises.com/agents) is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year and marking it with a remarkable and a long-awaited event, the March 21st christening in Amsterdam of four of the six new Viking Longships— Viking Njord, Viking Odin, Viking Idun and Viking Freya—marking the fi rst time in history that four cruise ships will be christened at once. After departing from Amsterdam, the Viking Longships will sail Viking’s most popular European itineraries including the 15-day Grand European Tour, 8-day Romantic Danube, 8-day Danube Waltz and 10-day Tulips & Windmills. Joining their sister ships, two more Viking Longships— Viking Embla and Viking Aegir—will make their debut in July and August 2012, respectively. And given unprecedented demand, Viking is reviewing its new build program for 2013 and 2014.
Also new for 2012 is an enhanced Russian offering from Viking. With the launch of Viking Rurik (formerly Viking Peterhof), this year will mark the completion of bow-to-stern refurbishments of Viking’s owned and operated Russian fl eet, which set a new standard as the best river cruise ships in Russia and the only fl eet entirely Western-managed. To commemorate the transformations and to honor Viking’s heritage, the ships have been renamed—Viking Rurik, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar and Viking Truvor. In addition to multiple itinerary updates, new for 2012 is an 8-day program, The Glories of the Hermitage, which features exclusive access and private tours at one of the world’s greatest museums, and the launch of an entirely Russia-focused microsite, thereal russia.com.
According to Richard Marnell, senior v.p. of marketing, the response to these events has been signifi cant. “From guests on the phone to travel agents in the fi eld, we have heard good things all around,” Marnell says. “We can feel the excitement about the launch of our six new Viking Longships, as well as the various ship and itinerary enhancements we are making to our already popular Russia program.”
Like everyone else, Viking has seen more than healthy booking trends, much of theirs, however, enhanced by the new ships and itinerary enhancements. “As expected, introducing new ships as a core component of our fl eet has been benefi cial to our positive booking trends,” Marnell says. “However, we are experiencing similar trends in bookings throughout our breadth of itineraries, from Europe and Russia to the Ukraine, China and Southeast Asia. More than in years past, we have seen an increased number of early bookings for 2012 departures as well as a greater number of sold-out dates throughout the season.”
As still another aspect of Viking’s 15th anniversary year, Viking is currently offering special deals including up to 2-for-1 pricing on select river cruise itineraries, as well as promotional offers on roundtrip international air. Dates and pricing as well as ship and itinerary information are available online. Marnell points out, however, that “market demand will dictate whether our 2-for-1 cruise pricing will remain through the season. In addition, air discounts will be offered, but will vary based on a number of factors including itineraries, dates and availability.”