On the waterways of Russia, the cruise line is also making news with its completely refurbished ms Amakatarina, launching in the spring of 2011 as the most luxurious vessel on the Volga-Baltic Waterway. Guests on the culture-rich cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg will have a choice of 10 different stateroom categories, including four suite categories and accommodations up to 432 sq. ft. A total of 76 staterooms feature balconies, and the vessel will also have an alternative restaurant, conference hall, sauna and solarium.
“AMAWaterways has realized its success by establishing close ties with the travel agent community,” says Schreiner. “We have expanded our commission structure to make sure that compensation is reflective of the service and guidance agents provide to their customers.”
avalon waterways Avalon Waterways, part of the Globus family of brands, is looking forward to a gala party in May 2011: the launch of its Avalon Panorama, the industry’s first “suite ship.” Panorama differs from its current ships in that it will feature 64 newly designed, 200-sq.-ft. suites on the top two decks. Each has a seating area adjacent to an 11-ft.-wide, floor-to-ceiling panoramic window, with the idea of converting the entire suite into a sort of open-air balcony when the window is open, and epic views even when the window is closed. The design team also added marble bathrooms; new Avalon-branded “Comfort Collection” bedding and love seats in the suites, which will also have fresh flowers in each cabin, and premium L’Occitane products.
Panorama’s public areas will include a club, main lounge and dining room, a hair salon and a Sky Deck with pool and bistro for outdoor grilled lunches, and more expansive fitness room and facilities than on other Avalon ships. Suites, as well as 17 staterooms (measuring 172 sq. ft.) on the lower deck, have flat-screen TVs, mini-bars, safes and laundry and ironing services. The new ship will cruise on the 14-night Magnificent Europe itinerary between Amsterdam to Budapest for most of 2011, as well as the Christmas market itineraries.
According to Clark, his company will “upgrade its river cruise fleet to guarantee that all passengers experience the same luxury experience we are pursuing.” Those enhancements include orthopedic mattresses, upgraded linens and a choice of pillows; newly appointed bathrooms; fresh flowers and complimentary bottled water in all cabins; and ships wired with 3G high-speed Internet service.
“This has been an excellent river cruise year, with bookings up 50 percent,” reports Clark, “and perhaps the buzz about our sweet-ship Panorama is one reason that, as of October, bookings for the 2011 season are 30 percent ahead of the same time last year.” According to Clark, Avalon’s most popular river cruise is the 7-night Romantic Rhine, priced from $1,799 pp dbl.
For repeat travelers (and Avalon enjoys a 25 percent repeat-cruiser market), the “hot” cruise is the 15-day Magnificent Europe Cruise, visiting Vienna, Cologne, Nuremberg and Bratislava, as well as Amsterdam and Budapest, with costs starting at $3,699 pp dbl. New for next year is a 12-day Central European Experience, a Paris-to-Prague cruise along the Moselle, Rhine and Main rivers; a 14-night Jewels of Central Europe itinerary, sailing the Moselle, Rhine, Main and Danube rivers and through the dramatic Rhine Gorge and Main Danube Canal; and the 8-day Art & Impressionist River Cruise through northern France.
Clark points out that, “80-85 percent of Avalon’s cruise guests have taken one or more big-ship cruises, and, while accustomed to luxury, they are also looking for an alternative vacation style and an enriching experience. River cruising delivers all those things, presently mostly to the 60-plus market. However, our shorter cruises—the 4- or 5-day Taste of the Danube, for example, as well as themed—wine, music, art, Christmas market cruises, and family-oriented—cruises we have recently introduced to attract a younger market and even small incentive groups.”
On the other side of the world in more exotic waters, Avalon Waterways markets China itineraries that embrace the Yangtze River, Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, and add Mongolia and Tibet on longer cruises. Two ships will operate during the 2010-2011 season: the 308-passenger Victoria Anna, newly renovated this year, and the just-launched Victoria Jenna with 189 cabins, including 40 suites.