TORONTO — As the industry waits eagerly for the restart of travel, some suppliers are making never-before-seen bets on new product ideas.
And in the case of AmaWaterways, those bets are already paying off.
Earlier this week AmaWaterways announced a 46-night European river cruise itinerary set to sail in 2023. The cruise company says it’s the longest-ever river cruise.
Bookings don’t open to the general public until March 15, however the suite category is close to sold out based on the priority interest payment list, says AmaWaterways’ Chief Marketing Officer, Janet Bava.
But not to worry. At the rate this ultra-long-duration river cruise is selling, there will be plenty more to come.
Called the ‘Seven River Journey Through Europe’, the month-and-a-half long cruise sets sail June 1, 2023 from Paris and includes 14 countries. Rates start at Cdn$36,120 per person.
“THIS IS A POST-PANDEMIC PHENOMENON”
We caught up with Bava to talk strategy, and we checked in with several travel agents too, to see if they thought the super-long cruise with the 5-figure per person price tag would strike a chord with clients.
It’s been exactly a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and travel restrictions all but shut down travel around the world. As vaccinations roll out and travel begins to restart, two trends that are getting a lot of attention for post-pandemic travel are bucket-list trips, and long-stays.
Asked if the ‘Seven River Journey’ will tap into both of those trends, Bava says “absolutely, 100%.”
Says Bava: “This is definitely a post-pandemic phenomenon as our core product traditionally consisted of a 7-night itinerary and adding land package before or after the cruise of additional four nights. We are not only seeing guests currently booked add additional sailings to their current bookings, but they are also adding land packages. Once they are making their way to Europe, they want to stay as long as they can and see as much as they can see.”
Many travellers especially in the high-end travel market are sitting on extra money from a year in lockdown, and the $36,120 price tag isn’t as daunting as it might have been pre-pandemic, say agents we spoke to.
There’s also the ‘revenge travel’ trend fuelling all-out, no-cut-corners trips of a lifetime. After a year and counting with no travel, travellers are looking to maximize their vacation time, in a safe environment. AmaWaterways restarted sailings in summer 2020 with charter groups and a full complement of health and safety protocols.
Based on its initial success, an ultra-long cruise like the Seven Rivers Journey could become a permanent offering for AmaWaterways. “Based on demand, we are looking to add two additional dates in 2023 … this one will be the most epic but the other two will certainly accommodate the demand for longer river journeys of 21 days or more,” Bava says, adding that 21-day Upper and Lower Danube journeys will be offered in 2022 and 2023 on AmaMagna, “the best ship on the river attracting those ocean cruisers who need more amenities onboard.”
While ocean-going ships are working hard with the CDC to restart big-ship cruising, many predict river cruise companies, with their small ships and intimate ports of call, will be the first to see a boost in numbers when travel restarts in earnest. Many big-ship cruisers who were never interested in river cruising might think differently post-pandemic.
Bava says post-pandemic travel will see more customization too. “We are currently customizing our itineraries for 2022 and 2023 and taking new groups on sailings averaging 20-36 nights,” she says. “Travel advisors are now calling us and saying my clients can not join for 46 nights, but can you help me in creating a custom itinerary for them where they can sail for 3 weeks, and explore 4 rivers? We have innovated personalized combination river cruise selling and travel advisors are thrilled we can do this. All they need to do is call our reservations team and we will figure out how to best combine the various itineraries for their clients.”
To read what travel agents are saying about the 46-night river cruise, click here for the lead story in this week’s March 11, 2021 digital edition of Travelweek.