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Uniworld Christmas sailings

Black Friday Cruise Savings

By Anne Kalosh.

Hurry! Time is running out for Black Friday cruise sales that follow the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. There are just a few days left to save.

Seabourn Venture

Seabourn’s offer includes select voyages aboard its first purpose-built (and QuirkyCruise-sized) expedition ship, Seabourn Venture. The 264-passenger vessel is planned to debut in December 2021 on a new Norwegian winter program.

Travelers who book by Dec. 1, 2020, can receive $1,000 shipboard credit per suite for ocean-view and veranda suites, $2,000 per-suite credit for penthouse and premium suites, a veranda for ocean-view suite upgrade and a three-category veranda suite upgrade.

Reduced deposits, based on the market, are USD $250, CAD $250, GBP £200, EURO €200 and AUD $350.

Seabourn Cruise Line.

Seabourn Venture cruise deals

Seabourn’s offer applies to select voyages on new expedition ship Seabourn Venture. * Rendering: Seabourn

Riviera River Cruises

Riviera River Cruises’ North American office has deals for its three newest European itineraries on the Seine, Danube and the Dutch waterways and Rhine River. Departures are priced starting at $1,999 per person, double occupancy. Bookings must be made by Dec. 1.

“Amsterdam, Cologne and the Best of Holland & Flanders” and “Vienna, Bohemia & Treasures of the Danube” are priced starting at $1,999 for 2021 departures, while “The Seine, Paris & Normandy” cruise is available for $1,999, $2,499 or $2,999 depending on 2021 departure date.

Riviera River Cruises.

Emerald Waterways

Emerald Waterways’ offer applies to all 2021 and 2022 European and Southeast Asia river cruises. Bookings by Dec. 4 qualify for a $300 per couple savings on itineraries of eight to 14 days or $600 per couple on itineraries 15 days or longer.

Emerald Waterways.

Emerald Waterways black friday cruise deals

Book by Dec. 4 for Black Friday savings on Emerald Waterways. Here, Emerald Sky in Koblenz. * Photo: Emerald Waterways

Scenic $500 bonus savings

At Emerald sister company Scenic, North Americans booking any 2021 or 2022 European river cruise (except Portugal) by Dec. 6, 2020, will receive an additional $500 per suite/stateroom savings.

The discount may be combined with current offers including free premium economy flights for sailings of 11 or more days and free economy flights on eight- to 10-day itineraries and business class air for only $1,995 per person.

Scenic.

Wind In Sea Cloud’s Sails Come Spring

Sea Cloud Cruises announced March/April sailing dates for Sea Cloud II and Sea Cloud and will soon reveal the new Sea Cloud Spirit’s maiden voyage.

On March 17, Sea Cloud II is to sail from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, on seven-day trips around the Canary Islands. Two weeks later, Sea Cloud is to start Greek Islands voyages.

“Reliability and safety are our top priority,” Sea Cloud Cruises Managing Director Daniel Schäfer said. “On a tall ship, a significant part of the daily life takes place in the fresh air,” he noted. In addition, the cabins and the public areas are ventilated with fresh air from the outside, and occupancy is limited to 64 to 94 travelers.

Sea Cloud II’s weeklong Canary Islands cruise will combine the full-sail experience with exclusive shore excursions. These include new active options such as exploring Lanzarote in environmentally friendly electric vehicles, whale watching off La Gomera and catamaran tours off Fuerteventura.

Sea Cloud Spirit to debut in 2021

The new Sea Cloud Spirit, center, will join the Sea Cloud fleet in 2021. * Rendering: Sea Cloud Cruises

Sea Cloud’s Aegean

Flagship Sea Cloud — turning 90 in 2021 — will resume service April 2 in the Aegean Sea. Round-trips from Piraeus (Athens) include two different routes through the Cyclades.

A flexible cancellation policy will continue to apply to all 2021 bookings. As long as COVID-19 remains an issue, trips can be canceled up to six weeks prior to sailing for a processing fee of $25 per person.

Meanwhile, the 136-passenger Sea Cloud Spirit is nearing completion at Metalships & Docks SAU in Vigo, Spain. This tall ship combines the classic beauty and under-sail experience of the 90-year-old Sea Cloud with modern elements of a five-star cruise ship including a portion of balcony cabins and a spa/wellness center. An elevator will connect the five decks.

Sea Cloud Cruises.

Revamped Pandaw Member’s Club

Pandaw loyalists will be eligible for new tiered benefits as part of the line’s revamped Member’s Club, starting with bookings made in 2021. (Bookings before Jan. 1 will receive benefits according to the existing program.)

Registration for the club is free.

Pandaw River Cruises Restarts

Pandaw has a fleet of 17 colonial-style teakwood riverboats. * Photo: Pandaw

Associate Members

For associate members — those who’ve registered for the club but have yet to sail with Pandaw — benefits include a limited-time (through Dec. 31) $100 deposit offer.

Full Members

Travelers who’ve registered and sailed with Pandaw on one to four cruises are eligible for a limited-time (until Dec. 31, 2020) $100 deposit, exclusive member notifications and advance notice of new dates and sailings. They’ll also receive a gift bag of branded Pandaw items upon embarkation. A “Free Flow Drinks Package” is another perk (not available in India).

They’ll also be invited to new members-only departures and receive a 20 percent cruise discount for select departures, subject to availability.

Legacy Members

Travelers who’ve registered and sailed with Pandaw five or more times get all the perks of full members, plus a wine package (not available in India), a deluxe gift bag, priority for members-only departures and a 20 percent discount on all departures, subject to availability.

Pandaw.

Christmas In July

As COVID cases continue to rise and European borders remain closed, the holiday season will not be the same this year for many. To help spread some joy and positivity, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is giving those grounded at home the chance to have a holiday do-over next summer.

The luxury boutique river line’s “Christmas In July” sailings will be complete with replicated Christmas markets on board so travelers can shop for local products.

Uniworld Christmas markets

With Christmas markets cruises canceled, travelers are getting a summer re-do, courtesy of Uniworld. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

During these seven-night Danube itineraries, passengers can celebrate the belated holidays in style. They’ll be greeted with festive décor aboard their floating boutique hotel and can take part in activities like holiday cocktail mixology classes, gingerbread-house decorating and ornament-making.

Holiday movies will be playing in the on-board cinema, and travelers will have the opportunity to capture a 2021 holiday card photo with Santa in front of the tree. Uniworld’s chefs will even be serving winter holiday treats, while bartenders will put a summer spin on drinks such as frozen hot chocolate and chilled eggnog.

Two “Christmas In July” cruises will sail aboard the Maria Theresa on July 11 and July 18, with destinations including Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg and Passau.

Travelers who book by Jan. 8 will save $500 per person and get additional early booking discounts.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.

Uniworld Christmas sailings

Uniworld will deck the halls of its Maria Theresa for Christmas on two July sailings. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Eclipse-Viewing From One-Of-A-Kind Ship

Ponant’s Le Commandant-Charcot is the latest expedition vessel planning to highlight the Dec. 4, 2021 solar eclipse from Antarctica.

This new hybrid-electric ship, powered by liquefied natural gas, is one of a kind. It’s scheduled for delivery in 2021.

Le Commandant-Charcot cruise deals

The hybrid-electric, LNG-powered Le Commandant-Charcot. * Rendering: Ponant

Le Commandant-Charcot’s 15-day solar eclipse expedition embarks Nov. 30 in Ushuaia, Argentina. After crossing the Drake Passage to arrive at the Weddell Sea, on Dec. 4 passengers will step onto the pack ice to witness the moon passing between Earth and the sun. In a region where the sun never quite sets at that time of year, there will be a few minutes of complete darkness.

Under the supervision of naturalist guides and the on-board scientists, travelers will be able to participate in the research and analyses of this astronomical event. They also can help set up a station on an ice floe to take water samples in research to improve the knowledge of the Antarctic region.

Prices for the U.S. market start at $17,790 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip flights between Santiago, Chile, and Ushuaia. A 30 percent Ponant bonus offer is available for bookings made now.

Black Friday Cruise Savings for Ponant

The Dec. 4, 2021 solar eclipse will be visible in Antarctica. * Photo: Ponant

Ponant.

South Pacific And New Zealand Routes For Coral Geographer

Australia’s Coral Expeditions will deploy its new Coral Geographer in New Zealand and the South Pacific in 2021/22, Seatrade Cruise News reports.

The 120-passenger ship, the sister of 2019’s Coral Adventurer, is scheduled to enter service in March 2021.

Coral Geographer’s itineraries include a World War II-themed voyage through the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, a trip along New Zealand’s east coast through the Marlborough Sounds and Fiordland and a cruise to the south coast and Fiordland.

Coral Expeditions.

Coral Geographer black friday cruise deals

The new Coral Geographer will chart New Zealand and the South Pacific in 2021:22. * Rendering: Coral Expeditions

 

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Geoffrey Chaucer river cruise boat

Growing Interest in River Cruising.

by Anne Kalosh.

Ocean Cruisers Look to the Rivers

A study by Riviera River Cruises found 34 percent of past ocean cruisers are considering a river cruise instead next year. And, of those, 79 percent said they’re more likely to take a river cruise than an ocean cruise in 2021.

Surging interest in river cruising has also been reported by travel advisors and lines including AmaWaterways, American Queen Steamboat Co. and American Cruise Lines.

U.K.-based Riviera, which fields 12 vessels in Europe, conducted its study as part of a new “Less Is More” campaign to promote river cruising in 2021.

The line did not tell how many people it surveyed or its methodology.

“In the past, there’s been little crossover between ocean and river cruising,” according to Riviera’s Marilyn Conroy, executive vice president, sales and marketing North America. “Right now, however, we feel there’s an opportunity to showcase the benefits of river cruising to [the ocean cruise] audience, which previously may have discounted this form of travel.

“Our intent is to highlight that river cruising shares many of the aspects of cruise travel they love with additional benefits that address some of the concerns they may have about ocean cruising when ships begin to sail again,” Conroy said.

She called the rivers a “fantastic alternative.”

Geoffrey Chaucer river cruise boat

Geoffrey Chaucer is one of Rivera River Cruises’ all-suite vessels. * Photo: Riviera River Cruises

Addressing Ocean Cruisers’ Concerns

The Riviera study identified some concerns ocean cruisers may have, including the volume of passengers on board and getting stuck at sea. For example, it showed that for 84 percent, fewer fellow passengers was a key reason to prefer river cruising, while docking at a destination every day was an important consideration for more than 50 percent.

Ways that Riviera addresses these concerns include the fact that its vessels only carry between 121 and 169 passengers yet have roomy accommodations, many with balconies. Some vessels, including the new Geoffrey Chaucer, are all-suite.

River Cruising boat Geoffrey Chaucer

A deluxe balcony suite on Geoffrey Chaucer. * Photo: Riviera River Cruises

River cruises are in port every day and it takes only seconds to go ashore. Often the docks are just steps from the main sights.

Riviera offers 20 itineraries on 10 rivers and waterways, including dedicated departures for solo travelers with no single supplement.

Scenic Savings

Two of the biggest sale days of the year in the United States — Black Friday and Cyber Monday — take on even greater significance as so many travelers look to 2021 to get out into the world again. Scenic is stepping up by adding a new offer on top of current promotions. Bookings from the U.S. made between Nov. 25 and Dec. 6 for any 2021 or 2022 European river cruise (except Portugal) will receive an additional $500 savings per stateroom/suite.

This may be combined with most current Scenic offers including free premium economy flights for sailings of 11 or more days, free economy flights with eight- to 10-day itineraries and business class air for only $1,995. Paying in full within 14 days of booking reduces the fare by $500 and the new “Book with Confidence” program provides additional flexibility and peace of mind with a free Deposit Protection Plan (value $125) and deposits reduced by 50 percent.

2021 features some of Scenic’s most popular sailings — “Rhine Highlights” between Amsterdam and Zurich and “Gems of the Danube,” starring Budapest and Nuremberg.

Culinary Cruises

2022 leads off with two new culinary itineraries, “Tastes of Southern France” on the Rhône and “Flavors of Bordeaux” on the Garonne. These culinary cruises include an on-board dinner prepared by Michelin star chef Didier Goiffon and a cooking class at three-star Michelin chef Georges Blanc’s restaurant.

River cruising in Southern Franc

Southern France. * Photo: Scenic

Travelers can learn family secrets of regional recipes with Scenic’s new “Ancestry of the Kitchen” program. This includes a series of authentic cooking classes held in the homes of locals, including baking Dutch apple pie in Hoorn and Bulgarian banica (cheese pie) in Vidin and traditional bread-making in Portugal.

Mekong Offer — Expiring Soon!

Scenic’s sister company, Emerald Waterways, has big savings for its 2021-2022 Mekong River program on the line’s newest Star-Ship, Emerald Harmony.

But hurry! This offer is good on bookings made by Nov. 20. U.S. travelers booking any 2021-2022 Mekong cruise and tour itinerary of 13 days or longer will get their choice of $2,000 savings per couple or free, round-trip air to Asia. Additionally, they will receive a bonus $200 on-board credit, which can be used for spa and salon services, to purchase a drinks package or for special DiscoverMORE excursions.

Additionally, travelers paying in full within 14 days will receive an early payment savings of $400 per person. All bookings include a free Deposit Protection Plan (value $125).

Emerald Harmony, which completed its first season before the pandemic halted travel in early 2020, is not just the newest and most intimate ship in Emerald Waterways’ fleet, it’s also the greenest, built to the highest level of European emissions standards and eliminating single-use plastics.

Emerald Harmony interior

Emerald Harmony’s Horizon Bar and Lounge. * Photo: Emerald Waterways

The vessel offers four itineraries of eight to 21 days, with the longer programs adding land tours to iconic locations in Cambodia and Vietnam such as the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, the bustling capital city of Hanoi and the breathtaking Halong Bay.

Those looking to further explore Asia can book a four-day land extension to the ancient city of Luang Prabang in Laos or a three-day extension to remote Sa Pa, nestled in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwestern Vietnam.

RELATED: Cruising the Mekong River with Scenic.  by Heidi Sarna

AQSC’s Special Edition Sailings

2021 theme cruises at American Queen Steamboat Co. feature special entertainment, exclusive events and opportunities that travelers would not experience on any other sailing. They range from a bourbon-themed cruise through the Bluegrass State to a journey delving into Civil War history to music-focused programs.

“American Music Festival” sailings offer a concert by country music singer-songwriter Lee Greenwood and several other special guests. “Big Band” sailings depart from New Orleans and Memphis, while a “Music of the ’50s and ’60s” cruise from Louisville to Memphis highlights rock ‘n’ roll.

Among the culinary and cocktail-themed sailings are the “Bourbon – An American Spirit” and “Cajun Creole Culinary Experience.” The “American Culinary Experience” offers cruisers aboard the American Duchess and the new American Countess access to signature dishes from local dining venues and special presentations by experts and innovators.

“Top Chef” alumni and James Beard-nominated chef Kevin Gillespie will join several “American Culinary Experience” cruises on American Duchess to conduct cooking demonstrations, host Q&A sessions, sign cookbooks provided compliments of AQSC and create signature dishes for the dinner menu.

American Duchess river boat

Top Chef alumni Kevin Gillespie will join several American Culinary Experience cruises on American Duchess. * Photo: American Queen Steamboat Co.

The line’s special events sailings include the Kentucky Derby and “American River Golf Classic” with the chance to play four prestigious courses along the Lower Mississippi. Other cruises are built around holidays such as July Fourth, Thanksgiving, “Creole Christmas,” “Country Christmas” and New Year’s.

Travelers can help AQSC support the American Heart Association’s “Life Is Why We Give” campaign on a Memphis to New Orleans cruise aboard American Duchess. A “Breast Cancer Awareness” sailing on American Countess will benefit Susan G. Komen.

Windstar Pushes Back Restart

Windstar Cruises canceled departures further out, citing rising COVID-19 outbreaks around the world. After previously canceling through 2020, the line also dropped sailings in January and February, and into March and April, depending on the itinerary.

The first yacht now planned to sail will be 148-passenger Wind Spirit on March 25 in Tahiti.

Other starting dates are March 27 for Star Breeze in the Caribbean, April 7 for Star Legend in the Mediterranean, April 13 for Wind Star in the Mediterranean, April 24 for Wind Surf in the Mediterranean and July 6 for Star Pride in Northern Europe.

Wind Spirit in Tahiti


Windstar now expects its first sailing to be March 25 in Tahiti. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

RELATED: Windstar’s Ship Stretching Program.  by Anne Kalosh.

Hapag-Lloyd Halts

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is sitting out the month of November following Germany’s decision to restrict travel as part of wide-ranging efforts to address a spike in COVID-19 infections.

Seeing Double In Lisbon

Mystic Cruises’ second expedition ship, the 200-passenger World Voyager, was delivered by WestSea Viana do Castelo shipyard in Portugal. It follows 2019’s World Explorer, and the twin vessels rendezvoused at Lisbon on Nov. 4.

Next in the series is 2021’s World Navigator, which will sail for Mystic’s new U.S. brand, Atlas Ocean Voyages.

World Voyager in Lisbon

World Voyager approaches Lisbon. * Photo: Mystic Cruises

Sylvia Earle On Schedule

Aurora Expeditions’ second purpose-built ship, the 132-passenger Sylvia Earle, is on schedule for delivery in October 2021.

Like 2019’s Greg Mortimer, Sylvia Earle sports the patented Ulstein X-BOW for better seakeeping and reduced fuel consumption.

The new ship is named for the noted marine biologist, oceanographer and explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle.

“Her” ship is under construction at China Merchants Heavy Industry as part of the Infinity series commissioned Miami-based SunStone Ships, which charters its vessels to a variety of operators.

Sylvia Earle expedition ship

Sylvia Earle will sport Aurora Expeditions’ signature teal color. * Rendering: Aurora Expeditions

Crystal’s Unusual Corinth-Suez Cruise

The 62-passenger yacht Crystal Esprit is charting an unusual itinerary combining transits of the Corinth and Suez canals. The nine-night cruise embarks April 1 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and sails to Aqaba, Jordan.

There will be opportunities to visit UNESCO-listed sites including Dubrovnik’s Walled City, St. Catherine’s Monastery from the port of Sharm El-Sheik, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings from Safaga, Egypt, and the Rose City of Petra from Aqaba (during an optional post-cruise program).

With Crystal’s best available suite program, Crystal Esprit’s new itinerary offers an additional $125 “As You Wish” shipboard credit, as well as reduced solo fares of 150 percent for bookings made by Jan. 6.

Fares for “Iconic Passages: Corinth & Suez” begin at $4,499 per person.

Travelers can take advantage of Crystal Confidence 2.0 and the Easy Book program which, together, give a no-money-down deposit window until Jan. 5, reduced deposits, waived administration fees and relaxed final payment schedules on select sailings through June 2021.

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Crystal Endeavor is not sailing yet

Crystal Not Going Out Of Business

By Anne Kalosh.

With parent company Genting Hong Kong suspending payments to financial creditors and pursuing a restructuring, Crystal tried to calm fears about its own viability by issuing a statement.

Not going out of business

“It is important to understand that the company is not going out of business,” Crystal said. “Whatever option our parent company pursues, it will allow Crystal to operate its business. Additionally, we have always been committed to honoring our contractual obligations with guests and travel partners, including the processing of refunds.

“While we have extended our suspension of global voyages until the end of the year, we are working with government and health authorities in our key markets to resume sailing when it is safe to do so and we look forward to welcoming our guests back on board at that time.”

Crystal Endeavor is not sailing yet

Expedition ship Crystal Endeavor should have been sailing by now. * Rendering: Crystal

$3.4 billion debt

Genting Hong Kong’s cash crunch is due to COVID-19’s impact on its operations, which include Asia’s Star Cruises and Dream Cruises and Germany’s MV Werften shipyards. The company owed a total of $3.4 billion as of July 31.

It expects to report a U.S.$600 million net loss in the first half of 2020 and has delayed the deliveries of giant ship Global Dream and small expedition ship Crystal Endeavor by “about a year.”

Crystal is a highly regarded brand dripping in “world’s best” accolades that expanded from Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity to introduce a yacht, Crystal Esprit, and four identical new European river vessels, Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel. Crystal Endeavor had been scheduled to enter service in August this year.

Yacht Crystal Esprit is not going out of business

Yacht Crystal Esprit is among Crystal’s small-ship offerings. * Photo: Crystal

Avalon’s river-cruise ‘bubble’

The “good story” for river cruising is that it can operate in a safe “bubble,” according to Scott Nisbet, president & CEO of Globus Family of Brands, which includes Avalon Waterways.

Avalon’s small vessels carry fewer travelers, who’ll stay with the same group and adhere to health checks throughout their trip while seeing Europe from one room (their cabin, with no recirculated air), Nisbet said. They’ll dine in controlled venues with health protocols, skip the lines at sights and will always be just feet from shore should an emergency develop.

Many European countries, he noted, categorize river cruising as a hotel rather than a cruise, making resumption easier.

Travel is back on Europe’s rivers, in a controlled way and only for designated nationalities — not Americans, so far.

Nisbet said Globus is closely watching the continent’s famed Christmas markets, popular destinations for Avalon in November and December.

He’s confident markets will operate, but who knows if Americans will be allowed?

Avalon river cruise bubble

On a river cruise bubble, passengers travel Europe while staying in one room, their cabin. Here, a panorama suite on Avalon Envision. * Photo: Avalon Waterways

Victory’s ‘Come Home to America in 2021’

Victory Cruise Lines‘ new flexible booking policy includes savings of up to $1,400 on 2021 sailings when travelers book and pay in full by Sept. 30, 2020.

The company’s “Come Home to America in 2021” offer gives travelers the option to change or cancel their voyage up to 121 days before departure and receive a full refund. The policy is valid for future and existing 2021 cruise reservations but not for rebookings from 2020 to 2021.

Victory, which isn’t sailing for the balance of 2020, recently detailed health protocols for its 2021 restart. Next year sees new ship Ocean Victory introducing “Discover Beyond” Alaska expedition cruises between Sitka and Vancouver, British Columbia. Other new Victory routes are in the Great Lakes, Canadian Maritimes, New England and the Southeastern United States, including 12-day round-trips from Amelia Island’s Fernandina Beach.

In the coming weeks, Victory will be announcing new winter 2021 itineraries for Victory I and Victory II.

new Ocean Victory

The new Ocean Victory is scheduled to operate Alaska expedition cruises for Victory Cruise Lines in 2021. * Rendering: Victory Cruise Lines

Scenic flights & dives

Luxury expedition ship Scenic Eclipse embarked on its maiden voyage a year ago. During its first eight months (before halting four months ago due to the pandemic), the 228-passenger vessel had journeyed to more than 20 countries across four continents.

scenic eclipse

Scenic Eclipse during its first Antarctica season. * Photo: Scenic

Travelers took to the skies on 290 helicopter flights from the ship’s helipad and experienced more than 200 dives in its submarine, Scenic Neptune, which is able to reach depths of more than 1,000 feet.

Scenic Eclipse submarine Scenic Neptune

The cool interior of Scenic Eclipse submarine Scenic Neptune. * Photo: Scenic

They also participated in more than 500 discovery explorations including kayaking and Zodiac trips around Antarctica’s icebergs. More than 270 daring (or crazy?) travelers took the polar plunge, diving into the freezing waters of the Arctic and Antarctica to earn their polar badges.

Scenic USA is currently offering U.S. customers free and reduced premium airfare for select Antarctica, trans-Atlantic and Arctic sailings in 2021 and 2022 aboard Scenic Eclipse. Free and reduced economy airfare applies to Arctic, Central America and Mediterranean voyages. If travelers pay in full within 14 days of booking, they’ll get an additional $500 in savings.

Scenic’s “Book With Confidence” program gives flexibility and includes a deposit protection plan valued at $250.

RELATED: The New Scenic Eclipse.  By Peter Knego.

scenic neptune

Scenic Neptune at the Trident Wall, Port Antonio. * Photo: f-Stop Movies

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Small-ship Sea Cloud Spirit construction

Small-ship Construction & Delivery Updates

By Anne Kalosh.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a lot of uncertainty on the cruise shipbuilding front. Some yards have been closed, in line with national rules, or operating at greatly reduced capacity to enable safe distancing among workers.

Subcontractors, the vast web of suppliers who provide the majority of components and highly specialized labor/craftsmanship that go into building ships, haven’t been able cross borders, creating bottlenecks.

And, in this zero-revenue environment, many cruise lines are trying to renegotiate new build deliveries. Anyway, who needs more berths at a time when all fleets are laid up and nobody knows when operations will restart?

Here’s an update on news emerging in recent days about some of the Quirky-sized oceangoing new builds.

It’s a mixed picture, with both delays and progress — but, overall, surprisingly robust with even some new entrants, on both the shipyard and cruise line sides.

Small-ship Construction: Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot

The hybrid electric, LNG-powered Le Commandant Charcot is one of a kind. Ponant is building this ship to be able to sail in extreme polar regions with the least environmental impact possible. It appears on track for April 2021 delivery.

The new build is now being outfitted at the Vard Søviknes in Norway after arriving from Vard Tulcea in Romania, where the superstructure was built. Towed from Eastern Europe to Norway in a monthlong voyage, Le Commandant Charcot rendezvoused in the Gibraltar Strait with Ponant’s L’Austral, Le Boréal and Le Lyrial as they headed to Marseille for layup during the current suspension of cruise operations, making for some spectacular drone footage.

Le Commandant Charcot’s destinations will include the true geographic North Pole and areas in Antarctica where fewer people have traveled than to the moon.

In addition to carrying intrepid travelers, the ship will facilitate scientific research with laboratories, equipment and dedicated staterooms for researchers, providing a platform for polar observation and analysis.

Le Commandant Charcot (foreground) rendezvoused with three other Ponant ships in the Strait of Gibraltar. * Photo: Loic Jugualt for Ponant

Small-ship Construction: Sea Cloud Spirit Delay

Sea Cloud Cruises’ long-awaited, triple-masted tall ship Sea Cloud Spirit had been scheduled to make its maiden voyage Aug. 29. It will go into service later than planned, the new date still to be advised.

The 136-passenger vessel is under construction at Metalships & Docks SAU in Vigo, Spain, where work stopped for several weeks due to the country’s shutdown. Operations have resumed in small groups, in strict compliance with new public health regulations. However, the European subcontractors and suppliers involved in the project have not yet returned to Spain due to entry restrictions.

Sea Cloud Spirit’s masts, manufactured in Poland, had arrived at the yard when the COVID-19 crisis hit but were not installed due to the work stoppage. Below deck, the interior fittings were also being carried out but not completed.

Small-ship Sea Cloud Spirit construction

Sea Cloud Spirit’s main mast lies ready to be installed at the shipyard. * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

RELATED: Sea Cloud Building a New Tall Ship.  by Anne Kalosh.

New Canary Islands Program

Because of the delay, Sea Cloud Spirit will not cross the Atlantic, heading to the Caribbean in mid-November as originally scheduled. Instead, it will remain in the Canary Islands until April 2021.

According to Sea Cloud Cruises, its Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II are still expected to ply the Caribbean later this year.

The company’s 2021 brochure will be published this summer, including all voyages on the three ships. The upcoming year gives the Hamburg-based line several reasons to celebrate: the legendary Sea Cloud flagship will be 90 years old, Sea Cloud II will turn 20 and Sea Cloud Spirit will be operating its first full season.

Small-ship Construction: Eclipse II & More Polar New Builds for Scenic

Meanwhile, in Rijeka, Croatia, a steel-cutting ceremony for Scenic Eclipse II was held recently, and Scenic Group Owner Glen Moroney revealed plans to turn out five polar “discovery yachts” there in the next six years.

Due in 2021, Scenic Eclipse II is the sister of 2019’s Scenic Eclipse, which carries 238 passengers (200 in polar regions) in all-veranda suites with butler service. Numerous restaurants, an ample spa and nearly 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio make for an ultra-luxurious experience.

RELATED:   Cruising Aboard the New Scenic Eclipse.  by Peter Knego

Yet these are also serious expedition ships, with ice-strengthened hulls, super-sized stabilizers, two helicopters housed in a giant hangar, a submarine, a marina for launching Zodiacs and kayaks and a mud room for gear.

Scenic Eclipse helicopters

The Scenic Eclipse ships have two helicopters each, a hangar, a submarine and more expedition toys. * Photo: Scenic

After the Uljanik Group that built Scenic Eclipse went bankrupt, Moroney formed his own company, MKM Yachts, as a sub-concession at Rijeka’s Maj 3 shipyard. This new entity is taking full responsibility for Scenic’s oceangoing new builds, starting with Scenic Eclipse II.

MKM Yachts reached this agreement with the Croatian government, which is also supporting the redevelopment of the shipyard and assisting in the funding of Scenic’s new building program. Under the plan, MKM Yachts is leasing a portion of the Rijeka yard to use its infrastructure and the knowledge of the Croatian shipbuilders, working in collaboration with Scenic’s expert team.

Scenic small-ship construction

Construction has begun on Scenic Eclipse II, the sister of 2019’s Scenic Eclipse, seen here. * Photo: Scenic

Small-ship Construction: Atlas Ocean Voyages

Atlas Ocean Voyages, the dedicated North American brand of Portugal’s Mystic Invest Holdings, has just opened sales for its inaugural Antarctica program in late 2021/early 2022. The voyages will be aboard new build World Navigator, currently under construction in Portugal.

As a new brand, Atlas faces the challenge of introducing itself amid the global cruise shutdown. However, President Alberto Aliberti said his team can focus on marketing and planning the safest possible entry into service instead of coping with the ongoing challenges facing other lines that have had to repatriate passengers and crew, lay up ships and juggle cancellations and rebookings.

World Navigator is not due to begin sailing until mid-2021, in the Mediterranean. By opening bookings for the subsequent Antarctica season now, Atlas is playing into the dreams of people cooped up at home who have time to plan a future big adventure.

World Navigator Antarctic season

Sales have opened for World Navigator’s 2021:22 Antarctica season. * Photo: Atlas Ocean Voyages

Small-ship Edge

And, echoing the recent remarks of Sven Lindblad — whose Lindblad Expeditions just took delivery of its new polar ship National Geographic Endurance, which awaits entry to service when the global health situation improves — Aliberti believes small expedition ships will have an edge.

They carry fewer people and visit remote places like Antarctica, far from human populations.

Plus, Aliberti said, given World Navigator hasn’t entered service yet, Atlas can design for social distancing from the ground up.

For Antarctica bookings made by June 30, 2020, travelers may make a 50% reduced deposit, save $1,000 and get free business-class air per suite guest or $500 savings plus free economy-class air travel per Horizon or Veranda stateroom guest. Adventure staterooms come with free economy air. Changes to any itinerary departing before March 31, 2022, may be made without penalty.

As well, Atlas is catching the attention of the hard-hit travel advisor community with a “Get Paid Now” bonus gift card of up to $750 per booking, paid immediately, on top of a generous 15 percent commission.

Small-ship Construction: Project Vega Expedition Ships

Steel-cutting for the first of two planned Project Vega luxury expedition ships recently started in safe conditions and as scheduled in northern Europe despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Helsinki Shipyard, in icebreaker specialist with experience in mainstream cruise vessels such as Carnival Cruise Line’s long-running Fantasy class of the 1990s (and many more), is returning to passenger-ship construction after its sale and reorganization last year.

This first Project Vega order, for a pair of 157-passenger polar expedition vessels, was placed by Vodohod Ltd., Russia’s largest river cruise company and an affiliate of the Helsinki Shipyard’s new owners.

The steel blocks for the ships are being manufactured by Western Baltija Shipbuilding in Klaipeda, Lithuania, and will be transferred to Helsinki by sea. Production in Helsinki is to start in August, with the hull construction to begin with a keel-laying ceremony in September.

Deliveries are planned in 2021 and 2022.

Project vega new construction

Block production started for Project Vega in safe conditions. * Photo: Helsinki Shipyard

Small-ship Construction: New Entrant

Technology group Wärtsilä is developing a customized design for a potential series of six 200-passenger luxury expedition ships for start-up Amundsen Expeditions. These would be targeted primarily at the Chinese market.

Details are sparse for now. However, the design calls for all ocean-view cabins, presidential suites, winter gardens and the latest environmental equipment, according to Capt. Rajko Zupan of Amundsen Expeditions.

Wärtsilä said the ships will be crafted to operate efficiently in both tropical and polar waters.

They’ll be fitted with a complete package of Wärtsilä solutions, including Wärtsilä 32 engines, selective catalytic reduction systems to abate nitrogen oxide emissions, electric propulsion, the Wärtsilä Nacos Platinum bridge system for navigation and communication and Wärtsilä automation solutions.

Amundsen Expeditions small-ship construction

Wärtsilá is creating a customized design for start-up Amundsen Expeditions. * Rendering: Wärtsilä

 

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Emerald Azzurra off Italy's Amalfi coast

Introducing Emerald Azzurra

By Anne Kalosh

Scenic, the luxury tour operator that made a big splash with the super-yacht Scenic Eclipse in 2019, is at it again. This time the company plans a yacht for its newly formed Emerald Yacht Cruises.

The 100-passenger Emerald Azzurra is to debut in July 2021.

The brand will be part of the Emerald Cruises portfolio, which includes the Emerald Waterways river fleet.

Emerald Azzurra rendeirng

A bird’s-eye view of Emerald Azzurra. * Rendering: Emerald Yacht Cruises

“Emerald Waterways has been operating award-winning river cruises in Europe since 2014,” said Glen Moroney, owner and chairman of the Scenic Group. “The launch of Emerald Yacht Cruises and the stunning new Emerald Azzurra are a logical extension of the Emerald Cruises portfolio, adding intimate yacht cruising in the Mediterranean to the existing Emerald Waterways river cruise offerings.”

RELATED: QC Contributor Reviews the New Scenic Eclipse … by Peter Knego

RELATED: Active European River Cruises with Emerald Waterways … by John Roberts

Adriatic, Med and Red Sea

While Emerald Azzurra will be certified for unrestricted passenger ship operations in all oceans except polar, the 360-foot/110-meter super-yacht was custom-designed to cruise the Adriatic coast, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

Emerald Azzurra will frequent destinations in Greece, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, France, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, Spain, Israel, Jordan and Egypt. As well as exploring the major highlights in these regions, the yacht will be able to access smaller ports and harbors, giving travelers the chance to discover smaller towns and villages.

Most cruises stretch eight days.

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Emerald Azzurra off Italy's Amalfi coast

Emerald Azzurra is depicted off Italy’s Amalfi Coast. * Rendering: Emerald Yacht Cruises

Sample Itineraries

The scheduled inaugural sailing is an eight-day Aegean itinerary featuring Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. Emerald Azzurra will depart from Limassol, Cyprus, for Paphos (also in Cyprus); Fethiye, Bodrum and Kusadasi in Turkey; and Mykonos and Santorini, before arriving at Piraeus (Athens), Greece. Fares start at $3,385.

Another eight-day itinerary highlights the French and Italian rivieras, plus Corsica. This cruise departs from Civitavecchia (Rome) and visits Porto Ercole, Portoferraio and Portofino in Italy; Bonifacio and Calvi, Corsica; and Menton and Nice, France. Fares start at $3,338.

A 12-day “Ancient World Wonders” voyage embarks in Limassol and calls at Haifa (Tel Aviv) and Ashdod (Jerusalem) in Israel; Alexandria, Port Said and Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt; and Aqaba, Jordan. $5,188 is the lead-in price.

What’s Included

Emerald features inclusive pricing, so sommelier-paired wine, beer and soft drinks are complimentary with lunch and dinner. Also included: all on-board gratuities, Wi-Fi, transfers to and from the airport, port charges and all taxes. Included ashore are EmeraldPLUS cultural experiences and a range of EmeraldACTIVE excursions. DiscoverMORE excursions cost extra.

The six-deck Emerald Azzurra has 50 cabins and suites designed with a modern feel and upscale amenities. Eighty-eight percent of the accommodations have balconies.

Six ocean-view rooms measure 182 square feet to 204 square feet. There are 22 standard balcony staterooms that range from 285 square feet to 306 square feet. The two deluxe balcony staterooms range from 382 square feet to 403 square feet.

Emerald Azzurra's standard balcony cabin

Emerald Azzurra’s standard balcony stateroom. * Rendering: Emerald Yacht Cruises

The pair of terrace suites are 648 square feet to 669 square feet, while the two yacht suites measure 700 square feet to 721 square feet.

And the two top-of-the line owners suites, with their separate bedroom and large lounge area and a spacious terrace, are 1,162 square feet to 1,192 square feet.

big cabin terrace on Emerald Azzurra

The roomy terrace of a yacht suite. * Rendering: Emerald Yacht Cruises

In super-yacht style, Emerald Azzurra sports a marina platform as the launch point for water sports like paddle boarding and snorkeling. There are three tenders and two Zodiacs for shore landings.

High atop the yacht on the Sky Deck are outdoor lounging space, a bar and a spa pool. One deck below, the Pool Deck has a fabulous-looking infinity pool, a shaded lounge area and a pool café.

infinity pool on Emerald Azzurra

Emerald Azzurra’s very cool infinity pool. * Rendering: Emerald Yacht Cruises

Emerald Azzurra pool deck area

A shady corner for lounging in the pool area. * Rendering: Emerald Yacht Cruises

top deck Sky bar on Emerald Azzurra

Enjoy drinks up top in the Sky Deck Bar. * Rendering: Emerald Yacht Cruises

Deck 5 holds the forward-facing Observation Lounge.

On Deck 3, the Horizon Bar and Lounge form the heart of the yacht, with Reflections Restaurant on the same level and The Terrace, an outside dining area, aft of that. Dining will feature fresh, local ingredients.

Emerald Azzurra's restaurant

The Reflections Restaurant. * Rendering: Emerald Yacht Cruises

Emerald Yacht Cruises lounge

The Horizon Bar and Lounge is at the heart of the yacht. * Rendering: Emerald Yacht Cruises

Deck 2, the Wellness Deck, offers a wellness center complete with gym, spa and salon.

The first steel was cut for Emerald Azzurra in December at Ha Long Shipbuilding Co. in Ha Long City, Vietnam, so construction has begun!

For more information: Emerald Yacht Cruises.

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Biking & Beer on the Danube River

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QuirkyCruise Review QuirkyCruise Review of Scenic Cruises

This luxury river cruise line was founded in Australia in 1986, expanded to the UK and Canada in 2007, and to the US in 2008. Most recently the line has broadened from its main focus in Europe, including Russia, to include Southeast Asia cruises. Expedition cruising began in autumn 2019.

Scenic includes lots of important features on its cruises and prides itself on not taking passenger credit card details at embarkation as there’s little chance of making additional purchases on board. A partnership with National Geographic sees an expert and photographer on board all European cruises.

The parent firm also operates the more moderately-priced Emerald Waterways.

Scenic

Scenic cruises the great rivers of Europe. * Photo: Scenic

COVID-19 UPDATE

Scenic is aiming to restart operations Oct 31, 2020.

Be sure to check the line’s website for up-to-date news.

To encourage bookings, for a limited time, Scenic is offering discounts on their European River cruises, plus chauffeured transfers and free deposit payment protection coverage.

Fleet

Space-Ships

Scenic Crystal (built 2012 & 163 passengers) — Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers

Scenic Jewel (b 2013 & 163p) — Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers

Scenic Jade (b. 2014 & 163p) — Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers

Scenic Jasper (b. 2015/16 & 163p) — Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers

Scenic Opal (b. 2015/16 & 163p) — Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers

Scenic Amber (b. 2015/16 & 163p) — Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers

Scenic Ruby (rebuilt 2019 & 159p) — Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers

Scenic Pearl (rebuilt 2019 &159p) — Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers

Scenic Diamond (remodeled 2013, 149p) — Rhône & Saône Rivers & Bordeaux, France

Scenic Sapphire (remodeled 2013, 149p) — Rhône and Saône Rivers & Bordeaux, France

Scenic Azure (b. 2016 & 96p) — Douro River, Portugal

Scenic Gem (b. 2014 & 126p) — Seine River, France

Scenic

Embarking the Scenic Spirit in Cambodia. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Other River Boats 

Scenic Tsar (b. 2013 & 112 p) — Volga River, Russia

Scenic Spirit (b. 2016 & 68p) — Mekong River, Southeast Asia

Scenic Aura (b. 2016 & 44p) — Irrawaddy River, Myanmar

Expedition Ships

Scenic Eclipse (b. 2019 & 228p) — Oceangoing expedition ship 

Future Plans

Second expedition ship scheduled to debut TK.

Scenic Spirit seen in the early evening on the Mekong River. * Photo: Gillies and Zeiser

Scenic Spirit seen in the early evening on the Mekong River. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser

Passenger Profile

Seniors from 60s on up hailing from Australia and Britain primarily, followed by US and Canada.

Passenger Decks

Most of the riverboats have elevators that serve the two principal cabin and public room decks, and none reach the Sun Deck. SCENIC TSAR’s elevator connects the three cabin and public room decks.

Price

$$ Expensive

Note: Emerald (partner company) is less expensive than Scenic.

For selected off-peak itineraries, the single passenger supplement is reduced by 50% or eliminated entirely.

Included Features
  • Shore excursions, divided into active, moderate and relaxed pace activity level
  • Scenic “Tailormade” app for self-guided tours
  • Unlimited beverages including stocked mini-bar
  • Picnics and bottled water for shore excursions
  • All meals in multiple dining venues
  • Wellness facilities
  • Tips
  • Wi-Fi
  • Use of e-bicycles (in Europe)
  • 24-hour cabin service including butler service
  • Laundry service
  • Airport transfers
Itineraries

With so many riverboats in operation, Scenic offers many itineraries to choose from.

In Europe, itineraries from 7 nights explore the Seine, Danube, Rhine and Moselle, Rhône and Saône rivers, the rivers of Bordeaux and Portugal’s Douro River. Many itineraries combine destinations and can last as long as a month exploring France or throughout Europe. Christmas-themed cruises at the end of the year are always popular.

Scenic

Eiffel Tower from Pont Alexandre III, Paris. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser

In Russia, cruises tour the Volga River on 14- to 28-night itineraries.

Southeast Asia river cruises comprise 10 to 17 nights along the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, 7 to 12 nights on the Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam, or a 25-night combination of both rivers.

Scenic Eclipse sails to every region of the world, for excursion cruises that last anywhere from one week to one month.

Scenic also offers several land-and-river packages in China, South Korea, South India, Egypt and Jordan.

Sample Itineraries

In Europe, the 7-night Gems of the Danube begins in Budapest, cruising to Vienna, Dürnstein (with a relaxing cycling tour to visit Melk), either Salzburg or Cesky Krumlov, Regensburg and ending in Nuremburg before transferring to Munich for departure.

In Southeast Asia, along Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River, the Mystical Irrawaddy cruise begins in the capital city of Yangon for a few days of sightseeing before flying to Bagan, where passengers will embark on their cruise, with stops at Magwe, Minhla, Salay, Pakkoku, Yandabo, Mingun, Sagaing and Mandalay, where passengers disembark for a flight back to Yangon.

Scenic

Angkor Wat, Cambodia, a pre- or post-Mekong River cruise stopover. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser

Aboard the Scenic Eclipse, the 15-day Arctic Islands cruise begins at Reykjavik in Iceland, sailing to Greenland’s east coast to cruise along the coast and visit the fjords, to north-east Greenland to tour Greenland National Park, sailing on to the Svalbard Archipelago in Norway for arctic wildlife spotting and disembarking at Longyearbyen before flying to Oslo.

Why Go?

The passengers are truly an English-speaking union coming as they do primarily from Australia, Britain, Canada and the U.S.

When to Go?

The departures coincide with the better expected weather conditions with the busiest tourist season mid-June to September. Off-season allows you to share the trips ashore with fewer people  descending on the main attractions, and some of these sailings may be less expensive and/or offer single rates without a supplement.

 SHIPS
  •  Space-Ships
  • Scenic Crystal
  • Scenic Jewel
  • Scenic Jade
  • Scenic Jasper
  • Scenic Opal
  • Scenic Amber
  • Scenic Ruby
  • Scenic Pearl
  • Scenic Sapphire
  • Scenic Diamond

The fleet’s 15 “Space-Ships” are similar across the board, with some slight variations that are identified in the write-ups below. For the most part, however, these luxury boats are similar in length and have four decks, three of which house cabins, connected by elevator except to the uppermost sun deck.

Passengers can take their meals in any of four fine dining rooms or in the casual café, with cuisines taking inspiration and seasonal ingredients from the surrounding locales. Special dining events can include high tea, al fresco barbecue and seafood galas. Scenic Sapphire and Scenic Diamond also hold small cooking classes on board. Drinks are served in the lounge and bar areas.

For down time, the “Space-Ships” have a sun deck, wellness area with massage services, fitness center, walking track, salon and gift shop. Scenic Crystal, Scenic Jewel and Scenic Jade have an additional salt therapy lounge while Scenic Jasper, Scenic Opal and Scenic Amber each have a Vitality Pool on the sun deck; Scenic Sapphire and Scenic Diamond have no salon.

While most carry up to 163 passengers in 82 cabins, Scenic Sapphire and Scenic Diamond have 75 each for up to 149 passengers. Cabins are proportioned similarly on each ship, the average sizes measuring between 215 – 430 ft2. All are outward-facing with large picture windows; most have a balcony, created with the top of the window lowered to open the space to the great outdoors. Cabins are nicely appointed and include butler service.

“More effort than the norm is spent providing memorable meals in a variety of settings. Multiple venues include the Crystal Dining Room, the main restaurant with tables for parties of two to eight and views through picture windows; River Café, casual dining for breakfast and a light lunch; Portobello, 5-course Italian fare for 32 passengers; and Table La Rive, a 6-course degustation menu for 10 diners at a time, reserved for Diamond Deck passengers.” — Ted Scull

Scenic Azure

This smaller 96-passenger “Space-Ship” still maintains the same overall design and quality of the group (see longer review above), complete with four fine dining venues, casual café, lounge and bar, sun deck, wellness area, fitness center, walking track and gift shop.

Cabins are still as large as those on sister ships, but here there are only 48.

Scenic Gem

This 126-passenger Scenic Gem offers the same facilities as the rest of the fleet, with the addition of L’Amour fine dining.

The 63 cabins measure, for the most part, between 160 – 305 ft2.

Scenic Aura

Carrying a maximum of 44 passengers, Scenic Aura is the smallest river boat in the fleet, with five decks instead of four. It has the signature features of the “Space-Ships” with the inclusion of Vitality pool and bar, library and guest laundry.

All 22 cabins have balconies, most measuring between 258 – 430 ft2.

Scenic Spirit

This 68-passenger riverboat comprises five decks connected by an elevator. It also has an almost 1:1 crew-to-passenger ratio. Facilities include a dining room, café, sun deck, pool and pool bar, steam sauna, open-air cinema, library, wellness center, gym, library, and gift shop.

All 34 cabins have a balcony, with most between 344 – 430 ft2.

Scenic

The sitting room of suite #211. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Scenic Tsar

At its debut, the 112-passenger Tsar was Scenic’s first new-build ship to launch onto Russia’s waterways for over 25 years.

Expedition ship

Scenic Eclipse

A 6-star luxury experience, the Scenic Eclipse expedition ship offers facilities and cabins located on 10 decks, serviced by an elevator. For dining, there are nine intimate venues plus 24-hour cabin service and eight bars and lounges.

Recreational facilities include a sun terrace, indoor and outdoor pools, Jacuzzis, yoga and pilates rooms, gym and fitness area, spa with Jaccuzzi, plunge pool, sauna, steam room and salon, library, boutique, theater, medical center, self-service laundry and Discovery Center.

Guided journeys are led by “Discovery Leaders,” field experts, regional specialists and local guides, with tours via Zodiac, kayak, e-bike, plus two Airbus H130-T2 helicopters and a U-Boat Worx “Cruise Submarine 7” for underwater exploration.

The 114 cabins have a balcony, with most cabins measuring between 344 and 430 ft2.

RELATED: Peter Knego Cruises on the New Scenic Eclipse.

Christmas markets cruises are popular on Rhine and Danube river itineraries. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser.

Christmas markets cruises are popular on Rhine and Danube river itineraries. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser.

Activities & Entertainment

There are three types of shore excursions: Enrich, Freechoice, and Tailormade.

Tailormade excursions are designed for independent exploration at your own pace by foot or bicycle using a app providing the commentary and an interactive map. Subjects covered may be art, architecture, and history, and they are available in 140 locations. You can also use these tools on board.

Freechoice allows you to concentrate on your interests and whether you want an active, moderate or relaxed pace. Active might involve a hike or cycling outing; moderate, a city walking tour, and relaxed a museum visit or a canal cruise. Favorite hiking routes are the Danube Path through Austria’s Wachau Valley and a coastal path near Bordeaux along Arcachon Bay.

Enrich excursions are led by an expert in history or local culture to get beneath the surface. On board cooking school, Scenic Culinaire, operates on the French waterways and that includes going to local markets to buy the ingredients for the onboard cooking component.

For a number of its European cruises, Scenic partners with National Geographic to offer National Geographic Expeditions, cruises with presentations from the magazine’s acclaimed experts, photography lessons from its award-winning photographers and behind-the-scenes access during sightseeing excursions.

Scenic riverboats in Europe carry a fleet of e-bikes that help you propel your way into villages and vineyards so you become part of life ashore and not just a spectator. A handful of departures between May and September will come under the titles “Gems of the Danube,” sailing between Budapest and Nuremburg, and “Rhine Highlights” between Amsterdam and Basel.

During the former, specialists in guiding bicycle tours of 15 to 60 miles will take passengers to breweries for beer tasting, along paths in the Wachau Valley, to Austrian grape wine-growing country, into Vienna Woods and through the hills of Buda in Budapest. The latter will visit the Alsace Wine Route, the Rhine Gorge, Cologne’s network of cycling paths, and the outskirts of Amsterdam for cheese tasting. Non-cycling activities will also be offered.

Biking & Beer on the Danube River

The boat’s bikers stop to see the ship. * Photo: John Roberts

Special Notes

Single travelers pay no single supplements on selected departures in March, April and October to December. 50% of the single supplement is available on selected sailings May to September.

Along the Same Lines

Scenic is among the top lines to offer in-depth river cruising with lots of choices for sightseeing and enjoying meals aboard.

Contacts

USA —  One Financial Center, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111; scenicusa.com. 855-517-1200; scenicusa.com

CANADA — Suite 1025, 401 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 5A1; Scenic.ca, 866-689-8611; scenic.ca

UK — 13th Floor, 111 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2HY; Scenic.co.uk,  0161 236 2444; scenic.co.uk

AUSTRALIA — Level 15, 56 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000; Scenic.co.au, info@scenic.com.au; scenic.com.au

Pont du Gard, South of France

Pont du Gard, a Roman masterpiece built in the first half of the 1st century, South of France

 

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Asian-fusion restaurant Coocs aboard the new Scenic Eclipse

The New Scenic Eclipse

By Anne Kalosh.

Expedition cruising is getting glamorous. While the adventures outside may still be rugged, once travelers are back on board they’ll have every creature comfort on a growing number of vessels.

Take a look at Scenic’s newly introduced 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse, for example.

Billed as a “six-star discovery yacht,” it has all-veranda-suite accommodations, 10 dining venues, a Champagne bar, a spacious spa, a yoga/Pilates studio and butler service. A sleek exterior profile, internal spaciousness, stylish design and original art make Scenic Eclipse a far cry from expedition cruising’s traditionally utilitarian vessels, some of them converted from scientific research use.

The new Scenic Eclipse

Scenic Eclipse sailing off the Outer Hebrides. * Photo: Scenic

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Total Sensory Experience

“This is more than just a cruise ship, this is a total sensory experience,” said project director Karen Moroney of Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours. “From the entry foyer to the guest suites and the dining areas, the feel is one of calm, luxury and serenity to allow our guests to truly relax and take in the total voyage experience.”

In addition, a number of artworks were commissioned from renowned international artists and are a focal point of the decor.

Scenic Eclipse can carry up to 228 travelers (200 in the Arctic and Antarctica) on voyages highlighting nature, cultural encounters, historic cities and ancient monuments.

The 114 all-veranda suites range from 345 square feet to a sprawling 2,659 square feet. All accommodations are served by butlers, and the passenger-to-crew ratio is nearly 1:1.

Ocean-view bathroom in a spa suite on Scenic Eclipse

But of course! An ocean-view bathroom in a spa suite. * Photo: Scenic

The 10 dining options include Asian fusion, a sushi bar, an upscale French restaurant, a Chef’s Table, teppanyaki grill, a cooking emporium called Epicure and a poolside grill/buffet.

Dinner in the Chef's Table on Scenic Eclipse

A Chef’s Table creation. * Photo: Scenic

Bars and lounges include the intimate Champagne Bar, elegant Lobby Lounge and the Azure Bar & Café for fare like oysters accompanied by a crisp pinot gris. Top-shelf beverages, fine wine, cocktails, and specialty teas and coffees are included in Scenic’s pricing.

Asian-fusion restaurant Coocs aboard the new Scenic Eclipse

The super glam Asian-fusion restaurant Cocos. * Photo: Scenic

The 5,920-square-foot Senses Spa provides a gym and separate yoga and Pilates studio. A theater hosts entertainment and lectures. There are indoor and outdoor plunge pools.

Yoga and pilates studio aboard the new Scenic Eclipse

The dedicated yoga and pilates studio. * Photo: Scenic

Two Helicopters & a Submarine

Scenic Eclipse has a Polar Class 6 ice rating. The ship’s zero-speed stabilizer fins are 50 percent larger than standard to provide greater stability by cutting roll more than 85 percent. Other technical features include dynamic positioning, a GPS system that holds the vessel in place so anchors don’t have to be dropped with the potential to damage sensitive seabeds. For added safety, there are redundancies in propulsion and navigation systems and food refrigeration.

Adding to its exploration capabilities, Scenic Eclipse carries two six-guest helicopters and one six-guest submarine capable of reaching depths of nearly 1,000 feet.

The new Scenic Eclipse has a heli pad

Two helicopters and a submarine for additional exploration. * Photo: Scenic

“We are extremely proud of this ship and what it brings to the world of cruising,” said Glen Moroney, chairman and founder, Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours. “In terms of innovation, technology and design, it is second to none.”

An Australia-based tour operator that sells internationally, Scenic in recent years branched out to building river vessels for its Scenic and Emerald Waterways brands. Now, having constructed one ocean expedition yacht, a second is due to follow.

Scenic Eclipse is scheduled to be named by the British actress Dame Helen Mirren during festivities in New York on Sept. 10.

The ship will sail between the polar regions, also hitting points in the Caribbean, South America, Alaska, Canada, Europe and Scandinavia, with per diems ranging from $600 to $1,100 depending on the itinerary. Here are more details.

Luxury is the currently the hottest trend in expedition cruising. Luxury line Silversea got into this area in 2008 with refurbished and upgraded ships. And now Silversea, Crystal Expedition Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Ponant, Seabourn and SeaDream Yacht Club are all building sumptuous vessels.

So look for many more top-tier choices in the years to come.

A bar on the New Scenic Eclipse

Cheers! 🥃 One of the ship’s several bars and lounges. Top-shelf brands are included in the fare. * Photo: Scenic

>>Stay tuned for Peter Knego’s story when he sails aboard Scenic Eclipse in early September!

 

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Scenic Spirit Reader Review

Reader Review: Scenic Spirit.

REVIEWER

Walt Bruyns/Jan Hayes from Canada.

CRUISE LINE

Scenic.

SHIP

Scenic Spirit.

DESTINATION

Cambodia/Vietnam.

# OF NIGHTS

7.

DEPARTURE DATE & PORTS

October 2018, from Siem Reap, Cambodia.

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating: 5

-Cabin Rating: 5

-Service/Crew Rating: 5

-Itinerary Rating: 5

HAVE YOU BEEN ON A SMALL SHIP CRUISE BEFORE?

I’ve been on 5 small ship cruises.

REVIEW

On board the Scenic Spirit, the staff was friendly, attending to all our needs. The cabin was well laid out with the bedroom separated from the sitting area; it had everything we needed and our cabin attendant was efficient.  The pace of the cruise as well as the itinerary was terrific…… Stopping along the way was well planned and thoroughly enjoyable.  The Mekong River is one of the most scenic rivers of the world and the scenery showed well from the Spirit; we saw some great sunsets. Having travelled with Scenic before, we expected a great trip…….and we got it!

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Mekong River Cruise with Scenic.

By Heidi Sarna.

My first Mekong River cruise a decade ago was with Pandaw, a pioneer of Southeast Asia river cruising and one of my favorite small-ship cruise lines.

They offer a casual old-world experience aboard traditionally-designed boats built with lots of teak and open decks to resemble classic Scottish-built Irrawaddy River paddle steamers from a century ago.

In recent years, more river boats — many of them quite luxurious — have entered the waters of Southeast Asia. One of the companies is Scenic.

Last October, I cruised the Mekong River from Cambodia into Vietnam with Scenic aboard the all-suite 68-passenger Scenic Spirit — by far my poshest Mekong River experience — complete with an onboard spa and mini swimming pool.

Scenic Spirit's outdoor pool with Mekong views

Hard to believe a 68-passenger river boat has a pool and a spa! Lov’in it! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

My friend Sheila and I thoroughly enjoyed our 10 days of pampering and adventure. Scenic smartly combines its 7-night Mekong cruises with a 3-night hotel/tour pre- or post-cruise package in Siem Reap to see the temples of Angkor Wat.

Tuk tuk ride in Cambodia

Heidi & Sheila’s Mekong River cruise adventure!

Thinking about taking a high-end Mekong River cruise?

Here are 15 reasons to choose Scenic!

The Immersive Excursions

The whole point of a Southeast Asia river cruise is to learn something, see something, and feel something. Scenic’s daily excursions, usually one in the morning and another after lunch (often with multiple choices), range from temple and monastery visits to walks through rural villages.

There are strolls through eye-opening, nostril-shocking open-air markets selling fresh everything; jaunts on motorized wooden sampans to soak up life on the river; and adventurous rides in tuk-tuk cycle rickshaws.

wet market in Cambodia

Wet markets in Cambodia and Vietnam are an experience! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Angkor Wat Temple Complex 

One of the world’s most coveted travel sites, parts of the world-famous temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia, date back more than 1,000 years. With its intricate carvings, jungle setting and hauntingly beautiful ruinous visage, the temples of Angkor Wat inspire awe, wonder and gratitude for anyone fortunate enough to visit. Three days in Siem Reap, based in a luxury hotel, is part of the package.

Ankgor Wat is included in many Mekong River Cruises

The stunning Angkor Wat complex. * Photo: Sheila Healey

The Pagodas

A Mekong River cruise in Cambodia and Vietnam is a journey rich in gilded Buddhist sanctuaries, alternatively called temples, shrines and pagodas. Some are grand and topped with massive roofs and ornate glittering interiors covered with intricate murals. Others are humbler, with aging wood, faded paint and crumbling stupas; they’re part of the everyday village tableau, complete with sleeping dogs and playing children.

A gilded pagoda on a Mekong River Cruise

A grand gilded monastery in Cambodia near the Mekong River. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Sampan Rides

Most days, excursions involved transferring from the Scenic Spirit, whether anchored mid-river or tied up to a tree along the river banks, to a local motorized sampan. Some were wooden, and all had the requisite evil eye painted on the bow to ward off danger. Zipping up and down the river in these boats afforded us close up views of the river banks, to see women washing clothes at the water’s edge and children splashing and waving. We saw lone figures in conical hats fishing from small skiffs and families living aboard squat cargo barges, laundry flapping across the stern, motoring past with loads of sand, gravel, rice and watermelons.

sampan excursions on a Mekong River cruise

Most excursions involved traveling by sampan, which allowed us up close views of life and commerce on the river. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Sunsets

It seemed we were treated to soul-stirring sunsets nearly every day of the cruise, and some morning sunrises were equally as jaw-dropping. With our suite’s huge windows that could be opened with the touch of a button, we could take amazing photos and videos with very little effort! Or if we felt more ambitious, Scenic Spirit’s expansive top deck was an excellent perch to soak up a fiery sunset melting into the Mekong.

Great views of a sunset over the Mekong River.

The all-suite Scenic Spirit affords stunning views of sunrises and sunsets over the Mekong. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

AND, our days at Angkor Wat included a sunrise visit, which turned out to be a mind-blowing pinky-purply stunner. We stood in awe watching the morphing color, thanking our lucky stars for the opportunity to witness such a spectacular natural wonder.

Angkor Wat at Sunrise on a Mekong River cruise

Angkor Wat at sunrise blew us away! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The All-Inclusive Fares

An impressive repertoire of excursions, from walking, speedboat and motor-coach tours, to Scenic’s special “Enrich” happenings — experiential events such as high-tea at Raffles in Phnom Penh — are part of the fare. Also priced into the package are free-flow drinks, with an excellent complimentary wine list with multiple choices each day. Room service, transfers to and from airport, wifi (though spotty), and gratuities (however many leave additional tips) are also part of the fares.

Scenic River cruises are all inclusive

Fares on a Scenic Mekong River cruise include all wines and spirits. Cheers! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Suites

Southeast is Asia hot year-round, not to mention quite culture-shocky, so your cabin is an important retreat for relaxing and recharging. The Scenic Spirit’s 34 outside suites impress with floor-to-ceiling windows that open top to bottom with the touch of a button, for fresh air and photo taking. Most are 344-square-foot Deluxe Suites with walk-in wardrobes, mini-bars, sitting area, and flat-screen TVs for movies and music.

Scenic Spirit Deluxe Suite

Our Scenic Spirit Deluxe Suite was just lovely. * Photo: Scenic

The Spa

The Scenic Spirit’s lovely little spa, a dark-wood paneled retreat, was my happy place. Each excellent treatment begins with a ceremonial foot bath in a copper bowl. Making a great thing even better is the price — an hour-long massage is just $30 USD. I had two of them with the sweet and skilled therapist Rotana! There’s also a gym with three cardio machines, a sauna and steam room, and even a decent-sized outdoor pool up on deck.

Scenic Spirit spa

The Scenic Spirit spa can accommodate two guests at a time. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Guides

The group of excellent local Scenic guides that accompany passengers for the entire 10-day cruise-tour are the glue that keeps the itinerary running smoothly. They lead all excursions and share not only facts about the region’s rich culture and heritage, but fascinating personal anecdotes as well about about marriage, education and tragic stories of family members who perished during the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Scenic Spirit guide tying a monk robe

The Scenic Spirit team of guides was excellent — explaining, enlightening and demonstrating monk robe tying!. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Service

Attentive, approachable, friendly and exceedingly professional, the service level is high-end on board, in Siem Reap and during excursions. From the multiple excellent local guides who travel with the cohort to the restaurant servers, massage therapists and front desk staff, it really is “your wish is my command.”

Excellent services in the restaurants of our Mekong River cruise

Courteous, efficient and friendly service was the order of the day! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Dining

As most passengers want to try the local fare, at least at some meals, and the Scenic Spirit did a great job offering both Asian and western dishes in its lovely windowed restaurant. Lunch was my favorite meal of the day — highlights included Cambodian and Vietnamese “street food” buffets. Festive stations offered prawn sugarcane skewers, Khmer crepes, dim sum, Vietnamese pho noodle soup, fried insects, and exotic fruits like hairy red rambutans. At all meals, there were always western favorites as well.

Lunch aboard a Mekong River Cruise

My favorite meal of the day was lunch — the buffets were awesome! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Entertainment

The entertainment in Siem Reap was excellent, from the dazzling Phare Cambodian Circus, a campy and skillful acrobatic extravaganza, to the magical dinner and Apsara dance performance in the shadows of a beautiful 10th-century temple. Onboard the Scenic Spirit, entertainment revolved around after-dinner drinks with new friends, plus a few featured events — a colorful and clanging dragon dance by a local troupe, a lively trivia contest and a dance party on deck under the stars with the crew.

An Apsara dance performance in the shadows of a beautiful 10th-century temple.

We enjoyed a magical dinner and Apsara dance performance in the shadows of a beautiful 10th-century temple. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Other Passengers

A big part of the fun is cruising with an intimate group of like-minded others, folks who are as inspired and eager to travel in Southeast Asia as you are. The majority of Scenic river cruise passengers are Australian, with a sprinkling of other nationalities, including North Americans, New Zealanders, Britishers, Europeans, and others. Mingling was easy and we enjoyed hanging out with new friends.

The well traveled passengers on a Scenic Spirit excursion

Fun loving and adventurous passengers on an excursion. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Convenience

Southeast Asia is an amazing travel destination, but it can be challenging at times for even the heartiest adventurer, thanks to the heat (it’s hot year-round, sticking to the 80s and 90s F) and crazy traffic. A luxurious river cruise mitigates much of the hassle and lets you focus on the cultural treasures. Unpack once; largely avoid road travel; enjoy plush air-conditioned suites, spa and dining; and soak up the fascinating life on the river and along its banks. 

The scenic spirit docked along the Mekong RIver

The plush 68-passenger Scenic Spirit is a wonderful home base for a week on the Mekong River! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Family Vibe

I’ve noticed that family-run companies like Scenic seem to thrive on the pride and passion that come from building and owning a business. Scenic was started by Australian Glen Moroney in 1986 and has grown into the thriving high-quality luxury cruise and travel company it is today.

Scenic name in candles at an Apsara performance

Family-owned Scenic seems to take great pride in delivering a high-quality travel experience. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Fares start at $4,395 USD per person for the 10-night Luxury Mekong and Temple Discovery Cruise package (7-night Scenic Spirit cruise + 3-night Siem Reap hotel stay). Fares include drinks, meals, excursions and a handful of special enrichment experiences. Visit the Scenic site for booking info.

 

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Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

Best Small-Ship Cruises for Bicycling

By John Roberts.

Cycling offers a unique sense of freedom when exploring a destination.

Sitting high in a bike seat and pedaling through European countryside and historic villages and cities lets you see these places in a different way. Few experiences are quite as exhilarating as hopping onto your bike to work up a bit of a sweat and get your heart pumping during a day in port on your cruise.

Whether you are an avid cyclist looking to pile up big mileage on a daily ride or just an active traveler who loves a good ride to get away from the crowds and cover more ground in a new and interesting place, cruise lines are offering more options every year for travelers to love.

I love to include fitness into my travel and have been on dozens of small-ship cruises and racked up hundreds of miles in the bike seat to visit cities, villages and the countryside. It’s always a thrilling experience.

Check out our roundup of the top cruises for cyclists based on the 88 small-ship lines (and counting!) that we cover on QuirkyCruise.com.

Most of the small-ship biking opportunities are available in Europe, but you can also find some lines that can get you pedaling in places like New Zealand, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, as well.

AmaWaterways

The river cruise line has led the way for years when it comes to active travel. All AmaWaterways’ ships in Europe carry bikes onboard that passengers can use at their leisure or as part of active shore excursions that are offered in certain ports.

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

All AmaWaterways’ ships in Europe carry bikes onboard. * Photo: John Roberts

AmaWaterways also has a revolutionary partnership with Backroads to offer specific sailings for avid cyclists. On these partial-ship charters, Backroads guides lead groups of up to 30 cyclists or more on daily rides along the Danube, Douro or Seine Rivers, for examples.

I took a Backroads cycling cruise on the Danube, and we piled up about 150 miles over the course of the weeklong voyage. This meant that I didn’t feel guilty at all about all that food and beer that I also enjoyed.

Here’s Ama Waterways website for more details.

Click the photo below 👇🏼to see John’s video about Ama Waterways’ cycling chops!

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

AMA Waterways has led the way for years when it comes to active travel. * Photo: John Roberts

Scenic Cruises

Scenic also carries bikes onboard its ships in Europe for independent passenger use and for guided tours on designated group excursions. These are e-bikes, which means you can add a little boost of electric power to assist you over the hills, if needed. This makes the activity more accessible for all ages and fitness levels and allows you to enjoy glorious days pedaling amid vineyards or along river paths.

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

Scenic partners with Trek Travel, a biking company that offers group cycling charters on Scenic ships on the Danube and Rhine Rivers. * Photo: John Roberts

Scenic also partners with Trek Travel, a biking company that offers group cycling charters on Scenic ships on the Danube and Rhine Rivers. I did one of the Danube bike tours, and this was easily the most physically challenging cruise I have been on to date.

Here’s Scenic’s website for more details.

Click the photo below 👇🏼for John’s video about Scenic’s bicycling options! 

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

Scenic carries e-bikes onboard its ships in Europe allowing you can a boost of power if need be (John never needs the help of course!). * Photo: John Roberts

Ponant

The French cruise line has a new fleet of luxury expedition yachts and makes good use of the 184-passenger vessels through its partnership with Backroads, a well-established active tour company that runs biking cruises on select Ponant cruises. The partial charter groups come onboard to explore exotic destinations and undertake challenging bike rides in places like New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden and Russia.

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

Ponant partners with Backroads for special small-ship biking cruises that explore exotic destinations and undertake challenging bike rides in places like New Zealand, pictured here. * Photo: John Roberts

I rode with my Backroads group of 24 riders in New Zealand on routes that went up to 24 miles along stunning coastlines and through quiet farmlands. The mid-ride meals and wine tasting at the vineyards were, needless to say (!), a great way to refuel. Read John’s article! 

Here’s Ponant’s website for more info.

Click the photo below 👇🏼for selfie stick-wielding John’s video about his Ponant-Backroads adventure!

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

New Zealand is an ideal place to cycle! 🚴🏻‍♂️ Photo: John Roberts

Tauck Cruises

Tauck’s fleet of European river ships features bikes, as well as regular guided biking excursions at its port stops. We enjoyed our outings pedaling with an intimate group of riders during our Tauck cruise on the Rhone River in France, taking rides in Lyon, Arles and Avignon.

Passengers can also experience scenic cycling amid the windmills in Kinderdijk in the Netherlands or take a spin around Antwerp or Ghent in Belgium.

Here’s Tauck’s website for more details.

Check out John’s video about his Tauck river cruise along France’s Rhone River.

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways offers 10 bikes that are free for passengers to use on each of its ships in Europe. The line also offers “Active” optional bike tours (for a fee) that let cyclists explore a region that offers especially good riding routes in a more thrilling way. These outings are led by certified, expert guides.

Check out Avalon’s website for more info.

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

Cycling is a great way to explore Europe; here John poses in Rotterdam. * Photo: John Roberts

Emerald Waterways

The river line carries 20 bikes onboard its ships for passenger use, and guided cycling tours are offered in several locations on Europe itineraries. The line features at least one “active” shore excursion per cruise, such as the popular Melk-to-Durnstein route in Austria on Danube voyages, which I have ridden several times.

Here’s the Emerald website for more details.

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

John & Colleen biking in port in Budapest. * Photo: John Roberts

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Another river cruise line that features a fleet of bikes onboard, Uniworld has a partnership with Butterfield and Robinson, a travel company focused on active touring. Butterfield and Robinson charter space on certain Uniworld sailings for special cycling-themed cruises, offering a luxury experience as you cycle along routes that highlight Europe’s Old World heritage.

Check out the UniWorld website for more info.

Rhine River Family Cruises

You can bike every day in port on a Rhine cruise. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

CroisiEurope Cruises

CroisiEurope’s offerings include its “Cruise ‘n Bike” voyages along five waterways in Europe. These sailings are designed specifically for cycling enthusiasts who want to explore the idyllic landscapes under pedal power along the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, Loire and Gironde Rivers.

You can bike in Bratislava and Budapest or amid the forests, pastures and orchards that inspired artists in Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Go to CroisiEurope’s website for more details.

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

Biking in Bordeaux on a CroisiEurope river cruise. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Grasshopper Adventures

This company is not a small-ship cruise line, but a well-respected bicycle tour company operating in Asia since 2004.

Grasshopper Adventures has started getting into small-ship cruise and bicycling combos they call “Bike & Boat Tours.”

They’ve chartered three charming and intimate colonial-style river boats for upcoming week-long cruises on the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam; Thailand’s River Kwai; and India’s Brahmaputra River — the boats are your base and each day you’ll spend time exploring on shore via guided bike excursions.

Here’s a video from Grasshopper that provides a great overview.

Most days schedule a total of 30 to 50 kilometers of pedaling for morning and afternoon cycling jaunts — choose to do both or just one ride a day, it’s up to you. There will be non-biking excursions offered as well if you want a break or if your spouse or traveling partner has no interest in biking. Everyone’s happy!

Best Small Ship Cruises for Bicycling

Pedalling over Thailand’s River Kwai. * Photo: Grasshopper Adventures

 

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European River Cruises for Single Travelers

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

By Ted Scull.

To begin with the hard reality, there’s far greater demand for single accommodations aboard cruise ships than there is an adequate supply to meet it. Then comes the task of landing a fair fare that equals or gets close to the per person double occupancy rate.

There’s no question, some Europe river cruise lines cater to single travelers more than others.

If you didn’t know, by the way, cruise boats and ships of all sizes (unlike hotels), base their cabin fares on a per person rate for two people in a cabin.

For most single travelers, without deep pockets, the general paucity of single rates is a barrier to cruising as often as one would like, and for some, a dead end.

This dilemma comes as no news to veteran travelers, including my own experience for many years. Sometimes I would find a friend to join me, and otherwise, it was go it alone and pay the freight, or not sail at all.

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

Ted on a solo Danube River cruise. * Photo: New Friend

Why are there so few single cabins?

Let’s discuss the reason for the paucity before we get onto some good news.

Quite simply, cruise lines can make more moolah building and selling cabins for two than for one.

It is nearly as expensive to design, build and equip a single cabin as it is to build a cabin for two, as both require roughly the same amenities. Further, a double cabin means two people share the same bathroom facilities, which, with their complex piping and wiring, are fairly expensive to build.

At one time, many city hotels were built with single rooms for business travelers. These days, in many countries, that has gone with the wind.

Few river ships today even bother to build any single cabins, and if they do, it’s usually less than the number of fingers on one hand. And if they have a few, they may be on the lowest deck with a view through a small window or porthole.

So, what improves the likelihood of getting a single’s fare?

No river cruise line (or any cruise line or hotel for that matter) wants empty cabins at sailing time. There’s no revenue in that. And this fact is a silver lining for solo cruisers.

From past experience, river cruise lines may sense that some upcoming off-season sailings in spring or fall aren’t selling as well and so may offer discounts and deals for single travelers. That said, there can also be special offers for solo cruisers at other times of the year when demand is down.

Of course, there are pros and cons to cruising at different times. Going in July and August means putting up with the summer tourist crush in the more popular ports. River cruising  in the off-season months means the weather may not be ideal — too cool or too rainy.

And remember, taking a river cruise at the last minute to avail of a good deal, means you will have to get your act together relatively quickly to travel (ie, book the dog kennel, get someone to water your plants, purchase airfare etc etc).

Personally, if I have a choice for when to take a European river cruise, I like late spring and autumn, but not too deep into the November chill.

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

Ted in Bratislava, Slovakia, on one of his solo European river cruises. * Photo: Fellow Passenger

Just what is the single supplement?

If you get lucky, the  single rate could be the same as the per person double rate, and that means there is no supplement and the cabin is yours.

Or a single rate could mean there’s an added surcharge of maybe 20 to 50 percent.

Either way, if it’s the itinerary you want, it’s a good deal because you’re not paying the standard double occupancy fare.

Veteran river cruisers who keep coming back know there are roughly a dozen very different Europe river itineraries that often have little or no overlap at all. So, be flexible with your choice of itineraries and take the better fare deal.

It is difficult to rate the lines by their single-fare policies as they do change with supply and demand. Therefore, this round-up is based on a sampling of what I could find on the websites of popular river cruise lines at the time of writing.

Keep in mind, the terms for single fares are all over the map, with some more welcoming than others. And remember, good offers can be long range (ie on a cruise next year)  or last minute (ie, a cruise next month).

While not all river lines are covered, the following hopefully gives an understanding of the wide-ranging policies.

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

Ted in Berlin on an Elbe River cruise. * Photo: A new friend

River Lines Genuinely Catering to Solo Travelers

As some river cruise lines see single travelers as an important part of their revenue stream, they actively cater to them.

Riviera River Cruises

This UK-based river line loves solo travelers enough that they have scheduled eight solo-friendly Europe river cruises for fall 2019, including two departures on the Danube and Douro rivers. On these sailings, singles will not pay a single supplement. Riviera debuted its series of solo cruises in 2018 and they’re very popular. A 7-night Danube River cruise for solos starts at $2,189 USD per person on Oct. 28, Nov. 1 and 4th departures. They have a dedicated section on their website called “River Cruises for Solo Travelers.”

Grand Circle Cruise Line

Grand Circle Cruise Line promotes “The Solo Experience” front and center on its website’s homepage, boasting: “We offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed.”

Uniworld

When you click on Uniworld’s “Offers” button at the top of the homepage, the “2019 Solo Traveler Savings” comes right up. You can see the dates that are open for single fare discounts. Then you are asked to call Uniworld for the actual price.

Vantage Deluxe World Travel

Vantage Deluxe World Travel has a prominent “Solo Travel” button on the home page that outlines fares, discounts, teaming up with another single traveler in a double cabin, and lots of good information about traveling solo.

Tauck

Avalon shows selected departures with single rates, with five cabins initially offered. They show how many are left and the deadline for booking.

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

Ted on another Europe river cruise enjoying the sights. * Photo: Fellow passenger

CroisiEurope

The line’s 2 to 4 Single-Specific cabins on more than half the riverboat fleet are slightly smaller than a standard cabin. During promotions, the single supplement may be waved for a few weeks or a month and more, and when there is a single supplement for a double cabin, it usually runs between 25 and 35% and seldom higher.

Crystal River Cruises

Meanwhile, Crystal River Cruises’ site reads, “Solo Fares on Request.”

AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways does not tout single travelers, rather indicates that if a discount sailing is offered, the single supplement, if not waived, is added to the already established discounted or original base fare.

Viking River Cruises

When you go to Viking’s Help/FAQs and look for “What is your single supplement?” it starts off — “On occasion, Viking Cruises will make special solo traveler fares available. Please check back for pricing updates.”

While perhaps not the first line to look for attractive single fares, Viking does operate by far the largest fleet of European river boats and, therefore, offers the most departures.

Scenic

The Scenic river cruises website has a “Special Offers” notice, but recently that led to solo fares buried under the offer for a third passenger occupying a suite. It says, unless the single supplement for that sailing is waived, the passenger will pay the supplement (percentage) before applying that to the discounted fare.

Keep checking back if you don’t see what you want and can afford, and if a lead appears, and requires a phone call, do it. If the line wants you to book a single, the offer may improve.

Bottom Line:

River Cruising is Ideal for Single Travelers

Taking from less just than 100 to perhaps 200 passengers, riverboats are definitely small ships and they’re great options for solo travelers. On Europe’s waterways and other parts of the world as well.

  • Singles on river boats don’t face multiple lounge choices as on the big ships when searching for the right atmosphere. Upon entering the riverboat’s lounge bar, take a quick scan and then choose a seat to aim for.
  • If you want to meet others, ask those seated if they are saving the seat(s) first, and if the answer is “no, please join us,” you have an invitation. The ensuing conversation may lead to, “Would you like to join us for dinner?”
  • If you don’t find much of a rapport, sooner rather than later, excuse yourself and head for the restaurant. The maître d’ might ask your preference and suggest a table with others who were just seated.
  • At the outset, it’s best not to get too tied to the same people, as you the may miss chances to widen your repertoire.
  • Shore excursions give you additional opportunities to meet others with easy topics at hand to discuss.

Good hunting, and hopefully Bon Voyage!

Ted making new friends on an Amazon River cruise. * Photo: New Friend!

 

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Scenic Spirit on the Mekong (Scenic).

Scenic Spirit on the Mekong (Scenic).

REVIEWER

Julia Steinmetz from the USA.

CRUISE LINE

Scenic.

SHIP

Scenic Spirit.

DESTINATION

Mekong River from central Cambodia to Vietnam.

# OF NIGHTS

10.

DEPARTURE DATE & PORTS

October 2018, from Kampong Cham, Cambodia, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating: 5

-Cabin Rating: 5

-Service/Crew Rating: 5

-Itinerary Rating: 4

HAVE YOU BEEN ON A SMALL SHIP CRUISE BEFORE?

I’ve been on 1 small ship cruise.

REVIEW

It was the trip of a lIfetime with so much to do and see. The scenery and food were outstanding, I felt truly pampered. I’m not used to that and this was my first cruise ever. The ship was gorgeous, the rooms were especially well designed. I would give the itinerary a 5 if they increased the academic standard, with more history, more about buddhism, more food history and more political history. That was all there, but not in-depth.

 

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