Viking Douro River Cruise Portugal – Photo Courtesy of Viking

Small Ship Cruise Lines are Now Relaunching their Fleets to the Seas, Rivers, and Canals

Crossing the Loire River with Barge Lady Cruises – Photos Courtesy of Barge Lady Cruises

Featuring:

AmaWaterways

Barge Lady Cruises

UnCruise Adventures

Viking

Windstar Cruises

Welcome back small ship cruising! We have missed you! Many small fleets of boutique sea and river passenger cruise lines have been happily released to sail the waters again. Finally, after over a year and a half of being docked dormant at their respective harbors and inland ports around the world, these luxury sea and river-worthy vessels are finally waking from a long and quiet hibernation at shore.

Though many of the “Mega Cruise Ships” are still moored currently void of passengers, a majority of these smaller vessels have been set free to cruise the blue open waters and tranquil flowing rivers. Passenger bookings are exploding for 2021, 2022, and 2023 as eager travelers are elated to finally embark on setting sail again to their dream destinations and enticing ports of call. There are many “welcome back” packages and travel incentives future passengers are taking advantage of right now.

Frequent travelers and adventure seekers have been sequestered over these longs months reluctantly but safely sticking to home being “armchair travelers”. The only travel options were resorting to reading travel guidebooks, surfing the web, or watching videos and dreaming of getting away again to travel, fly, cruise, and explore. As am I, so many are absolutely thrilled that their reins have been released and they can soar again on their favorite journeys and journeys unknown.

Though the protocols of travel anywhere whether it be by land, sea, or air have changed as a result of the dynamics and restrictions of the Pandemic. New precautions, guidelines, and requirements for travelers have been implemented by travel entities around the world.

I reached out to several of the signature small ship cruise lines to get their perspectives on how all if this has affected their businesses and their cruise operations as we all embark on new ways of approaching travel and what that means to all of us.

Cheers – Welcome Back
Photo Courtesy of The Barge Lady

The five small ship cruise lines that contributed input from this interview are:

AmaWaterways Rhine Cruise – Photo Courtesy AmaWaterways

When will your cruise operations be up and running and set to sail the oceans and rivers?

AmaWaterways We resumed sailings on select ships in Europe beginning July 3, 2021, on the Douro river in Portugal. We will be using a phased-in approach and hope to have the majority of our Europe-based ships operating by September. A full list of sailings can be found on the AmaWaterways website under Travel Updates.

Barge Lady Cruises

Barge cruises are scheduled for a rolling opening, with sailings that began again in June through July and August.

UnCruise Adventures

We are officially back on the water and have set a small adventure boat standard being the first fully vaccinated cruise to return to sail in Alaska and the US. We have our fleet operating all of our itineraries in Alaska with multi-activity adventure cruising with excited guests who have been waiting patiently with us. Some have had their cruise booked for 2 to 3 years.

Viking

Viking embarked on its first sailing on May 22 for domestic UK voyages. Viking announced in late spring that it started limited operations in May 2021 with three special sailings along the coast of England. Available exclusively for UK residents, the new eight-day ocean itinerary—England’s Scenic Shores—will sail roundtrip from Portsmouth, with departures on May 22, May 29, and June 5, 2021. Guests on England’s Scenic Shores itinerary will be among the first to sail onboard Viking’s newest ocean ship, Viking Venus®, which will be delivered in April. Pre-registration for England’s Scenic Shores is currently open only to Viking’s loyal past guests; more details about the voyages will be released—and reservations will be available to all UK residents—in due course.

  • US guests are now able to join one of Viking’s “Welcome Back”  sailings in the Mediterranean, Iceland, and Bermuda.
  • Viking recently announced the July 2021 restart of European river sailings with a new “Welcome Back” collection to include river itineraries in Portugal, France, and along the Rhine River.
  • Viking also announced in May that it will restart its European river operations in July 2021 with select itineraries in Portugal, France, and along the Rhine. Offered exclusively for vaccinated guests as part of Viking’s Welcome Back collection, the first five European river itineraries now available in July are among the company’s most popular: Rhine Getaway (8 days; Amsterdam to Basel), Portugal’s River of Gold (10 days; Lisbon to Porto), Paris & the Heart of Normandy (8 days; Paris roundtrip), Lyon & Provence (8 days; Avignon to Lyon) and France’s Finest, a 15-day journey that combines the northern and southern France itineraries in one seamless experience. This announcement comes immediately after the European Union agreed today to reopen its borders to vaccinated Americans and other travelers.

Windstar 

Star Breeze, the first of the Star Plus yachts to debut, began sailing June 19 in the Caribbean; Wind Star also began June 19 in the Mediterranean; Wind Spirit will start July 15 in Tahiti; Wind Surf will start August 8 in the Mediterranean; Star Legend will begin Sept 27 in the Mediterranean, and Star Pride will resume service November 20 in the Caribbean.

UnCruise Wilderness Discoverer in Alaska
Photo Courtesy of UnCruise

How has COVID impacted the small ship cruising industry and how have the effects of this past year and a half affected your business and impacted your future bookings?

AmaWaterways

We are proud that over the years AmaWaterways has remained a strong, family-owned, and debt-free company, allowing us to continue looking forward and creating innovative river cruise experiences for our guests. Over the past year, there have been many challenges for the cruising industry as a whole, but due to the intimate nature of river cruising with fewer passengers on board, constant proximity to land, and small group shore excursions, the river cruise segment is set to rebound quite quickly as travelers begin to plan their next vacation. We have also debuted some exciting new itineraries to meet the changing desires of travelers over the past year, including the 2023 debut of the all-new 14-country Seven River Journeys, which meet the demand for longer, more immersive journeys.

Barge Lady Cruises

As our core clientele are Americans, our business last year and to a lesser or greater extent this year has been dramatically impacted by international border closings. As the majority of our vessels cruise along the antique canals and petite rivers of France, the inaccessibility to Americans of that country, in particular, has been a real boondoggle for barging.

UnCruise Adventures

We’ve used this time to reinvent our internal and operational processes through COVID, along with keeping a focus on staying in touch with our guests and outreach for our brand. After returning to cruising in Alaska after 19 months of no small boats sailing there, we are excited to show the world what small boat adventure cruising looks like.

Viking 

Viking was the first cruise line to suspend operations at the beginning of the pandemic.

Windstar 

Windstar was among the first cruise lines to suspend sailing operations back in March 2020. Fortunately, we never experienced an outbreak on any of our yachts, likely due to that swift and decisive action. Windstar has received and continues to receive great support from our ownership and parent Company (Xanterra) in Denver during the entire COVID period which made it easier to navigate a very complex and ambiguous time. We quickly instituted a future cruise credit program for canceled cruises, which has morphed into our more robust and guest-friendly Travel Assurance Booking Policy. It was a tough time – we’re in the business of hospitality and sailing. I’m looking forward to getting back on our yachts again.

In April, we received a record-breaking number of reservations for both 2021 and 2022 cruises, with trips favoring the Caribbean and Greece. We’re attributing that to pent-up demand for travel after most of the world has been sequestered for a year. The most apparent trend is that once people get vaccinated, they book a trip.

Windstar St. Lucia
Photo Courtesy of Windstar

What Itineraries will be available for future cruising for the remainder of 2021 and 2022 and 2023?

AmaWaterways

We plan to have our entire fleet operating by September 2021 and are taking bookings for all our upcoming itineraries now. Those looking to plan a river cruise can view a full list of available 2021 restart dates on the Travel Updates section of our website. Bookings are also open for 2022 and 2023 sailings, which opened a full six months ahead of schedule due to such high demand.

Guests looking to book an upcoming cruise can look forward to the debut of five new itineraries for the 2021/2022 seasons, sailing through the idyllic towns of France, Holland, and Belgium, and taking guests to the enchanting lands of Egypt. New itineraries include Impressions of the Seine & Paris, Essence of Burgundy & Provence, Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps, Best of Holland and Belgium, and Secrets of Egypt & The Nile.  We will also offer  Celebration of Wine River Cruises through Europe in 2021, welcoming aboard notable wine experts, certified sommeliers, and vineyard owners as hosts, connecting guests with lectures and tastings to complement the extensive array of included shore excursions.

Barge Lady Cruises

Barge Lady Cruises is booking for both 2022 AND 2023! All itineraries on the Barge Lady website remain on offer.

UnCruise Adventures  

We haven’t been shy about letting people know we are back with safe travel and reaching out to eager guests and also offering extended wave season deals later than usual. This has encouraged people to take advantage of these smaller cruises and our bookings have been very busy for our Alaska summer sailings and our itineraries later in the year. 2022 is already in high demand and we’ve experienced a high volume of both direct bookings and those through our travel agents.

Viking 

  • Viking celebrated in mid-June the latest milestone in its return to service as guests were welcomed on board in Iceland. Upon returning to the seas, guests boarded the award-winning Viking Sky® in Reykjavík, where the ship will homeport this summer along with sister ship Viking Jupiter®. Both ships will sail the new Iceland’s Natural Beautyitinerary through early September 2021. Offered as part of Viking’s Welcome Back collection, exclusively available for vaccinated guests, the voyage currently underway is the first of 19 sailings roundtrip from Reykjavík. The eight-day circumnavigation of Iceland calls upon coastal towns of Akureyri, Seydisfjördur, Heimaey, and more before returning to the capital city.
  • Viking welcomed in Mid-June Americans back to a reopened Europe. The 27 European Union countries reached an agreement to again allow travelers from the United States in a vote earlier today—a long-expected move that complements the CDC’s recent announcement that it has eased travel recommendations for 110 countries and territories. As part of the new recommendations, the CDC has specifically ranked Iceland and Malta—two key destinations for Viking’sWelcome Back voyages, which are offered exclusively for vaccinated guests—as “Level 1” or the lowest for risk of COVID-19. In recognition of these developments, Viking has also published a new video message from Chairman Torstein Hagen, which can be found here.
  • Viking recently announced the July 2021 restart of European river sailings with new “Welcome Back” collection to include river itineraries in Portugal, France and along the Rhine River. Viking® (viking.com) celebrated today that France and Portugal have reopened to American travelers. As of this week, both countries now allow vaccinated visitors from the U.S. to arrive without further restriction. Additionally, the European Union today recommended that its member countries begin lifting restrictions on American travelers, with a formal announcement expected on Friday. These positive developments come as Viking prepares to restart its European river operations in July 2021, starting with some of its most popular itineraries in Portugal and France. Offered exclusively for vaccinated guests as part of Viking’sWelcome Back collection, limited space is still available on these river sailings with departures as early as July 2021.

Please see the above regarding the “Welcome Back”  itinerary selection for 2021 on the rivers and oceans. Additionally, Viking continues to book through 2022 and beyond for future cruises.

Windstar

Yes, because most of 2020 and much of 2021 was canceled. Quite a bit of our planned new itineraries and ports will be new in 2021 and 2022.

In Northern Europe, we have several new itineraries like Norway’s Famous Fjords and Scandinavian Capitals and Fjords, which combines iconic Northern capitals, a handful of smaller, less-visited ports, and the incredible fjord scenery Norway is famous for.

We’re also returning to some of our guests’ favorite ports after several years away, including Ashdod and Haifa in Israel; Alexandria and Port Said (Cairo) in Egypt; and Istanbul, with an overnight stay.

Lastly, in late 2021 we’ll be returning to Asia and new ports in Australia, with options for snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and visiting some of the most remote islands and off-the-grid beaches on the planet.

In general, here at Windstar, we are building always new itineraries into our programs. We have a lot of loyal guests who want to see different parts of the world, so it is recommended to check in frequently on our website to see what Windstar has planned.

Viking Longships Budapest

AmaWaterways at Sandeman in Portugal
Photo Courtesy of AmaWaterways

Are there new destinations that you have added?

AmaWaterways

We are looking forward to debuting the beautiful new AmaDahlia on the Nile River, with our new Secrets of Egypt & The Nile itinerary launching September 2021. The cruise and land program includes three nights in Cairo pre-cruise and one night in Cairo post-cruise, sailing seven nights roundtrip from Luxor. Guests will experience fascinating history, exquisite cuisine, and authentic experiences including a private tour of the tomb of Queen Nefertari and a visit to the three pyramids of Giza.

AmaWaterways will launch the first-ever luxury river cruise on the Magdalena River in Columbia starting in 2023

Barge Lady Cruises  

All of our popular destinations are available, and no new destinations have been added.

UnCruise Adventures  

We’ve added our Wild, Woolly, and Wow Alaskan itinerary for 2022. This will be onboard The Legacy and our most adventurous outback expedition cruise for those who want even more focus on the wilds of Alaska. That is currently booking.

Viking 

Viking announced in May that it will expand its presence in the Mediterranean this summer, adding a third ship to sail roundtrip voyages from the Maltese capital city of Valletta—a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site. Offered as part of Viking’s Welcome Back collection, Viking Star® will now join sister ships Viking Venus® and Viking Sea® and will sail a new 11-day itinerary, Malta & the Western Mediterranean.

With the addition of this new voyage, vaccinated guests now have three new options for experiencing the Mediterranean between July and early October 2021. Guests on the Malta & the Western Mediterranean itinerary will overnight in Valletta and then sail to Sicily, Italy and Spain, calling in Messina, Naples (Pompeii), Civitavecchia (Rome), Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Genoa and Barcelona, before returning to Valletta. Those on the Malta & Adriatic Jewels itinerary will overnight in Valletta and then sail to Montenegro and Croatia, calling in Kotor, Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and Šibenik, before returning to the Maltese archipelago, with a stop on Gozo Island and finally back to Valletta. And guests on the Malta & Greek Isles Discovery itinerary will also overnight in Valletta and then sail to Greece, calling in Kalamata, Athens, Santorini, Rhodes and Souda Bay, before returning to Valletta.

Windstar 

In Northern Europe, we have several new itineraries like Norway’s Famous Fjords and Scandinavian Capitals and Fjords, which combines iconic Northern capitals, a handful of smaller, less-visited ports, and the incredible fjord scenery Norway is famous for.

We’re also returning to some of our guests’ favorite ports after several years away, including Ashdod and Haifa in Israel; Alexandria and Port Said (Cairo) in Egypt; and Istanbul, with an overnight stay.

Star Breeze Balcony Suite – Windstar Cruises Photo Courtesy of Windstar

Are there destinations that you have deleted?

AmaWaterways

We are continuing to monitor updates from global and local health authorities, local governments, and airlines with regard to entry requirements, but we have not deleted any destinations from our European itineraries, as several countries are lowering their restrictions and things are opening up very quickly. As far as our other river cruise destinations, due to entry restrictions into Vietnam, we expect that we will not cruise there in the fall however we will evaluate the situation as conditions change and decide at a later date about our November and December 2021 sailings.

Barge Lady Cruises

All of our popular destinations are still available.

UnCruise Adventures  

Not currently, our operations are running with a full schedule, and we continue to stay in touch with local officials in each location for upcoming locations like Latin America and a need for specific protocols and safety.

Windstar 

We are not sailing in Alaska during the summer of 2021. But we will be returning in 2022!

Photo Courtesy Barge Lady Cruises

Are you planning on running the itineraries at a reduced capacity?

AmaWaterways

Our intimate river cruise ships offer the luxury of personal space, accommodating an average of 160 guests on board, with plenty of fresh air and open spaces, making it easy to spread out. Due to the more intimate nature of our ships, we will start with 75% maximum capacity for now, until guidelines change.

Barge Lady Cruises

As barge cruises carry 12 or fewer guests, we are the original travel concept based on social distancing!

UnCruise Adventures  

We will set aside extra rooms for each itinerary in the case of the need for a separate room to monitor guests or crew with any signs of illness onboard.

Windstar 

Yes, our first cruises will be at reduced capacity.

UnCruise – Alaska with passengers aboard the skiff
Photo Courtesy of UnCruise Adventures

What new guidelines have you implemented for travelers and crew safety?

AmaWaterways

We are proud to be the only U.S.-based river cruise company to have successfully completed a four-month European sailing season during 2020, gaining knowledge about how to deliver an exceptional experience onboard while protecting guests and crew with enhanced health and safety protocols. We are currently requiring face coverings when moving about public areas in the interior of the ships and highly recommend our guests be vaccinated. All of AmaWaterways crew has also participated in in-depth training on enhanced operating protocols led by an experienced Designated Hygiene Officer and will be required to wear face coverings during working hours.

Barge Lady Cruises

As the majority of the vessels we represent are independently owned and operated, please contact us for each barge’s specific standards of onboard hygiene and health security.

UnCruise Adventures

We are requiring all crew and guests to be fully vaccinated to board along with providing a negative PCR test. This will allow us to be unmasked as a group once on board with safety measures implemented and within CDC guidelines for vaccinated people. Our guests are ecstatic about these updates and look forward to feeling a bit of freedom onboard and out in nature. You can see our full protocols on our website under travel resources.

Viking  

Those who sail these new voyages will also experience Viking’s industry-leading health and safety program. Grounded in scientific research, the Viking Health & Safety Program was developed in partnership with an international team of medical advisors, including Raquel C. Bono, M.D., Viking’s Chief Health Officer. Dr. Bono is a board-certified trauma surgeon and retired Vice Admiral of the United States Navy Medical Corps—and most recently led Washington State’s medical and healthcare systems response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Utilizing a full-scale laboratory installed on every Viking ocean ship, all guests and crew will receive daily quick and easy non-invasive saliva PCR tests. New air purification technology has also been installed on all Viking ships, which have always featured independent air handling units for all guest staterooms. And additional health checks, sanitization and physical distancing measures will provide further protection for Viking guests and crew at all points of the journey. A complete overview of the Viking Health & Safety Program can be found at: www.viking.com/health-safety.

Windstar 

Windstar is requiring proof of a full vaccination course. Proof includes the original vaccination record document issued by either (1) the country’s health authority that administered the vaccination (i.e., U.S. CDC’s Vaccination Record Card) or (2) the guest’s medical provider that administered the vaccination. At the cruise terminal prior to embarkation, guests will be required to provide proof of a completed current vaccine course (one or two shots, depending on the brand) finished at least 14 days prior to the guest’s embarkation date. Windstar will accept proof of vaccination for any vaccine that has been approved for use in the guest’s home country.

Windstar also will require and administer a free COVID-19 antigen test at the pier prior to boarding. A negative test result is required to board.  The test is a minimally intrusive nose swab (which is less intrusive than a PCR test), unless local health authorities require a PCR test.

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the cruise line’s already high cleanliness standards were elevated with a multi-million-dollar investment in additional technologies that go beyond regulatory requirements. In consultation and review by the Senior Medical Director at the UC Health Infection Control and Prevention Department at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the line has instituted a rigorous multi-layered approach of science-led best practices including key hospital-grade elements: HEPA filters and UV-C ultraviolet germicidal irradiation to filter and disinfect the air onboard, plus electrostatic sprayers to sanitize all surfaces throughout the yacht.

More details here – https://www.windstarcruises.com/health-safety/

A whale breaching in front of kayakers
Photo Courtesy of UnCruise

Have your shore excursions been modified in any way?

AmaWaterways Our shore excursions are already conducted in small groups of 10-15 people and guests receive their own personal portable Quietvox commentary systems, allowing them to hear their guides while social distancing and making it easy to stay safe and follow local guidelines surrounding group gatherings. While local restrictions may differ from one community to another, generally things seem to be opening up very quickly now, so we expect that guests will be able to easily explore the beautiful destinations we sail through.

Barge Lady Cruises

Excursions are mostly private and exclusive, mainly to outdoor locations. Visits to confined indoor spaces or crowded tourist spots will be avoided.

UnCruise Adventures  

We have added an extra expedition guide on certain itineraries to accommodate smaller and more frequent outdoor groups as needed but will continue our full activity roster. 

Viking 

We have redesigned our land program to monitor destinations for the prevalence of COVID-19 and further limit group sizes. Depending on conditions at the time of sailing, shore excursions may be limited while in port. Each shore excursion will utilize audio headsets to allow for physical distancing among your group, and all excursion motor coaches will be fully sanitized with spaced seating. As you head ashore, complimentary face masks will be provided for excursions as required by local guidelines.

Windstar 

All shore excursions will be vetted by our expert team to ensure best practices in health and safety protocols are followed. Shore excursions will operate at a reduced capacity and masks will be worn according to local regulations and when unable to social distance. For the near term as required by the Cruise Lines International Association, guests will need to book a Windstar shore excursion to go ashore. Changes with shore excursions offered may occur due to evolving regulations and conditions in a destination. Tenders, motor coaches, and smaller boats will operate at a reduced capacity and be cleaned between each use. Staggered departures in port will aid in social distancing.

The crew of Wilderness Adventurer on the bow of the ship wearing masks. Part of their many safety practices onboard.
Photo Courtesy of UnCruise Adventures

Will you be requiring proof of COVID vaccines such as a “Vaccine Passport” for all boarding passengers?

AmaWaterways

UPDATE – Effective immediately, the company will require all guests to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to their river cruise. The decision was made following recent changes in certain European countries that now require up to a 10-day quarantine period for unvaccinated travelers upon entry. Many countries have implemented procedures that strongly encourage travelers to be vaccinated and, in some cases, restrict access to certain venues unless they are vaccinated or can provide a negative COVID-19 test result valid for 24 hours.

Further details can be found on the Travel Update page of the website. Guests who may be affected by this change should contact their travel advisor for options or call our reservations center at 1 800-626-0126.

Barge Lady Cruises

As the majority of the vessels we represent are independently owned and operated, please contact us for each barge’s specific standards of onboard hygiene and health security.

UnCruise Adventures

Yes, all guests and crew are required to be vaccinated. We will require a negative molecular/PCR test to board. Please see all of our detailed protocols on our travel resources page at uncruise.com

Viking 

Beginning on May 22, 2021, with the official restart of limited operations in the United Kingdom—and remaining in effect at least through at least September 30, 2021—all Viking sailings will be available exclusively for vaccinated guests.

Viking is requiring vaccinations among all guests in accordance with entry rules in many of the destinations that will welcome Viking ships—and as a complement to our new health and safety protocol enhancements, which were designed to protect guests and crew even while the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is still moving forward. Viking’s medical and operations teams will continue to monitor vaccination rates and entry requirements—and will adjust our protocol and policies as needed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew.

Quick and easy PCR tests will be conducted prior to embarkation and on an ongoing, regular basis throughout an itinerary, dependent on prevalence levels from both our guests’ country of origin and the destinations to which we will sail.

Windstar 

Windstar is requiring proof of a full vaccination course. Proof includes the original vaccination record document issued by either (1) the country’s health authority that administered the vaccination (i.e., U.S. CDC’s Vaccination Record Card) or (2) the guest’s medical provider that administered the vaccination.

UnCruise Wilderness Explorer Deck and Hot Tub
Photo Courtesy of UnCruise Adventures

What countries will be able to access the cruises when you are fully back in operations? Particularly travel from the US to various European destinations.

AmaWaterways

We were excited to hear the recent announcement from the European Union that they will be reopening their borders, with certain entry requirements for American travelers and we look forward to welcoming those guests back on board.

Barge Lady Cruises

All countries are listed on the Barge Lady website.

UnCruise Adventures

Updated information is available on the UnCruise website

Viking

Please refer to the Viking Website

Windstar  

This is destination-specific. We ask that guests research COVID-19 test requirements and standards for any countries visited during travel

Windstar Alaska Signature Expedition
Photo Courtesy of Windstar

What kind of incentives will you be offering guests to stimulate interest in booking cruise ship vacations and destinations?

AmaWaterways

We are currently offering a variety of savings to help travelers get back to exploring the world through river cruising. Many travelers are looking to plan longer journeys as they return to travel and guests who reserve a combination river cruise can save 10% on their second sailing and every consecutive sailing after the first, with no limit to the number of cruises that can be added.  In addition, guests who reserve their 2023 river cruise journey will earn 5% cruise savings on balconies and suites when they book their cruise by June 30, 2021. Guests looking to take a Holiday Cruise can take advantage of Holiday Triple Savings for select 2022 and 2023 cruises, saving $1,000 per person with a complimentary stateroom upgrade and $50 per person onboard credit. After so much uncertainty over the past year, we also want to continue offering peace of mind to guests as they book their river cruises with Ultimate Cruise Flexibility, which allows guests to change their sailing date up to 48 hours prior to the start of the journey and reschedule their cruise with no change fees to any river cruise sailing through 2023.

Barge Lady Cruises

Barge cruising is not based on sales incentives; rather it is the glorious isolation of the European countryside and private nature of the cruise itself that offer post-COVID appeal!

UnCruise Adventures

We extended several wave season specials through June and have generous combined specials and loyalty programs for guests and travel advisors. See all of our specials on our website under book now.

Windstar 

We have a variety of specials, including reduced single supplements, last-minute cruise deals, and other offers. https://www.windstarcruises.com/specials/ We also have a flexible cancellation policy.

Photo Courtesy of Barge Lady Cruises

Have you seen interest for potential passengers steering away from the “Mega Ships to more small ship cruising?

AmaWaterways

There has been a rising interest in river cruising as travelers look for more intimate experiences where they can truly immerse themselves in the destinations they visit and spend more time onshore. One of the great advantages of river cruising is the ability for a ship to dock in a city center which essentially doubles the number of leisure guests is able to spend in a destination compared to any other mode of travel. AmaWaterways offers a variety of up to 23 included shore excursions during a seven-night cruise for all types of activity levels ranging from guided hikes and bike rides to cooking demonstrations and tastings. Our intimate and award-winning river cruise ships also offer the luxury of personal space yet accommodate an average of only 160 guests on board, and with elegantly appointed staterooms and suites with balconies and breathtaking views, guests feel like they are staying in a luxurious floating hotel. These types of amenities and experiences are what many travelers are currently looking for, making them turn to river cruising as they plan their next vacation.

Barge Lady Cruises

Oh Yes!!!

UnCruise Adventures There has been a growth in interest and education about cruising options outside the mega-ships. This is a stellar opportunity for leaders in our industry to shine bright and create a future adventure traveler for small boat cruising among all age levels. 

Windstar 

small ship cruising is a VERY different product than the vessels whose passenger counts equate to a small town’s population. Our largest yacht carries 342 guests at maximum capacity, while our smallest yachts have room for just 148. When you combine that with a fully vaccinated group of people, plus steps like HEPA filters/UV-C light to clean the air, masks where appropriate, ample deck space, a range of private and outdoor dining options, and a crew that’s devoted to cleanliness, it’s a very attractive option. We’re getting lots of reservations from new-to-Windstar guests – people who have sailed on the big ships before but are looking for something less crowded and more intimate.

Photo Courtesy of Barge Lady Cruises

What is your advice to anyone who may be considering a cruise on a small ship in the near future?

AmaWaterways

River cruising with AmaWaterways provides an unforgettable way to explore multiple highly sought-after destinations while only having to unpack once. There are many moving parts to planning a river cruise, so we recommend that guests work with a travel advisor to make the experience as easy and seamless as possible, taking any stress away from planning a future vacation.

Barge Lady Cruises

Read all about it! https://www.bargeladycruises.com/blog/micro-cruises/

UnCruise Adventures

I recommend taking the opportunity to create your own travel bubble, one that allows you to adventure and experience the small remote places we visit in a way only seen by small boats and experienced guides who know the area. If you’re an adventurer, small boat adventure cruising is the way to go. From smelling a whales’ breath, the kayaking amongst sea otters, all with upscale cuisine and crew, it’s time to experience something new.

Windstar 

Book as early as you can. Because so many people missed out on their cruise vacations in 2020 and the first part of 2021, we are seeing a significant increase in demand, and on many popular itineraries, we are already seeing a shortage of cruise cabins and suites on many dates.

What is your light at the end of the tunnel?

AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways Seven River Journeys
Photo Courtesy of AmaWaterways

While this past year has been challenging in many ways, AmaWaterways has adapted in creative ways to continue meeting the need of our guests.  It is exciting to have finally resumed sailings starting July 3, 2021, and we look forward to all that is happening at AmaWaterways in the next few years. From the launch of sister ships AmaLucia and AmaSiena this summer and the debut of AmaDahlia in September to the new Seven River Journeys that will embark in 2023, taking guests through 14 different countries over 45 or 46 nights, there is so much to look forward to and I can’t wait to see our guests back on the rivers, enjoying these unforgettable experiences.

Barge Lady Cruises

Breakfast While Cruising with Barge Lady Cruises
Photo Courtesy of Barge Lady Cruises

Inquiries are coming in thick and fast from people who are super geeked about barge cruising! A barge cruise is the ultimate form of slow travel, plying the canals at a pace of four to six miles per hour. Barge guests spend three to four hours per day cruising, either in the morning or afternoon. The other half of the day is spent enjoying a daily guided excursion to a regional highlight near to the cruise route.

BARGE CRUISE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Gastronomy and wine – taste over 20 wines and cheeses
    • Small guest count with a high crew to guest ratio
    • Immersive experiences with an emphasis on local culture
    • Exclusive excursions not available to a larger tour group

UnCruise Adventures

UnCruise Safari Endeavour kayak loading
Photo Courtesy of UnCruise Adventures

It continues to be the support of our small communities and government officials who are fighting for the safe return of travel, along with our dedicated guests and those new travelers excited about a new way to travel. This year has been an opportunity to reinvent who we are and educate the public about what small boat adventure cruising is. Our CEO is vocal in his support and leadership in the industry and the passion behind his founding story is infectious. With the spotlight on cruising, many had never heard of expedition cruising and have become converts to small boats and experience something new. Getting really close to nature. Our $500 off deal for those who had a big ship cruise canceled didn’t hurt either.

Viking

Luxury State Rooms Aboard Viking
Photo Courtesy of Viking

Viking recently also named its newest ocean ship, Viking Venus®, in England—and the ship is currently sailing her maiden voyage along the coast of England with Chairman Torstein Hagen on board. The company is actively working on developing additional Welcome Back itineraries in a variety of other destinations, with the goal of announcing further 2021 sailings as soon as possible.

Windstar

Windstar Cruises Mallorca Spain Always a Delicious Experience
Photo Courtesy of Windstar

With regards to the light at the end of the tunnel – We’ll know it when we see it!! We’re so excited to debut our reimagined all-suite Star Plus Class yachts in 2021. It’s been a multi-year undertaking that will enhance the guest experience on three of our six yachts (Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride). The yachts will not only have beautiful new suites and public spaces, but they will also be more fuel-efficient and environmentally responsible. All three yachts will increase in capacity from 212 guests to 312 when sailing at full capacity giving travel advisors even more opportunities to earn commission with Windstar!

These yachts provide more of what our customers have been telling us they want, like additional dining experiences (one is an outdoor barbecue concept with grilling guru Steven Raichlen and the other a Spanish small plates restaurant from Anthony Sasso, one of the youngest chefs to be recognized by the Michelin Guide), a true spa/fitness center, and a bigger pool and more outdoor deck area. They increase capacity, but it’s without drastically changing who we are or what we look like. These all-suite yachts, together with our sailing yachts, remain small enough to continue to visit those special small ports and waterways of the world.

Happy Cruising! So glad to see all of you back sailing the waters around the world!

Photo Courtesy of Windstar

Credits to the Contributors from the various interviews for the article.

AmaWaterways – President and Co-Founder Rudi Schreiner

Barge Lady Cruises – Barge Lady Stephanie

UnCruise Adventures – UnCruise Public Relations Director Liz

Viking – Vikings Public Relations – Amanda at Edelman

Windstar Cruises – Windstar PR Director Sarah

 

 

 

 

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