Jennie Carr talks to Pam Hoffee, Managing Director at Avalon Waterways and Chief Operating Officer at Globus family of brands.
River cruising is becoming ever more popular, what do you think makes it so attractive as a holiday?
River cruising is the world’s fastest-growing travel style for several reasons. First, and most simple, is the fact that when you take a river cruise, you visit dozens of destinations byway of a luxury, floating boutique hotel. This means you only have to unpack and pack once. That simple fact – and the ease of travel river cruising affords guests – is its No. 1 appeal.
River cruising also appeals to travelers interested in getting off-the-beaten-path. Most river cruise itineraries feature a good mix of large cities and small towns and villages that make up the heart of the country and showcase authentic, insightful experiences and storytelling for travelers.
Onboard dining – and, in Avalon’s case, complimentary regional wine and beer with lunch and dinner – is another reason people love river cruising. Even gratuities are included with Avalon. Simply put, travelers know the cost of their trip upfront. In fact, on most river cruises, you could not bring a credit card onboard and still have a great time.
What is it about Avalon that makes a cruise with you so special? The ship? The staff? The excursions?
Avalon Waterways appeals to travelers interested in choices on vacation. Whether travelers want to enjoy a guided walking tour of one of Europe’s great cities, join a cooking class or paddle a canoe, our Avalon Choice selections of Classic, Discovery and Active excursions offer a wide range of possibilities. When they prefer to explore on their own, we can help with all the recommendations, information and gear travelers need with our new Adventure Center and AvalonGO mobile APP. And when it’s time to refuel, Avalon’s dining options on board are as wide open as our travelers’ views, with our new FlexDining choices.
In addition, our Avalon team understands that everyone travels to see new things. For those who also travel to do new things, we offer an engaging and energizing collection of Active Discovery river cruises on the Danube, Rhine & Rhône Rivers. On these unique and interactive cruises, travelers can hike, bike and engage in their surroundings in unimaginable ways. From action-packed experiences to interactive discoveries, these vacations offer something for all interests, energy and fitness levels, allowing our guests to tailor their vacation to their personal taste and pace.
Finally, with Avalon, there’s only one point-of-view – the suite view. For the first time, in 2019, our entire fleet in Europe and Southeast Asia is completely comprised of Suite Ships®, each featuring our signature Panorama Suites with the widest opening windows in river cruising, the industry’s only Open-Air Balcony and an inviting bed facing the ever-changing scenery on two full decks of every ship. Even seasoned travelers have never seen – or experienced – the world like this.
Our mature travellers are pretty savvy travellers, are there innovations planned to keep them satisfied and interested?
In addition to reinventing the river cruise experience with new, signature Suite Ships, we have redefined river cruises with a huge amount of choices for our travellers. Offering Avalon guests ‘Classic’, ‘Discovery’ and ‘Active’ options on every river cruise itinerary, Avalon Choice presents them with a variety of excursions and onboard activities each day – all engaging in their own way. Whether travelers want to walk in the footsteps of legends, walk down the street like a local or accelerate their walk into a jog, Avalon’s selection of included daily outings and optional excursions invite guests to further personalize their experience to suit their interests and passions.
We have noticed a significant rise in the number of single travellers these days. How do Avalon look after these guests?
Avalon Waterways has waived the single supplement for solo travelers on several departures throughout the year. Up to 10 percent of our travelers go solo when they cruise with us.
Do you see river cruising as a possible choice for younger people, maybe even families and multi-generational groups?
Avalon Waterways caters to a diverse group of travelers. On our NEW interactive Active Discovery cruises, travelers can hike, bike and engage in their surroundings in unimaginable ways. From action-packed experiences to interactive discoveries, these vacations offer something for all interests, energy and fitness levels, allowing our guests to tailor their vacation to their personal taste and pace.
Avalon’s Active Discovery cruises engage and immerse travelers in two ways:
1) ACTIVE: Exploration in Motion. For the traveler who thrives on motion and action, Avalon Waterways has created a broad menu of energetic excursions that include everything from taking a jogging tour through Amsterdam, a biking tour around Vienna or even a canoe trip on the Danube. From climbing up to a medieval castle to hiking in a forest, these excursions pack real get-up-and-go for those who like to do the same.
2) DISCOVERY: Engaging, Cultural Experiences. For those who believe that life is about trying new things, Avalon presents an inspiring selection of interactive excursions created for a different kind of ‘doer’. These hands-on experiences offer travelers the chance to take part in a painting class in Amsterdam, taste locally produced cheese and beer at an ancient abbey or say “good morning” to Vienna on an early-riser walk to a quaint cafe. Local traditions come to life on these experiences as travelers shift from observer to active participant.
Do you have plans for any new river cruises, on waterways we might not expect, somewhere unusual?
In 2019, we have expanded our cruises on the Mekong River with a new, Suite Ship – the Avalon Saigon. On our Mekong cruises, we take travelers through narrow passageways on intimate, 36-passenger ships to get travelers up close to the sights, cultures, and traditions of Vietnam, and Cambodia. Our smaller vessels lead guests to areas virtually untouched by tourists.
We have also introduced the Ganges River to our travel portfolio for 2019.
In addition, we have expanded our list of special interest cruises. In 2019, we’re giving travelers our most dynamic offering of ‘Special Interest’ cruises to date, inviting them to explore their hobbies and passions on vacation. From beer and wine to history, music and Christmas cruises, Avalon’s passion-filled vacations unite guests with their pastimes and other like-minded travelers. And, 2019 gives history buffs a unique opportunity to pay tribute to and remember WWII on Normandy’s Beaches on the 75th Anniversary.
On which river do you personally like to travel best? And why?
I have to say that I’ve loved every river cruise I’ve been lucky enough to do, and that’s quite a few! This question is like asking which of your children is your favorite. In Europe, the Moselle is my favorite. It is a little bit off the beaten path. The river itself flows through Germany’s most beautiful river valley. Vineyards climb up the terraced hillside, making it a great place to try the local wines. It really is special.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Avalon Waterways.