Travel Bulletin - - CRUISE REPORT -

THERE’S no doubt about the im­pact Aus­tralia has had on global river cruis­ing. Twenty years ago no­body would have imag­ined that com­pa­nies based here, like Scenic and APT, would end up own­ing and op­er­at­ing their own ves­sels ply­ing the rivers of Europe – but now they are well es­tab­lished and along with other op­er­a­tors carry up­wards of 70,000 Aus­tralians ev­ery year. With the un­prece­dented growth has also come lots of com­pe­ti­tion – and that in turn has led to mas­sive in­no­va­tion, both in the river cruise ships them­selves and in the prod­ucts of­fered by the lines. APT’S re­cent re­lease of its 2017 Europe River Cruise brochure con­tin­ues this process, and in par­tic­u­lar looks to ex­pand the tar­get de­mo­graphic for the prod­uct. Just as ocean cruis­ing is no longer per­ceived as be­ing for the “nearly dead or newly wed,” APT is among sev­eral op­er­a­tors adding more ac­tive op­tions to their port­fo­lio which are likely to ap­peal to younger cruis­ers. The 2017 APT pro­gram in­cludes new ded­i­cated cy­cling itin­er­ar­ies in France and cen­tral Europe, where guests can op­tion­ally ride the on-board bikes on shore ex­cur­sions al­most ev­ery day of their voy­age. APT Ex­ec­u­tive Gen­eral Man­ager of Global Sales and Mar­ket­ing, De­bra Fox, told trav­el­bul­letin each ves­sel would have enough bi­cy­cles on board for all pas­sen­gers to un­der­take the rides – but there are also al­ter­na­tive op­tions for those who are less ac­tive or feel like hav­ing an eas­ier day. Cy­cling Mag­nif­i­cent Europe al­lows pas­sen­gers to make the most of the ex­ten­sive bike paths along­side the Rhine and Danube rivers on the pop­u­lar itin­er­ary be­tween Am­s­ter­dam and Bu­dapest, while Bordeaux by Bi­cy­cle takes in the French coun­try­side, with both op­tions of­fer­ing trails of vary­ing in­ten­sity es­corted by ex­pert cy­clists and an on-road sup­port ve­hi­cle. That’s not all that’s new at APT. Spe­cial in­ter­est wine cruises also fea­ture, and the fam­ily-owned com­pany which next year cel­e­brates its 90th an­niver­sary is ty­ing in the “fam­ily” theme with its on-board wine am­bas­sadors who ac­com­pany these de­par­tures. They in­clude Scott Mcwilliam of Mcwilliam’s Fam­ily Wine­mak­ers, Peter Barry of Jim Barry Wines, Cherry Stow­man who is Se­nior Brand Am­bas­sador for Tay­lors Wines, and Bruce Tyrrell of Tyrrell’s Wines. These voy­ages in­clude win­ery vis­its, on-board tast­ings and of course wine paired with gourmet cui­sine. APT’S prod­uct de­vel­op­ment has also seen the ex­pan­sion of its Royal Ex­pe­ri­ences. The com­pany has for some years had a re­la­tion­ship with Princess Heide von Hol­len­zo­h­ern who wel­comes APT groups into her cas­tle at Burg Nam­edy for an in­ti­mate peek be­hind the scenes of Euro­pean aris­toc­racy. This pro­gram has been ex­panded into France with the ad­di­tion of a visit to Chateau de Cazeneuve on the Bordeaux River pro­grams. This stately cas­tle was once the res­i­dence of the Kings of Navarre and later King Henri IV of France and his wife Mar­got. Cur­rently oc­cu­pied by the Sabran-pon­teves fam­ily, de­scen­dants of the orig­i­nal own­ers, who have re­stored it to its for­mer glory. APT’S guests will en­joy a pri­vate tour be­fore sit­ting down to din­ner in the Grand Sa­lon. Also in France, the Seine pro­grams for 2017 will in­clude a stop in Ver­non with an ex­clu­sive visit to Cha­teu de Bizy, the pri­vate home of the de­scen­dants of Prince Jerome Napoleon. In­ter­est­ingly APT’S 2017 Europe River Cruise brochure also in­cludes a wide range of land con­tent – in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of seven small group tour itin­er­ar­ies which have a max­i­mum of 20 pas­sen­gers but still use full-sized coaches. This con­cept was first launched with a fan­fare by Bun­nik Tours a cou­ple of years ago, with APT’S of­fer­ing which in­cludes sev­eral shorter trips al­ready prov­ing very pop­u­lar. Fox said a pre-re­lease to past pas­sen­gers of one of these itin­er­ar­ies, a 12 day trip tak­ing in the Greek Is­lands, had sold out in just three days. “We be­lieve there’s a gap in the mar­ket and these tours look to fill that void,” she told trav­el­bul­letin.

Guests can op­tion­ally ride the on-board bikes on shore ex­cur­sions al­most voy­age’ ev­ery day of their

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