APT EVOLVES ITS EUROPE PRODUCT
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