Peruvian Amazon heating up with fresh investment

Peruvian Amazon heating up with fresh investment

By Michelle Baran
La Estrella Amazonica, the new vessel International Expeditions is using for Amazon River cruises in Peru.There’s been a groundswell of renewed investment and interest on the Peruvian Amazon of late, with companies launching new ships, refurbishing old ones and introducing new Amazon itineraries.

Last month, International Expeditions launched the 31-passenger La Estrella Amazonica, replacing the 28-passenger La Amatista. La Estrella Amazonica is a newbuild with 15 outward-facing, 220-square-foot cabins featuring private balconies. The vessel also has a fitness center and a 1,000-square-foot observation deck.

International Expeditions designed La Estrella Amazonica in collaboration with Expediciones Amazonicas, the ship’s owner.

Prices for 10-day Amazon cruises on La Estrella Amazonica start at $4,398 per person, including daily naturalist-guided excursions, most meals, transfers, precruise accommodations at Swissotel in Lima and tours of Lima and Iquitos in Peru.

La Estrella Amazonica joins another Amazon newbuild, the 32-passenger Queen Violet, which launched in May and is being chartered by G Adventures.

The Queen Violet has 16 outside-facing cabins, 10 with side-by-side twin beds and six with queen-size beds. The vessel also has an upper sun deck with a bar area for briefings as well as an area for lounging on deck chairs and hammocks.

Prices for G Adventures’ nine-day Amazon trips, including a six-day cruise and transfer flights between Lima and Iquitos, start at $1,875 per person.

Avalon heads to the Amazon

In 2014, Avalon Waterways will begin offering Peruvian Amazon itineraries, having partnered with Aqua Expeditions to charter the 32-passenger Aria for an 11-day itinerary that includes a three-night cruise from Iquitos through the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.

The Aria, which launched in 2011, is Aqua’s second ship on the Peruvian Amazon. This year, Aqua Expeditions refurbished and relaunched its original 12-suite Amazon vessel, Aqua Amazon, which has been sailing the Peruvian Amazon since 2007.

The 130-foot Aqua Amazon (formerly the Aqua) received an updated interior. Suites have new wall coverings, bedside tables, lighting, bathrooms and curtains.

Both ships sail from Iquitos and navigate the Amazon waterways west of there for three-, four- and seven-night cruises.

The Avalon itinerary will begin with two days in Lima, followed by a flight to Cuzco for four days of visiting the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. On day seven of the trip, passengers will fly to Iquitos to board the Aria. The cruise will include piranha fishing and experiencing the Yanalipa Flooded Forest.

Avalon is offering 13 departures of the Peru itinerary in 2014 and five departures in 2015. It is priced between $5,599 and $5,999 per person, based on double occupancy.

Will CroisiEurope’s pricing, diversity resonate with U.S. passengers?

By Michelle Baran

InsightFrench river cruise line CroisiEurope is making a run at an already pretty crowded U.S. market with a simple concept: low-cost river cruises with a multicultural mix of passengers.

“The founder of the company had the philosophy to make this product available for the mass market,” said Michel Grimm, international sales director for CroisiEurope, which after 38 years in business recently unveiled a new website and call center devoted to the U.S. source market.

“Our pricing is very aggressive,” Grimm said, adding that an eight-day CroisiEurope river cruise including meals, open bar and excursions won’t run more than $2,400 per person.

“With these kinds of prices, we come with an offer that is very interesting,” he said.

For anyone who knows the river cruising market, that’s actually quite a deal.MichelleBaran
As a European river cruise operator, CroisiEurope hosts a mix of nationalities onboard, but the company’s executives said that for the right customer, that should be seen as an asset, not a drawback.

“This is not for people who want the safety of being with all other English speakers,” said John McGlade, director of CroisiEurope’s U.S. reservation center. “For people who want the international experience, it’s the perfect marriage.”

CroisiEurope, which is still run by the founder’s children, builds all its vessels in the same shipyard in Belgium. Building, owning and operating all its own vessels is how the company claims it can keep its pricing so competitive, a concept it is bringing to the canal barge market, as well.

CroisiEurope is also building up its own fleet of barge vessels that have a capacity of 24 guests, in contrast with many of the existing canal barges that can often only host six to 12 passengers onboard, rendering them an expensive vacation option.

One other differentiator? Building ships of different sizes that can navigate lesser-sailed inland waterways, including the Guadalquivir and Guadiana rivers in Spain, the Tisza River in Hungary and some of the smaller estuaries off of the Danube and Rhine rivers.

CroisiEurope is based in Strasbourg, France, and has a fleet of 30 ships, including several barges and coastal cruisers, which sail in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Seven Seas Voyager emerges from drydock

Seven Seas Voyager emerges from drydock

By Tom Stieghorst
The 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager is on a Rome-to-Venice cruise, its first since emerging from a scheduled drydock for interior and deck upgrades.

Among many changes, the ship’s nightclub and observation lounge got new furnishings, wall coverings, carpeting and lighting. The Constellation Theater was rejuvenated, penthouse suites were redone and new teak was installed on the balconies of all 350 cabins.

The refurbishment was overseen by Frank Del Rio, CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, parent of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Del Rio flew to Marseille, France, for a final inspection before the Seven Seas Voyager set sail, the cruise line said.