Is an end to the Nile drought in sight?

By Michelle Baran

 As with Egypt overall, it’s been touch and go with travel on the Nile River since the country’s January 2011 revolution introduced an era of political instability that has been hardMichelleBaran to shake.

But with this week’s presidential elections, combined with pent-up demand from passengers who have been waiting it out with Egypt, there are glimmers of hope that the ships on the Nile will soon start to move again.

Viking Cruises, which has continued offering Egypt sailings through the slowdown, said things are looking up for the back half of 2014 and into 2015.

“We are seeing some booking activity for the fall 2014 dates that are available,” said Richard Marnell, Viking’s senior vice president of marketing. “We’ve also received enough interest from customers that we made the decision to begin selling 2015 dates.

“Yes, there is still some uncertainty among some travelers who would like to visit the region. But we are optimistic about the 2015 season, and we have slightly increased our number of departures for next year.” 

Viking charters the 150-passenger Mayfair, built in 2010, on the Nile, and the 160-passenger Omar El Khayam, built in 2011, on Lake Nasser.

Abercrombie & Kent has added five departures this fall for its “Egypt & the Nile” itinerary and has announced additional dates for 2015. The itinerary includes a four-night Nile sailing onboard the 80-passenger Sun Boat IV.

“The current interest in travel to Egypt has even surprised us,” A&K President Phil Otterson said in a release about adding the departures. Otterson traveled to Egypt in March with 69 A&K guests. “It’s been a waiting game, for travelers, tour operators and Egyptians, but it looks like it’s finally turning a corner.”

For some operators, though, it’s too soon to make a call on Egypt just yet. They’ve been burned with having had to cancel departures or, in the case of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, which sails the 82-passenger River Tosca, a luxury vessel that was built exclusively for Uniworld, the company doesn’t have the option of returning unsold cabins.

“The River Tosca is our ship, and once we re-enter the market, we have a commitment and obligation to deliver a certain number of guests to make sure that we can operate the itinerary profitably,” said Uniworld President Guy Young. “Given the relative uncertainty in Egypt and our selling cycle for this destination, the earliest opportunity we see to re-enter the market would be the fall of 2015.”

Young noted that prior to the uprising in Egypt, the Tosca was operating at very high occupancy levels and the itinerary received fantastic feedback from guests.
Avalon Waterways, which had to cancel departures last year due to the unrest, will only reintroduce Nile itineraries when the situation appears considerably more stable.

“We do not have plans to reintroduce Egypt in 2015,” noted Avalon’s Managing Director Patrick Clark.

“We hope the presidential election brings stability — and tourists — to Egypt. It would be great to see Egypt return to its previous popularity among travelers,” he added. “And, while we prepare our 2016 plans for Avalon Waterways, we will be closely monitoring developments.”

AmaWaterways to launch new Mekong vessel

By Michelle Baran
AmaWaterways will introduce a new 124-passenger ship, the AmaDara, on the Mekong River in 2015.

The AmaDara will join its sister ship, the 124-passenger AmaLotus, which Ama introduced in 2011. It will replace the 94-passenger La Marguerite, which Ama introduced on the Mekong in 2009.

The AmaDara is slated to make its inaugural sailing on Aug. 17, 2015, and will sail as part of a 16-day river cruise and land tour through Vietnam and Cambodia.

The vessel will feature French colonial-style décor accented by Mekong design elements within the air-conditioned cabins and public spaces.

The ship’s outside-facing staterooms and suites range between 226 and 452 square feet and feature Ama’s twin balcony concept, which consists of a French balcony adjacent to a step-out balcony.

The vessel will have two restaurants that will serve Western-style cuisine alongside regionally inspired dishes. Onboard entertainment will include folk dances, live musical performances, cultural discussions and themed dinners.

There will be a salon and spa services; a sun deck and swimming pool; a fitness center; and a complimentary in-room infotainment system with internet, music, movies and English-language television programming.

Complimentary wine will be available with lunch and dinner, and complimentary house spirits, local beer, soft drinks and bottled water will be offered all day. Complimentary bottled water will be provided daily in all staterooms.

Carnival UK questions how lines sell port excursions

Carnival UK questions how lines sell port excursions

Carnival UK questions how lines sell port excursions

Carnival UK’s Gerard Tempest (pictured) believes cruise lines need to reassess their shore-excursion model as 
third-party suppliers continue to expand.

Speaking at the Clia Selling Cruise Conference in Southampton, chief commercial officer Tempest said in light of the expansion of third-party suppliers he was putting a lot of thought into the best approach for selling shore excursions and tours.

Attraction World recently started selling cruise excursions and increased its agent commission at the end of April.

Tempest said: “I just wonder whether third parties have been in our blind spot and we have let some of those parties eat our lunch. We, and I daresay some other cruise lines, are wondering about our traditional model of offering shore excursions and tours. How fit for the future is it? And is there another model we could look at?

“That requires a lot of thought and understanding of the marketplace, but it is something that we are certainly paying attention to.”

Tempest, who was a keynote speaker at the Clia conference, also spoke about the excitement surrounding P&O Cruises’ Britannia and Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas, which will both sail from Southampton on launch next year.

“Anthem of the Seas and Britannia will complement each other and will work together to stimulate the market,” he said. “The customers for Britannia and those for Royal Caribbean will sit comfortably together.

“We are excited about Anthem coming into the UK because of what it will do to stimulate cruise.”

Stuart Leven, UK boss of Royal Caribbean, agreed, saying: “The industry’s job becomes far easier with companies such as Royal Caribbean and P&O deploying their newest and best hardware in the UK.”