Avalon expands to India with Ganges cruises

For 2019, Avalon Waterways has packaged Ganges River cruises in several itineraries.

For the cruise portion, guests board the 56-passenger Ganges Voyager for a six-day, roundtrip cruise from Kolkata.

The cruise heads north from Kolkata to visit Kalna, where passengers will take a rickshaw ride to the historic terracotta temple complex, and smaller villages where they will observe brass-making, saree weaving and idol making. Avalon will also offer a visit to a farmer’s home and to a rescue shelter for cows, in addition to the region’s stately sites, such as the Hare Krishna centre in Mayapur.

The Ganges Voyager is an all-suite vessel with accommodations ranging from the 260-square-foot deluxe suite to the 400-square-foot Maharaja suite. There is air conditioning throughout, a lounge and bar, a restaurant, gym, two spa treatment rooms and a partially shaded observation deck.

Avalon joins a handful of other river cruise companies and tour operators that have begun offering Ganges River cruises in recent years. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection launched its Ganges program in 2016, and G Adventures started selling Gange’s cruises in 2015.

River cruising for millennials

It’s no secret that the dominant river cruising demographic is retirees. Older travelers have embraced river cruising with a fervor that has fueled the segment’s unstoppable growth for the last several years.

But there doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason why river cruising couldn’t appeal to younger travelers, as well.

In an ongoing attempt to widen the market beyond boomers, several river cruise lines — notably AmaWaterways with its recent partnership with Adventures by Disney — have been courting families. But what about travelers in their 20s, 30s and 40s? What about the Gen Xers and? Thus far, there really hasn’t been a river cruising product that caters to that segment of the market.

Some argue that river cruising is too expensive and too inactive for these younger folk. But perhaps G Adventures’ new foray into the river cruising market is an indication that there could be some room for more youthful travelers on river cruise ships.

G Adventures, which caters to a younger, more active and often more budget-oriented traveler, isn’t getting into traditional European river cruising just yet: the company has offered river itineraries on the Peruvian Amazon, and sailings will start on the Mekong, Ganges, Amazon and in France’s Burgundy region next year.

But the simple fact that G is dipping its toes in the river cruising market could indicate the dawn of a new era for river cruising, one where the booming travel trend isn’t reserved just for seniors anymore. It will be interesting to see what G Adventures’ version of river cruising looks like compared with competitors’ river product, and how and whether river cruising resonates with the G Adventures traveler.

As a 30-something who happens to have been on countless river cruises, I’ve always thought there was a bit of a missed opportunity in this market. Yes, the product would require some tweaks. It would help if the price point were lower and if more free time were built in (two things that are actually not mutually exclusive). More activities off the ship and fewer onboard meals included in the price (potentially freeing up passengers’ money for dining in town) could help, too.

But otherwise, there really isn’t any reason why the 25-to-45-set couldn’t, well, get onboard, so to speak. And maybe G Adventures is the perfect company to extend the gangway to them.