Are you anxious to get travelling again? The COVID-19 pandemic has postponed or cancelled travel plans for people in Canada and around the world, but a survey from The Conference Board of Canada has found that travel will likely not return to a relatively “normal” level until late 2021, or later.
“I was sure that they would be giving away cruises and the ships would be empty.” This is what we are hearing from our clients who are now looking into booking trips again. With so many cruises cancelled because of COVID-19 over the past year, many people accepted the financial incentives to rebook their trips to a future sailing. Because of that phenomenon, as we book our clients on 2022 river cruise itineraries, we are finding that availability on some sailings is already very limited.
A little bit about river cruises……. People often equate cruise cabins with cramped, claustrophobic spaces. Many cabin categories offer wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows with open air balcony. You can open the doors and enjoy the fresh air and scenery as you sail down the river or enjoy the warm evening air and the sensory benefits of the local area as you relax at the end of your day. On board, passengers enjoy free Wi-Fi access, complimentary computer use in public areas, a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, elevators, and an expansive open sky deck with a shade system, premium lounge chairs, whirlpool, deck games, and much more. As many of us will now be more sensitive about our personal safety and will more consciously try to avoid crowds, river cruising will be a great option as ship capacity usually ranges between 100 to 180 passengers.
Although river cruises typically attract middle age and older passengers, some companies such as U by Uniworld have created a concept strictly for Millennial age 21- to 45-year-olds. These sailings offer experiential amenities, like locally inspired meals; active, immersive shore excursions; and onboard experiences like “silent discos,” mixology classes, yoga and themed parties. These immersive shore excursions include high-energy, active onshore experiences such as biking, walking, hiking and kayaking right in the heart of the cities they visit.
Uniworld also has introduced GenZ on U, their new family program exclusively for teens (13+) and their parents on select U by Uniworld cruises. A European experience both you and your teen will love, these cruises are the perfect way to celebrate graduations, special birthdays, and other milestones, or just a great way to spend quality time together.
River cruising is a slower paced trip, usually docking right in the town or village. You are welcome to join the daily excursions, often on foot and hosted by a local. Lunch is served on the boat, and the afternoon is often free to head back into town, spend time with the locals, wander through the shops, maybe grab a coffee or glass of wine at an outdoor café and simply people watch. Classic, active and discovery style excursion options are available so that you can experience the cruise your way. Access to active gear, bikes, Nordic walking sticks, watercraft & maps are available free of charge on most ships.
At the end of the day, the lounge area is a popular spot to enjoy a happy hour cocktail, share the details of your day with your travel companions and meet new like-minded people as well. This is a great way to hear about itineraries and adventures other travelers have had that may interest you in the future. There is often local entertainment always followed by a chat with the tour director. A recap of the day’s adventures is shared and then a brief overview of the experience that lies ahead at the next stop is presented.
Passengers then make their way to the beautiful dining room, complete with linen, crystal, and amazing tableside service. Everyone is welcome to sit where they want, with no assigned table or time. Meals are often created with local recipes and wines in mind. After your 4-course dinner, take an after-dinner drink to the top deck, sit back and watch the stars.
On one of our cruises on the Danube, we were alerted by the Captain that we would be sailing past a beautiful castle after dinner. So of course, we headed up to the top deck and watched anxiously as we sailed up the river. Sure enough, after a few minutes we saw the lights sparkling in the distance. As we came up to it, we all were so impressed by how spectacular it was, only to discover we had only seen the back of it! As we sailed to the front of the castle, the captain was actually able to turn the boat 360 degrees so we could take in this amazing experience, that you could only see from the river.
River cruises often offer themed cruises. One example is the Oberammergau Passion Play which is a play staging Jesus’ passion, covering the short final period of his life from his visit to Jerusalem and leading to his execution by crucifixion. It’s a tradition that only occurs once every 10 years and has been maintained since its inception in 1634. It is performed by the inhabitants of the village of Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany. Since its first production it has been performed on open-air stages in the village. The play was scheduled for 2020 but delayed until 2022 as a result of the pandemic and will run from May to October. Some river cruise companies are offering extensions to their itineraries that will include a few days in the Oberammergau area with tickets to the Passion Play.
We are often asked which river cruise line we recommend but we find that it boils down to what our clients want included in the cruise and how much they are willing to spend, as the itineraries are usually quite similar between companies. Some suppliers offer more complimentary inclusions but as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for”.
Right now, suppliers are trying to secure their cabins with some very enticing promotional offers. Not only is pricing extremely competitive but some are including low priced airfare and waiving the single supplement for solo travellers. Most are also including Travel Protection Plans free of charge that gives guests the ability to change their booking to another destination or departure date and waive all land or cruise penalties and transfer to the new vacation should you decide you are not ready to travel at departure time.
We are booked on two river cruises in September 2021, one in French wine country and another through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany discovering some of Central Europe’s most splendid capitals and charming towns. We are going to spend a few days in London at the start of our trip and a few in Paris between cruises. We are optimistic that vaccines, travel advisories and safety protocols will be in place in enough time to ensure this sailing embarks without a hitch, but with a 24-hour cancellation policy option, we can easily move our reservations forward.
PD Travel is a local home-based travel agency in operation since 2014. Paul & Diane are retired from careers in law enforcement and sales. Our accreditations include being Certified Travel Consultants (CTC), Master Cruise Counsellors (MCC) and have graduating from many river cruise companies specialist programs.
Our personal travel experience includes having travelled to 5 continents and more than 70 countries. We post pictures and stories of our adventures on our PD Travel Facebook page for everyone to enjoy. If you want to know more about river cruising or have an interest in other types of travel, we would love to chat with you!