Current Affair: River Cruise News
Avid river cruisers may be familiar with the British-based company Riviera Travel but it hasn't had a high profile in Australia – until recently, that is. Riviera has just launched a website and brochure dedicated to the local market, with pricing in Australian dollars and bookings available through travel agents linked with major wholesalers Cruiseco and Cruise Traveller.
How does it differ from the big names in river cruising we already know? Shelley Davey, Riviera Travel's sales manager for Australia, said the company was committed to offering a genuine new choice in European river cruising. "European river cruises have, traditionally, been seen as expensive but Riviera offers fares up to 50 per cent lower than our competitors without compromising the experience."
The differences include not including automatic gratuities in fares, so guests can tip as they like; not including all drinks for everyone, which can raise prices and doesn't sit well with some non-drinkers; fitting tea and coffee-making machines in every cabin on every ship; and offering solo travellers a selection of accommodation on every cruise with no single supplement charge. Fares do include meals, tours and excursions with experienced guides and free Wi-Fi.
Riviera Travel is highly regarded in Britain by both guests and travel agents. This year it is operating 250 cruises on nine European rivers and waterways while in 2018 its fleet of 11 new ships will carry a record number of guests on 300 cruises. It introduced four 167-passenger, all-suite ships this year – Thomas Hardy, Emily Bronte, Oscar Wilde and Douro Elegance – and Robert Burns will launch in 2018. See rivieratravel.com.au.
Meanwhile, Uniworld's new line for Millennials (21- to 45-year-olds) has announced that international supermodel Petra Nemcova will be its "brand representative" rather than a traditional ship's godmother. U by Uniworld's two 120-guest ships, The A and The B, are being remodelled for launching next April.
Like Riviera's, U by Uniworld's fares are less inclusive and therefore cheaper. Its eight-day itineraries feature overnight stops and longer stays in major cities like Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam and Budapest. Fiona Dalton, managing director for Uniworld Australia, said: "We recognised the demand for fun and immersive itineraries that appeal to the aspirational traveller and the free-spirited wanderlusters of this world – and we've already been blown away by the huge response to this exciting new brand offering!" See ubyuniworld.com.
THE PORT Vancouver, Canada
WHO GOES THERE Celebrity, Crystal, Holland America Line, Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea
WHY WE LOVE IT Sailing into Vancouver Harbour under Lions Gate Bridge and alongside Stanley Park is spectacular and the multicultural city has lots to offer for outdoorsy types, foodies and fans of modern history.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Ships dock close to the heart of the action and all the main attractions are within walking distance of the Canada Place cruise terminal. Hop-on hop-off buses, harbour ferries and the SkyTrain light rail system also make exploring independently pretty easy, and cyclists can join the Mobi Bike bike-share program. Gastown, which is about 10 minutes' walk from Canada Place and where the modern city began in the 19th century, is packed with cool cafes, bars, designer shops and galleries; the ornate Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in nearby Chinatown is a beautiful spot for a quiet stroll. Take an Aquabus ferry to Granville Island, a restored industrial site that now houses shops, a market and the Granville Island Brewing company, where you can join tasting tours. For a special afternoon tea, you can't go past the Notch8 restaurant at the historic Fairmont Vancouver Hotel.
MUST SEE City views from the 167-metre-high Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre; interactive displays at the futuristic Science Theatre; gardens and forests from Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
MUST EAT West Coast seafood, preferably at a restaurant serving sustainably produced varieties under the Ocean Wise program; multicultural cuisines from Indian to Japanese.
NEED TO KNOW Victoria, not Vancouver, is the capital of British Columbia; Victoria is on Vancouver Island.
CRUISE SCEPTIC Are cruises too long?
They're as long as you like! About half of Aussie cruisers book eight- to 14-day cruises but there's a huge take-up of three- to four-day cruises.
It's all included
Scenic Eclipse, the first oceangoing ship for acclaimed Australian river-cruise company Scenic, is due to set sail in just over a year. Its maiden voyage, from Istanbul to Venice, kicks off on August 31, 2018, and while that cruise is fully booked, there are still spots available on the inaugural transatlantic voyage from Barcelona to Miami, departing September 22. Fourteen days allows just about enough time to sample its 10 restaurants and eateries, which range from casual to fine dining. The Yacht Club has a poolside grill, contemporary French food will be served in Lumiere, sushi and sake in Koko's Asian-fusion venue and the Chef's Table will cater for just eight guests. All meals and drinks are included in the fare. See scenic.com.au
Tahitian freighter cruise line Aranui Cruises will include a call to the spectacular Marquesas Festival during its final voyage of the year, which leaves Papeete on December 14. The festival is held every two years in the Marquesas Islands, the northernmost of Tahiti's five archipelagos, and alternates between the main arts festival and a mini-festival. This year's mini-festival is a four-day celebration of Polynesian music and dance and will be held on Tahuata, the smallest of the inhabited Marquesas Islands. Aranui 5 will make an extended visit to Tahuata on December 20 so passengers can take part in a community feast and enjoy cultural festivities well into the night. Aranui 5 is a freighter-cruise vessel that accommodates 254 passengers; it sails 14-day itineraries round-trip from Papeete, delivering cargo to the islands while offering passengers a fascinating insight into local culture. See aranuicruises.com.au