Exploring AmericaJuly 25, 2011 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
|American Safari Cruises passengers in Hawaii enjoy whale watching.|
From Hawaii to the Mississippi, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska to the East Coast, American-flagged, small-ship cruise lines and river lines have exciting products for your clients to consider this year and next. Several new ships have launched this year or will launch in 2012.
American-flagged ships that have an American crew may be a selling point for some clients who are most comfortable with a feeling of home. Some itineraries also appeal because they’re drive-market voyages or because they have soft adventure and wildlife activities.
“Our guests don’t have to [spend] exorbitant amounts of money on their vacation budgets just getting to the embarkation point,” says Nancy Blount, president, Blount Small Ship Adventures, based in Warren, RI. “We designed our North American cruises to offer travelers an amazing adventure that begins near their homes…sometimes even in their own city.” The line’s 2011 bookings are up 23 percent from the same cruise season a year ago.
Blount operates three American-flagged ships serving 68 to 96 passengers each. The vessels access remote destinations larger ships cannot. Among Blount’s offerings this summer and fall are America’s historical rivers, the Erie Canal to the Saguenay, islands of New England, Lake Michigan, Georgian Bay in Ontario, New York to Toronto, the coast of Maine and Lake Champlain.
Perhaps, one of the most exciting developments for small-ship cruising in America will be the 2012 launch of American Cruise Lines’ new 150-passenger sternwheeler Queen of the Mississippi on the Mississippi River.
The Queen will be the first new riverboat on the Mississippi in nearly 20 years. Larger than any of those former Mississippi river boats, the American-flagged vessel’s staterooms will have private balconies and amenities today’s travelers expect. Yet, the line will maintain the traditional style and feel of the Victorian riverboats of the past.
“We have magnificent plans for this ship,” says Timothy Beebe, vice president, American Cruise Lines. “From the inside out, Queen of the Mississippi will exemplify the highest quality.”
The line recently announced new 2012 Civil War-themed cruises for the new ship. Highlights include visits to Vicksburg’s National Military Park, a battlefield in Nashville and New Orleans’ Civil War Museum, plus Civil War-era-inspired cuisine, music, entertainment and lectures onboard the ship.
Seattle-based American Safari Cruises operates three upper-end yachts, including the 12-guest Safari Spirit, 22-guest Safari Quest and 36-guest Safari Explorer. These vessels specialize in expedition cruising within southeastern Alaska; Mexico’s Sea of Cortés; the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the American northwest; Hawaii; and Washington state and British Columbia.
Guests are served by an all-American crew and the ships have a guest-to-crew ratio of 2 to 1. The line is known for “flexible” itineraries, which are adjusted as needed to maximize wildlife viewing and to give guests special active adventures. Expert guides and naturalists lead many excursions.
Of particular interest to agents are the new Hawaii sailings, which cruise coastal waters and call at Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island. The line’s small ships can pull into quiet coves or anchor off remote beaches, allowing clients to get away from the crowds. American Safari’s cruises are highly inclusive, with the rate covering all activities and related equipment utilized from the yacht; wine, premium spirits and microbrews; and all port charges, taxes and fees. Agents, therefore, earn commission on many extra elements not commissionable on big-ship cruises.
What can guests expect onboard the vessels? All feature a hot tub, Tempur-Pedic mattresses, heated tile floors in all bathrooms, and upper-category balconies. Some also come with saunas and a complimentary massage.
Sister line InnerSea Discoveries is more expedition-like and attracts a younger crowd who want nice accommodations but are more interested in the pure adventure of a destination.
Underwater bow cameras, high-tech kayak launchers and iPod docks are a few of the features installed on its two expedition ships, the 68-passenger Wilderness Discoverer and 60-passenger Wilderness Adventurer, both of which launched this year and operate southeastern Alaska voyages. The underwater camera streams video to flat-screen TVs in all guest rooms and the lounge. Both ships carry assorted styles of kayaks.
Also new in The Last Frontier is Alaskan Dream Cruises run by native Alaskans. The line operates four-day cruises that feature Glacier Bay and five-day cruises that include Tracy Arm. These run from Sitka to Juneau or in reverse. The line also operates more intensive eight-day cruises roundtrip from Sitka.
At 104 feet in length, the 46-passenger Alaskan Dream is the flagship of the line. Its streamlined catamaran design allows the vessel to easily navigate narrow channels and passages like a yacht, while providing many comforts of a much larger ship. The line’s voyages are heavily focused on native Alaskan culture, indigenous flora and fauna, and the abundant marine life of Alaska.
Operated by Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic Sea Lion and National Geographic Sea Bird are American-flagged vessels with U.S. crews and accommodate 62 guests each. Both sail multiple Alaska departures this year. These expedition-style cruises appeal to clients who may not be typical cruisers, but are eager to discover nature with like-minded enthusiasts. Evening entertainment involves stargazing or talks by naturalists.
In addition, The Boat Company, is a nonprofit organization offering luxury eco-cruises through southeastern Alaska. Part of the booking is tax deductible. The Boat Company operates the 20-passenger Liseron and the 24-passenger Mist Cove. Itineraries are flexible and designed to meet the needs of those who like to hike, fish, canoe, kayak and experience nature.
Both Alaskan Dream Cruises and American Cruise Lines are part of the Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance, which trains agents on the products. Similarly, American Cruise Lines is a member of Cruise Lines International Association, which has extensive training programs.
|InnerSea Discoveries voyages afford opportunities for awesome sightseeing in Alaska.|