A growing travel trend is the combination of river and ocean cruising in the same itinerary. // © 2014 Voyages to Antiquity
A new trend in cruising is quietly growing as more cruise lines with ships small enough to navigate the world’s rivers are introducing itineraries that combine ocean and river cruising.
Combination cruising is a prominent feature of Voyages to Antiquity’s 2015 Mediterranean season. The cruise line is one of several that sail up the Guadalquivir River into the heart of Seville and then explore the Roman and Moorish past of Malaga, Barcelona and Cordoba by sea.
“The combination of ocean and river cruising on a single voyage, and the seamless transition between the two, makes these itineraries truly exceptional,” said James Applebaum, vice president of sales and marketing for Voyages to Antiquity.
The combination is a logical one for ships that are the right size to sail both blue water and rivers. Coastal cruise ports are centers of civilization with long international histories while rivers are the veins of an entire region. Cruise lines have long recognized the appeal to guests of stepping right off a ship and into riverside cities and towns rather than having to transfer by coach from a seaport to a land experience.
The Voyages to Antiquity cruise product already has many of the characteristics of river cruising such as a choice of included shore experiences that use Quietvox headphones, allowing travelers to learn from their guides without being glued to them.
“We don’t consider ourselves a cruise line,” said Andrea Corman, guest services director for Voyages to Antiquities. “We’re a destination company with a strong educational bent and we try to eliminate bus tours and bring the people directly to the destination.”
An increasing number of travelers have been scheduling their own ocean/river cruise combinations even though that has meant that they have to pack and repack at least a couple of times. Noting the trend, more cruise lines that have the right kind of hardware are combining ocean and river cruises into the same itineraries.
Seabourn, for instance, is sending the Quest into the Amazon for river cruising in combination with Caribbean and South American coastal cruises. In addition to visiting important ports on the Amazon River — Parintins, a repository of information on the human history of the river and Santarem, a haven for local markets — the Quest explores the Cura Una in Brazil, a tributary of the Amazon where local people live in homes from thatched huts to brick houses.
The Quest also sails up the Neva River at St. Petersburg to dock at the English Embankment, within walking distance of the Hermitage and other major attractions. She cruises into the Seine to dock at Rouen and into the Gironde estuary to Bordeaux. Seabourn’s Sojourn and Odyssey will both be navigating the Ayerwaddy (Irrawaddy) River in Myanmar to the port of Thilawa for three-day stays at Yangon. Legend and Sojourn also cruise up the Saigon River to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Silversea Cruises also offers a number of ocean/river combination cruises. These include Silver Whisper’s 17-day roundtrip Bridgetown, Barbados cruise. The cruise goes into the Amazon to call in Sanarem at the mouth of the river, calls at the remove Amazon village of Boca Da Valeria, and visits Anavihanas, a strangely Venetian-looking village in the midst of the jungle.
On Silversea’s 10- and 11-day New England/Canada cruises out of Boston and Montreal guests sail both the Atlantic and the Saguenay River. An 11-day Silver Cloud cruise from Stockholm to London sails the Baltic and the Thames.
Viking Cruises could soon join the lines offering ocean/river cruise itineraries, possibly with a new twist. Starting in 2015, Viking will have both river and seagoing ships in its fleet and could combine ocean/river cruising on two different vessels.