The Avalon Visionary chirstening // © 2012 Avalon Waterways
Onboard the new Avalon Visionary, managing director Patrick Clark discussed the line’s five new itineraries available in 2013, including one through northern Holland which was sampled during the inaugural cruise.
“Our choice cruise options will now include more journeys through northern Holland, Austria, Central Europe and Germany,” said Clark, “along with northern France on a new Culinary Cruise.”
The new eight-day Tulips of Northern Holland vacation, priced from $2,449, includes some of the most charming towns in Europe, with ample time to explore the cobbled streets and shops and to look into the beautifully kept gardens and houses that line them. Operating roundtrip from Amsterdam, the route moves from the tulip fields to the northern region of Friesland, with its own language and traditions. Guests sail across the Ijsselmeer and take a walking tour of the small town of Hoorn. They visit the ZuiderZee Museum in Enkhuizen, the Batavia shipyard in Lelystad and a windmill outside the fishing village of Volendam, with even more excursion choices in Arnhem and Rotterdam.
Tell your clients the not-to-be-missed one is the Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker, the Netherlands, an amazing achievement by a brilliant mathematician who worked as a wool comber. He created a suspended model of the solar system in his living room, accurate to this day, showing the relative orbits and speeds of all the planets, phases of the moon, rising and setting of the sun, all run with a handmade gear mechanism that uses wooden hoops and disks with 10,000 nails he forged himself used as teeth.
“Every year, our traditional Tulip Time Cruise sells out,” said Clark. “Now, we’re giving our travelers who love the beauty and history of Holland’s tulips a chance to combine some well-known sights with off-the-beaten-path experiences.”
He said that the company’s theme cruises are selling quickly, and Avalon is expanding the offerings with themes based on wine, music, art, legacy and holiday vacations, plus a new culinary-themed cruise, available on two itineraries for 2013: The 16-day Grand France, departing on Oct. 22 from $4,999 or the shorter segment, the 11-day Paris to Normandy's Landing Beaches departing on Oct. 29 from $2,399.
“On this cruise, travelers will enjoy cider, wine and oil tastings,” said Clark. “They will also visit a calvados distillery and a farm that produces the delicious Pont l’Evêque and Liarot cheeses. In addition, a local chef will prepare for guests a menu of regional specialties while sharing tips for food preparation.”
For the future, Avalon is exploring even more possibilities, including golf cruises, once very popular on Peter Deilmann vessels.
Next year will also bring the new nine-day Austrian Highlights and Bavaria cruise, visiting Vienna, Austria, as well as charming small towns such as Melk, Durnstein and Grein, Austria, before heading into Bavaria. This new route also includes time in Munich and a visit to Oberammergau. Also new in 2013 is the Capitals of Central Europe itinerary from Prague to Budapest, with 10- and 12-day options. In addition, the 13-day Highlights of Germany from Munich to Basel, Switzerland, will visit two of King Ludwig’s most famous castles: Newuschwanstein, the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and Linderhof, plus Nuremberg, Regensburg and UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bamberg and Wurzberg.
Clark said that the average length of Avalon’s current river cruises is about 12 days, with passengers generally in the 50-75 age bracket. On shorter itineraries, the average age drops below 50, and the Australian market tends to be younger. Passengers are about 60 percent women, with 20 percent singles. Fifty-sixty percent come from the U.S., Australians account for 25 percent, and there is a strong U.K. presence. He said groups represent 30 percent of sales, with formerly dormant incentive and meeting business coming back and strong affinity groups.
“This year will be a record year,” he added. “We’re already seeing 25 percent growth over 2011.”