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Cruisers may spend the day climbing around ruins or hiking along jungle trails, but at the end of the day, they want cosseting: public rooms with touches of regional decor, quality dining, fine wines and well-appointed staterooms. As we see luxury lines from Silversea to Seabourn moving into what has traditionally been thought of as expedition cruising, the bar is rising even further both on the seas and on the world’s more remote rivers.
As exotic river cruises are gaining in popularity and as seemingly remote destinations become much more traveled, a discriminating group of passengers coming from European river cruising and luxury expeditions has high expectations. They are being met, both with new vessels and with dramatic refurbishments of boats brought into service as little as five years ago. Most recently, Victoria Cruises brought a drastically renovated Victoria Anna to the Yangtze, while Aqua Expeditions added major enhancements to its first ship, Aqua Amazon.
Victoria Cruises welcomed the Victoria Anna back into its fleet after putting the ship through extensive modifications, including a complete overhaul of its interior. Redesigned publics spaces, new carpeting throughout the ship and updated furnishings in the suites have transformed the vessel, which has sailed at or near capacity since its soft re-launch a couple of months ago.
Victoria Anna’s lobby area, Executive Lounge and Yangtze Club have a new look that is both light and luxurious, and an opulent new Karaoke Lounge has been added. The onboard spa was also redesigned, with a sleek, sophisticated atmosphere.
“Much like our previous renovation projects, the Victoria Anna is an entirely new ship on the interior, maximizing comfort for our passengers and surpassing expectations in terms of ambience,” said Larry Greenman, manager of public relations and customer service.
Victoria Cruises began renovating Victoria Anna last winter, carrying over the motifs used in the redesign of Victoria Lianna, Victoria Selina and Victoria Sophia.
“We’re extremely pleased with the new look and feel of the Victoria Anna, which is now up to speed with the rest of our newly renovated five-star fleet,” said Greenman. “Passenger response to the Victoria Anna has been terrific.”
Meanwhile, on the Amazon, Aqua Expeditions has renovated its first vessel, Aqua Amazon, with extensive interior and technological enhancements. The five-year-old ship has been brought to the same level as the Aria Amazon, which debuted on the Peruvian Amazon in 2011.
The original designer, Peruvian architect Jordi Puig — who designed 10 of Lima’s most exclusive restaurants as well as galleries, shops and homes in Peru, Spain and the U.S. — worked with the company on the redesign as well.
Aqua Amazon’s 12 suites now have elegant new furnishings, updated bathrooms with slate walls and marble floors and new blackout curtains that cover the large panoramic windows. Guests will find that the improvements go far beyond the rooms; communal areas have been updated as well with new furniture, more efficient air conditioning and soundproof flooring.
An enhanced wine list includes four new organic house wines to complement the haute cuisine created by executive chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino
“It is our mission to operate the two finest small ships on the Amazon River, as our discerning guests have the highest expectations of us and we want to ensure that every element of the journey is perfect,” said CEO Galli Zugaro. “We are delighted with the refurbishment project. The enhancements to our design and service allow guests to continue to experience a luxurious and authentic way to explore the Peruvian Amazon.”
The refurbishment of Aqua Amazon anticipates the introduction of a third luxury vessel into Aqua Expeditions’ river fleet next year in a completely different part of the world. Aqua Mekong will operate itineraries in Vietnam and Cambodia, maintaining the water safari experience with the daily excursions that are a hallmark of the line.