Tuesday 4 August 2009

Forget Global Warming, now it's Economic Climate Change

With economic indicators starting to look slightly more positive, adventure cruise operators are hoping passenger numbers return to pre-GFC levels.

Orion Expedition Cruises MD, Sarina Bratton, reminds us she is still on the look out for Orion II to take the company further afield to Asia and the Pacific Islands while North Star Cruises have scheduled a return to West Papua in 2010 as well as a 10-night first timer to the Solomon Islands en route to Sydney for their annual stay in the harbour city.

Meanwhile some operators have found the last few weeks particularly testing.

The classic sailing ship, Soren Larsen, was struck by a rogue wave en route to the Cook Islands and is back in NZ for repairs, while the new luxury Amazon River cruiser, Aqua, was boarded by armed bandits (twice!) who robbed passengers and crew.

Fortunately there were no significant injuries in either case and Aqua at least is sailing again at near capacity.
Amanresorts announced the debut of Amanikan, a custom-built 105-foot coastal cruiser built in the style of traditional wooden Indonesian vessels known as Phinisi. This vessel will form part of the uber-luxe company's new 7-night Komodo Expedition which includes diving and an exclusive resort stay for a trifling \$US22k per couple.

Aussie favourites, Aurora, with new CEO, Lisa Bolton at the helm, are doing a refit of itineraries. Exciting news is their partnering with Coral Princess Cruises for PNG as well as Kimberley from 2010 and a reaffirmation of itineraries in the Russian Far East.

Logistics for deep Antarctica are still a sticking point and I'm told an announcement is due this week which will clarify some issues.

The stalwart Akademik Ioffe was made surplus by Quark Expeditions and gleefully snapped up by ONE OCEAN for their 2010 Antarctic program who promise to lift the bar with adventure options including kayaking, camping, hiking and Zodiac cruises.

The Canadian company is represented in Australia by Active Travel of Canberra. Active Travel, who also represent a wide range of river vessels and destinations, tell me there's a real battle brewing for bragging rights on the Mekong.

Heritage Cruise Lines has pushed back the launch of their brand new, The Jayavarman, to November and as indicated previously, Pandaw are not going down without a fight with expanded river itineraries as far afield as Borneo.

Other snippets include the deployment of Prince Rainier's private yacht, now refurbished and renamed M/Y Grace, to the Galapagos as well as Lindblad's announcement of Neil Armstrong joining their Nov.15 departure to Antarctica aboard the National Geographic Explorer.

UK-based travel giant, TUI Travel PLC acquired adventure cruise and tour company Zegrahm Expeditions and its sister company, Eco-Expeditions to add to Quark and Peregrine. The company now owns over 200 travel and leisure brands.

The next few weeks will reveal even more developments as adventure cruise operators rise to the challenges of the new economic climate.

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