Myanmar and China’s Three Gorges are the top two Asian itineraries for well-heeled Australians looking to venture into waters closer to home, says Sujata Raman, boss of luxury travel operator Abercrombie & Kent.
Japan is the third most popular cruise destination when A&K periodically charters ships from French line Ponant for its guests.
“What A&K offers is the luxury experience, an all-inclusive package which takes care of the food, alcohol, gratuity and land excursions. We travel in small groups so that everyone will have easy access to local tour guides. It is a unique introduction to fascinating destinations accompanied by our own expedition crew,’’ she says in an interview with Cruise Passenger.
“Whether we are organising holidays to the Antarctica or Japan, we take over the whole ship for A&K guests. For instance, on our cruise to the Antarctica, we only sell the outside cabins with balconies. The ship is not filled to capacity as guests prefer to enjoy the amazing sights from the privacy of their balconies.
“When we charter a Ponant ship for our cruise to the Northern Lights in mid next year, the itinerary is already sold out as such journeys are limited and we have a small window in August to run the cruises. Americans and Australians are the two biggest markets.
“For the Polar expeditions, Australians only make up 20 per cent of our total numbers.’’
Cruise make up a significant 30 per cent of A&K’s travel business. It forms an integral of its land itineraries which often include several cities and popular tourist destinations pre and post cruise.
When luxury sister company Sanctuary Retreats first built its river ship Sanctuary Ananda to ply the Irrawaddy from Bagan to Mandalay three years ago, river cruising in Myanmar was still undiscovered.
With the easing of travel restrictions and the opening of the country to foreign visitors, business is fast picking up.
Many Australians are also choosing to experience the Three Gorges on the Yangzi, the third longest river in the world. A&K offers three-night cruises on Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer which only accommodates 124 passengers. The cruise forms part of a bigger holiday package which also includes land itineraries to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xian. For many Australians, cruising the mighty Yangzi to experience the Three Gorges’ amazing landscape is a tick on their travel bucket list.