We told you what life is like on one of the first ocean voyages last week. But what’s happening on the rivers of Europe?
A number of lines like German A-Rosa have made a slow and tentative start, resuming operations at the beginning of July.
Other major lines intend to start later this year, with Avalon Waterways, Scenic and Viking offering sailings from October through to December.
While AmaWaterways with APT have suspended their operations in Europe, Africa and Asia till 30 September, the line has thought of an ingenious way for cruises to get back on the rivers.
Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways said the line has forfed a partnership with a German tour operator which has chartered the AmaKristina along the Rhine River.
“Germany is very strong because Germans love to travel and since they’re restricted in where they can go worldwide, many of them are staying within Germany,” said Rudi Schreiner, the line’s president.
“The big resorts are all pretty much booked up for the summer,” and AmaKristina’s sailings have been very successful.
Ms Karst said that the chartered sailings in the COVID-19 era gives the line an insight to what to expect when AmaWaterways restarts its operations.
One of the key things is that all crew members wear masks, and guests moving through public spaces also must wear the protective gear.
Ms Karst reported that guests have been “cooperative and respectful” and the crew have found new and inventive ways to connect and communicate through body language.
In the dining room and lounge, guests are allowed, once seated, to go mask-less. Guests can also order room service for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And since most of the staterooms and suites have private exterior balconies, guests can dine al-fresco.
Before the cruise, every guest must fill out a health questionnaire and get their temperature tested. Luggage is sanitised before the crew deliver the pieces to each stateroom and suite. Every morning before breakfast, every passenger will also have their temperature checked.
The line has also installed a plexiglass throughout the ship to protect the staff. You’ll find the shields around the hotel manager’s desk, the purser’s desk and other spaces.
The line has also suspended live performances of singers in the lounge. Once the line begins sailing, it will also limit the number of passengers of guests based on the latest and safety guidelines. Shore excursions will also have a limited number of people allowing for social distancing.
AmaWaterways is also offering transfers for cruisers when they purchase their flight through the line. People who are travelling in a couple, solo traveller friends or family members, will be transported in private vehicles that holds 30 people.
“We’re really having a wonderful booking period for 2021 and 2022,” said Mr Schreiner. The line opened 2022 sailings a bit earlier than normal.
“June was actually the strongest month ever for booking the next year,” he said. Not only were guests rebooking cruises, but new groups and charters have itineraries planned for the next two years.
“I think the interest is going to be on the small cruising environment,” Mr Schreiner said. He told reporters that river cruising is within a country (not coming from international waters into the destination), people are close to shore so “you can get off right away” as the vessel is traveling in local waters, and “it is a safe environment.”
Ms Karst added that high end customers were looking for less crowded destinations. She said there are strong booking numbers for the Lower Danube, particularly voyages through Romania and Bulgaria.
“Luxury travellers are looking for trips to less crowded destinations and opportunities to be closer to nature, to be surrounded by fresh air,” she said.
“They were not so much in the spotlight in the past. But that region is experiencing some very, very strong booking trends” for those itineraries.