Voyager joins Discovery and Hebridean takes to the rivers

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Voyager.jpgRoger Allard, executive chairman of All Leisure Holidays, must have been cursing accountants Grant Thornton this morning. Nothing to do with money, but they deprived him of one of the best views in London.
Roger, whose company is the biggest British-owned cruise operator with Voyages of Discovery, Swan Hellenic and Hebridean Island Cruises under its wing, had booked a 12th-floor room overlooking Tower Bridge for a press conference.
He proudly showed pictures of luxury cruise ship Hebridean Princess, and new acquisition Alexander von Humboldt both passing under the raised bascules of the bridge, but the view we had out of our window at the Tower Hotel was of the still waters of St Katherine’s Dock rather than the River Thames because the accountants had block booked most of the hotel for a seminar..
No matter, for All Leisure’s announcements will now be sending ripples around the waters of the cruise industry.
The biggest news was what is planned for the Alexander von Humboldt, which the company has owned since 2009, but which has been chartered out to German tour operator Phoenix Reisen.
After an extensive dry-dock and a £23 million investment, the 15,300-ton vessel will emerge as the mv Voyager (above), joining the slightly larger Discovery in the Voyages of Discovery fleet.
Carrying 550 passengers in 278 cabins, 30 of them with balconies, the ship – originally built in 1990 – will have open-sitting dining in two restaurants and a separate grill room. All part of what managing director Alan Murray described as “large ship facilities with small ship convenience.”
The 40-year-old Discovery, which he admitted was in need of some TLC, will also be going into dry-dock for three months from next November to have a makeover which will include re-laying teak decks, upgrading en suite bathrooms and replacing furniture.
The company is also looking at ways to change the operation of the vessel in order to be able to “upgrade the dining experience” which basically means offering an alternative to fixed sittings.
“We are not fun ships and never will be; we’re not interested in surfboards and climbing walls and kids running round the ship, but we are looking to lower the age range of passengers to attract 45-55-year-olds,” said Murray.
There was more news from sister brand Swan Hellenic, which is to spend £10 million on its 350-passenger ship Minerva which is to get a new observation lounge, an extended Shackleton’s bar and an extended aft sun-deck during a refit in Hamburg this winter.
When the ship returns to service in March next year it will also have improved propulsion, a replacement bow thruster and a new stern thruster to improve manoeuvrability and efficiency.
Allard and his team had one more surprise up their sleeves: Hebridean Island Cruises, which operate the luxurious floating country-house hotel which The Queen has twice chartered for family holidays in the Western Isles of Scotland, is to dip its toe in the river cruise market.
A Dutch vessel, Royal Crown (below), has been chartered for two seven-night cruises on the Rhine and two on the Danube in spring and autumn 2012. Managing director Colin Stone believes the 79-passenger vessel, with its 1930s Art Deco interiors, will meet the expectations of Hebridean Princess passengers who are prepared to pay for extra luxury.
The two chief pursers from Princess will take turns on Royal Crown to ensure the proper standards are maintained, and passengers who prefer not to fly will be able to travel to the ship by train from the UK.
Quite a collection of announcements in all, and a vote of confidence in the continued growth in cruising for passengers who want enrichment from their destination-led cruises, rather than thinking of the ship as a destination in itself.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:02+00:00 1 September 2011|Cruise News, Cruise Ships|0 Comments

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John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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