Virgin Fires The Cruise Director – Other Cruise News: Arena River Cruises – New Ships For APT River Cruises

by Kevin Griffin

According to Wikipedia, a cruise director is “a high-ranking or senior officer of a cruise ship with responsibility for all onboard hospitality, entertainment and social events, who acts as the public face of the company.” As far as can be determined, the first cruise directors seem to have appeared about a century ago on American banana boats. As the number of passengers carried rose from 12 to 30 to 60 and eventually to 120, the fruit companies had found that they needed to introduce more diversions to distract their paying passengers from being bored at sea. Elsewhere this week, we look at changes at Arena River Cruises and APT River Cruises.


Virgin Fires The Cruise Director

Recently delivered by Fincantieri in Genoa, the £550 million Scarlet Lady is the first of four ships being built by Fincantieri for Sir Richard Branson’s new fleet of contemporary cruise ships. One of the new ships will join Virgin Voyages each year for the next four years.

There are a number of elements that separate Virgin Voyages from competitor cruise lines, the first of which is that they will be adult-only and devoid of childish and juvenile entertainments.

Scarlet Lady | Fincantieri for Virgin Voyages | The colour of passion

Meanwhile, to those of us who grew up travelling on ocean liners the cruise director had always seemed a rather superfluous, loud and unnecessary fellow. So we welcome the word coming from Virgin that they are axing the position.

Virgin is also getting rid of the awful shopping mall-style buffets that have grown like topsy on all sizes of cruise ship since the 1970s.

They will be replaced by a choice of twenty or so restaurants and food outlets, featuring made-to-order dishes, a move which Virgin believes will also help cut down food wastage.

Virgin Voyages' cabin at night (Courtesy Virgin Voyages)

Virgin Voyages’ cabin at night (Courtesy Virgin Voyages)

With the idea that Virgin’s clients will want fresher and different excursions and experiences Virgin has announced that it is creating its own beach club in Bimini in the Bahamas.

Meanwhile, the Port of Dover last week celebrated the arrival of the Scarlet Lady with a fireworks display and again on Sunday as she departed for Liverpool. The vessel spent two days at Liverpool before heading across the Atlantic for a star-studded reception in New York and then on to Miami where she will based. She will make her inaugural passenger voyages around the Caribbean in April.

The Dock by Roman & Williams - Athletic Club by Concrete Amsterdam (Courtesy Virgin Voyages)

The Dock by Roman & Williams – Athletic Club by Concrete Amsterdam (Courtesy Virgin Voyages)

Routes on offer include a 5-day sailing to Costa Maya in Mexico, Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, and another quick getaway to Key West and Bahamas. Prices start from £800. The Scarlet Lady is the first ship to be purpose-built for short cruises out o Miami since the 1,600-berth Nordic Empress in 1990.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said: “I have dreamed of starting my own cruise line since I was in my 20s and I’m thrilled that moment has arrived. The Scarlet Lady is truly special and we’ve worked with some of the world’s most sought-after designers, artists and architects to craft an extraordinary experience. The benefit of our five decades in business in so many industries is that we can offer a voyage like no other.”

As for eating and drinking, Scarlet Lady features more than twenty restaurants and bars. Wake will specialise in steak and seafood; Razzle Dazzle in vegetarian fare with a juice bar; The Test Kitchen will be part cooking school and part restaurant; Dock will be a beach club-inspired area offering Mediterranean dishes; and Gunbae, a do-it-yourself Korean BBQ with communal tables to encourage interaction. No charge will be made at any of the ship’s restaurants.


Arena River Cruises

Arena River Cruises, formerly The River Cruise Line, has rejoined the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) as it looks to develop and build relationships with travel agents.

CLIA UK & Ireland director, Andy Harmer said: “We are delighted to welcome Arena River Cruises back as a member of CLIA. Following the company’s rebrand and new website, this is an ideal time for Arena River Cruises to be able to engage with CLIA travel agents.”

The 190-berth Serenity - The River Cruise Line

The 190-berth Serenity – The River Cruise Line

The River Cruise Line has been rebranded as Arena River Cruises ahead of the 2020 cruise season.

It comes as the company prepares to launch the latest addition to its river cruising fleet, the m.s. Arena, a four-star ship on an exclusive long term charter, which has undergone a refurbishment and will be formally introduced in Amsterdam on 31 March.

Arena River Cruises managing director, Steve Goodenough added: “We’re very pleased to have re-joined CLIA and look forward to showcasing the new brand, as well as our new ship the m.s. Arena, over the coming months.”

Accompanying the rebranding is the launch of the cruise line’s new website linked to the wider portfolio of Arena Travel brands, including escorted holidays by rail, craft and bridge playing holidays, art history tours and other special interests. The new website has been promised with a dedicated online booking portal for agents.

New Ships For APT River Cruises

Australian-based APT has unveiled details about two new river ships and new itineraries, to debut in 2021.

The “Contemporary” class ships Capella and Vega will operate under the Travelmarvel brand and will cruise along the Rhine, Main and Danube, operating on APT’s Essential European Gems and new Balkans itineraries. Prices for the 15-day European Gems itinerary will start from £1,995 per person, departing March 15, 2021.

The ships will join the Travelmarvel Polaris, which sails its inaugural in April 2020.

AmaWaterways' AmaMagna at Vilshofen an der Donau, Germany (Courtesy AmaWaterways)

AmaWaterways’ AmaMagna at Vilshofen an der Donau, Germany (Courtesy AmaWaterways)

Capella and Vega will feature a more casual dining and social area, McGeary’s Bar, serving pub-style meals. In addition, guests will be able to enjoy a drink at the rooftop bar, unwind in the terrace garden, or experience a heated whirlpool.

The main restaurant and True North Lounge will feature floor to-ceiling panoramic windows, and guests will also be able to make use of on-board gym, putting green, walking track and bicycles.

APT has introduced four more river cruises along the Danube, including one 8-day cruise on AmaMagna and three Essential Best of the Balkans trips. Prices for the 15-day Best of the Balkans Essential cruise start from £2,595 pp, departing April 12, 2021, while the eight-day itineraries start from £1,795 pp.

In addition, APT is offering two shorter itineraries between Amsterdam and Nuremberg, with the new Highlights of the Rhine & Main, as well as a lower Danube itinerary from Budapest to Nuremberg with the Danube Discovery, which features the exclusive Grand Empress steam train Signature Experience.

Prices for the eight-day Highlights of the Rhine & Main start from £1,795 pp, twin share, departing March 31, 2021 and for the nine-day Danube Discovery prices start from £1,945 pp, twin share, departing April6, 2021.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of The Cruise People Ltd and a director of specialist cruise operator Culture Cruises Ltd, both of London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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