River and ocean lines are gradually restarting operations after 18 months
Riviera Travel has completed its first river cruises in 18 months with two eight-day sailings to Porto and Salamanca.
A total of 120 passengers were on board for the voyages, which featured excursions to a Porto vineyard and the old city of Salamanca, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as guided tours of local landmarks, including Castelo Rodrigo and Mateus Palace gardens.
Riviera will now operate a series of river cruises across Europe until early November.
Katja Hildebrandt, head of product river & ocean cruise at Riviera Travel, said: “Our Douro cruises were the perfect first sailings back, as our guests really did feel they were away from it all as they visited some of Iberia’s most beautiful towns, gardens and vineyards.
“We can’t wait to welcome more people back on board, as our European river cruises return to some of the most beautiful destinations along the likes of the Seine, Rhone and Danube.”
Cruise passenger Sally Harper said: “The organisation that Riviera have put into this has been absolutely second to none; I can’t fault it. This is the second trip we’ve done with Riviera, the first one was Croatia, but this is the first river cruise I’ve ever done and it’s gone beyond my expectations.
“The river is spectacular. Everybody told us to expect a beautiful river and this has just blown me away. The food is great and the staff are so friendly, everywhere is so immaculately clean. We’ve felt really safe and secure at all times.”
Emerald Cruises resumed sailings on the Douro on July 31, while Emerald Destiny is due to set sail from Nuremberg on September 6 for the eight-day Danube Delights river cruise.
Oceania Cruises has also resumed sailing, with Marina becoming the first ship to welcome guests back on board after a pause of 524 days. It was also the first cruise ship to sail from the port of Copenhagen since 2019.
Princess Cruises’ ship Sky Princess became the third in its fleet to resume sailings – after starting a series of UK domestic sailings from Southampton. Crystal River Cruises has also resumed sailing in Europe.
Fred Olsen became the first UK cruise line to complete an international voyage since the resumption of cruising in the UK. Borealis, one of the line’s new vessels, returned to the UK from Iceland with around 800 guests on board.
We chat to Arvind Bundhun, director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority
ABTA Magazine: What are you focusing on within tourism at the moment?
Arvind Bundhun: In line with our sustainable island strategy, Mauritius has a green-focused tourism approach in place to promote the interior of the island, including outdoors soft adventure activities and sports such as golf. We expect to see an increasing demand for wilderness exploration and getting back to nature, so we will further pursue this angle in our marketing and consumer approach. We believe that our wide open spaces, national parks and outdoor activity offerings provide the perfect post-lockdown remedy.
Responsible tourism will be a key focus as travellers have a heightened sense of awareness around preserving both the environment and the local culture for future generations. Our Mauritius Unwavering campaign recognised the importance of nature, and our current Mauritius Now campaign gives recognition to our locals and their talents. Mauritius Now portrays an authentic tourism message that includes ‘live like a local’ activities, thus enabling immersive experiences and allowing visitors to give back to our communities.
Mauritius has a fantastic array of ‘beyond the beach’ experiences which support local businesses and venture deeper into the local life of the island. These experiences are perfectly aligned with travellers who have been re-discovering themselves during the lockdown and are interested in learning a new skill and travelling more slowly to fully immerse themselves in the life of a destination.
What should agents and travellers be aware of when planning a trip to Mauritius over the next 12 months?
Mauritius is an island known for its stunning beaches, wealth of nature and wildlife and diverse range of class-leading hotel resorts. Over the next 12 months the destination will continue to offer a wide range of experiences appealing to all audience demographics and ages, including couples finally taking their overseas honeymoon, solo travellers seeking a serene wellness retreat and multi-generational families looking to reconnect with one another. With a wide range of outdoors experiences, including hiking, water sports and high adrenaline activities, it is a great place for sportspeople, being particularly popular with golfers.
We can see there is a great desire to travel again, and Mauritius is the perfect destination to visit once restrictions ease. It is a destination known for its high levels of service and quality, so is well-placed to provide British travellers with what they’re looking for in holiday after a challenging time. Mauritius has always been known for its safety and security, so visitors can rest assured that hygiene and health will be the utmost priority on a trip to the island. The UK is one of our most important and valued markets and we are greatly looking forward to working with the UK trade to invite holidaymakers back to our island with a warm welcome.
What safety measures are in place in relation to Covid?
The country’s response to the pandemic has ranked among one of the best in the world. Due to the precautionary measures put in place by our government, we have been successful in containing the spread of the virus. The acceleration of the country’s vaccination campaign and the progress made towards herd immunity by the end of September has enabled a prompt and safe restart of the Mauritius tourism industry. Tourism employees were prioritised during the vaccine rollout, including hotel employees, Air Mauritius staff, airport staff and other frontline tourism workers.
The local community really banded together to respect the rules, follow guidelines and forward plans for the destination to reopen and we are very proud of how we have, and continue to, overcome this challenging period in our history.
What’s new on the island?
The highly anticipated five-star LUX* Grand Baie Resort & Residences will open on November 1, unveiling a new generation of boutique-style resort in the north of Mauritius, known for its lively beachside cafes, bars and artisanal local crafts. The property will become the flagship for LUX* Resorts & Hotels and the brand’s first greenfield project in Mauritius. We’re also looking forward to welcoming the new four-star adults-only Sunrise Attitude to Belle Mare on the preserved east coast of the island in October 2021.
On the aviation front, Air Mauritius will resume direct flights from London Heathrow to Mauritius from October 2, and British Airways currently offers multiple direct flights each week from London Gatwick.
What are your plans for trade engagement?
Communication with the UK travel trade is key, and we have been engaging closely with the trade through our online strategy over the past year. We are currently confirming plans for our marketing activity to promote travel to Mauritius to UK trade and consumers as we work towards the full reopening of our tourism industry in October. Our trade activity will include joint promotions with key tour operators, educational webinars and incentive promotions on platforms such as Hablo. We invite the trade to sign up to the Mauritius global travel trade community via this link: join.myhablo.com/mauritius