Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! How did your first two weeks of January go? Are you still focused on your New Year’s resolutions? If improving your health and wellness is a priority, I hope you read my newsletter last week for some incredible wellness vacation ideas. Whether you’re thinking about staying in the US or venturing abroad, there are loads of incredible options.
This week, we head to the waters – specifically the rivers and seas. Did you know that there’s an annual event in the travel industry called, “Wave Season?” I love the imagery that comes to mind when I hear the term every January.
However, Wave Season to travel professionals means our busiest time of year. More people book their vacations for the year in January and February than any other time.
Read on for information and inspiration for your next vacation on and near the water…
The lovers and the inexperienced
The origin of the term Wave Season comes from the cruise industry. Each year, most cruise lines offer ‘wave promotions’ that are generous and enticing. This year, although different in many ways, is not different as there are many wave promotions available through the end of February.
Contrary to what you might think, the cruise industry is not down and out but on an extended pause. The pause is allowing them to improve and innovate, which is a massive silver lining. The Healthy Sail Panel will be instrumental in making sweeping changes industry-wide, so I feel very optimistic. Also, there are 15 cruise ships making their debut in 2021 as well as the brand-new ocean cruise lines – Virgin Voyages and Atlas Ocean Voyages.
When speaking to people about cruises, I find there are two points of view on cruising – the lovers and the inexperienced. I was the inexperienced camp before I cruised for the first time. The inexperienced people usually don’t know about the breadth of options.
Instead of the term “cruise” I prefer to say, “vacation on and near the water.” Vacations on and near the water aren’t for everyone but they are for many. As I’ve said in past newsletters, I’m picky about these types of vacations but absolutely love certain types of cruises.
Note – cruiser lovers and brand loyalists have been supporting furloughed crew through private Facebook group donations. Stories are shared about crew members who are losing their homes and struggling to feed their families.
Types of vacations on and near the water
This section could be covered in a dozen newsletters, but here I’ll give you a broad-brush idea of what options are available. Note that my clients enjoy valuable Virtuoso perks and amenities on many sailings:
Ocean – The options for ocean cruises are vast and complicated. There are so many choices including ship size (mega, large, medium, small), costs (low entry price to all-inclusive), and quality (mass-market, premium, and luxury). An informed travel advisor like me will help you find your best option for your desired itinerary and budget. Some of the questions I ask my clients are pertain to the desired itinerary, vibe, dining and activity interests, and ages of the passengers.
River – River cruises offer amazing travel experiences and are essentially floating boutique hotels that are never far from shore! European rivers like the Danube are the most popular, but you can also river cruise down the Nile in Egypt or Mekong in Asia. My favorite river cruise company is AmaWaterways because they are family owned, offer an incredible value, and are extremely focused on their guest experience.
Expedition – If you’re looking for a small ship experience (approximately 100 guests) that’s all about the educational aspect of the destination, an expedition cruise is for you. Think the Galapagos Islands, Alaska, and Antarctica. Because of its relationship with National Geographic and the science community, Lindblad Expeditions is an excellent option for families and couples who want to deep dive into a destination.
Yacht – “It’s yachting, not cruising” is the tag line of SeaDream (above image), a high quality, personalized charter yacht company. Post-pandemic, this option is becoming increasingly popular especially if you have a large family, friend group, and/or celebration vacation coming up. Check out these videos: https://seadream.com/about/videos/
Note – Greek cruise line Celestyal Cruises does an amazing job serving as your home base as you hop the Greek Islands. No, it’s not luxury but an excellent value especially now during wave season! Also, it’s a fantastic option for foodies with their relationship with Diane Kochilas of the popular TV show, “My Greek Table.”
Key benefits to taking a cruise
What I appreciate most about a vacation on and near the water is the convenience of unpacking once and the ability to experience multiple destinations in one trip. For example, the Mediterranean cruise that I postponed to later this year on Silversea will take me to amazing European destinations in Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and Italy. Epic!
A cruise gives you a taste of the port area. When in port, you can opt for a guided tour (group or private) or tour on your own. Personally, I’m a fan of a small group tour arranged through a quality tour company or DMC (local destination specialist). I work with some fantastic tour companies. If you absolutely love a port, add it to your Wanderlist for a future, in-depth vacation. More on Wanderlist here: https://hiddengemtravelconsulting.com/inspiration/.
Another benefit to a cruise is the social aspect. It’s fun to meet and get to know other guests and the staff. I’ve met some fascinating people from all over the world while cruising, and it greatly enhances my experience and fond memories. Some people meet and make lifelong friends while on cruises. Also, if you’re a solo vacationer, I highly recommend looking into cruising as you can meet other solos of all ages through organized events.
Note – a cruise vacation can be teen nirvana due to the wide variety of onboard activities. With FlowRiders (simulated surfing), Skyrides, ziplining, etc., the entertainment available on some ships is mind-boggling!
Two new cruise lines debuting in 2021
I’m excited about Atlas Ocean Voyages and Virgin Voyages debut in 2021 (when TBD due to the pandemic). These two new cruise lines are adult-focused so ideal for a couples or adult friends’ vacation or celebration.
Atlas Ocean Voyages is a small ship, luxury ocean cruise line that’s all-inclusive including your air. I believe they will be highly successful. Coined “luxe-adventure”, Atlas is designed for people who are destination-focused and want an upscale experience without the crowds. Even better, Atlas will specialize in off-the-beaten path, bucket list destinations (aka hidden gems). Raising my hand here 😊 Read more = https://robbreport.com/motors/marine/exclusive-cruise-ship-spa-deck-1234590174/. For wave season, they’re offering a 50% reduction in deposits, land credits, and other awesome upgrades.
Virgin Voyages is the newest Virgin Group enterprise that is designed for fun-loving adults. It’s a hip, modern take on a cruise vacation with a focus on diverse entertainment and nightlife, robust wellness options, and high quality, modern cuisine. If you have a milestone birthday or anniversary coming up, group of friends in your bubble, or hobby-based group, a Virgin Voyage is a fantastic option. Until February 9th, you can get 10% off, up at a $400 onboard credit, and more generous perks. Book before March 31st for any 2021 sailing, and you can cancel up to 48 hours before the voyage date and receive a full future voyage credit. Nothing to lose and all the fun to gain.
If you’re interested in learning more about these two new options, reach out to me. There are perks as a Virtuoso client that you won’t want to miss out on.
Inspired? Are you ready to learn more about a future vacation on and near the water? If so, here’s the direct link to my calendar to schedule a chat: https://calendly.com/hiddengemtravelconsulting/45min
💎 Hidden Gem Tip: If it seems too good to be true, there’s probably a catch. Deal chasing and booking online is always risky with travel, cruising included. I am here to help you find the best value for your vacation which is why I take a customized approach with all my clients. In the new normal for travel, having a trusted travel advisor is more important than ever before. Even for people who love to do their own research and planning, having the support of a TA is invaluable. We take care of and advocate for our clients and also have leverage when it’s needed!
Wishing you and your family continued good health,