All Leisure Holidays is investing more than £35 million in its ocean and river cruise brands and has revealed plans for two new ships next year.
The investment is being spread across the ship’s three cruiselines – Voyages of Discovery, Swan Hellenic and Hebridean Island Cruises, which will enter the river cruise market for the first time.
The investment in the operator’s ships will include major upgrades of cabins and onboard facilities and create 25 new jobs.
The company’s Alexander von Humboldt cruise ship, which it bought in November 2009, is being renamed Voyager and will become Voyages of Discovery’s second ship alongside Discovery when it starts sailing in November 2012.
In addition, the company’s Hebridean Island Cruises brand is chartering a river cruise ship Royal Crown, from Dutch river cruise company Crown, for four itineraries in 2012.
All Leisure Holidays executive chairman Roger Allard said: “We need to plan for the future and customers will migrate to us because they want a better experience. It’s pointless whinging about the market, we have to move forward and plan for a better product to attract new customers.”
More than £10 million is being spent on Swan Hellenic’s flagship cruiseship Minerva, which has had its lease extended by eight years to 2021. It will go into dry dock for a refurbishment in November and be back in service in March 2012.
The refurbishment will see six cabins removed to free up extra space, giving the ship a total of 181 cabins. Of these, 32 cabins will have balconies added, bringing the total with balconies to 44.
All cabins will be upgraded with new ensuite bathroom facilities. Public areas of the ship will also be upgraded to include a new observation lounge, expanded Shackleton’s Bar, new internet lounge and walk-round promenade deck.
Swan Hellenic managing director Colin Stone said: “We don’t want to change what we offer, just improve it. The plan is to utilise the ship better.
“Most importantly 23% of cabins will now have balconies. It’s an area of the business that’s important to us and has been missing for a few years.”
Voyages of Discovery’s new Voyager ship is smaller than its existing ship Discovery, with capacity for 550 passengers in 278 cabins; 35 are suites and of these 30 have balconies.
This follows investment of more than £23 million to date on new balcony cabins and public areas, with more upgrades yet to be announced.
It will offer flexible, less formal dining options, also planned for Discovery for 2013, and aims to attract a younger market of 45 to 55 year olds as well as giving existing customers a new product to experience.
Managing director Alan Murray said: “We will continue with the same ethos but the big difference will be that this is a modern ship and we can offer open dining which has been an issue on Discovery. I personally believe it will give us the opportunity to lower the age range and appeal to a younger market.”
Voyager’s inaugural cruise to Istanbul out of Portsmouth will be in November 2012 when Discovery is in dry dock for a three- month refurbishment of decks, cabins and furnishings until spring 2013.
It will then move to the Caribbean before offering itineraries in central and south America. Prices will lead in from £1,399 for a two week cruise including a longhaul flight.
Hebridean Island Cruises’ new 42-cabin river cruise ship Royal Crown will offer four itineraries on the Rhine and the Danube in the spring and autumn of 2012.
Like the company’s other ships, prices will include all excursions, gratuities, and guest speakers. Prices start from £2,995.
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