River cruising and smaller ships expected to make waves in 2008

    BURNABY, BC, Jan. 28 /CNW/ - B.C. vacationers who choose to cruise are
also choosing smaller ships, river cruises and more out-of-the way
destinations in 2008. That's the finding of a recent survey of BCAA travel
experts, who say many of their customers still want to cruise, but are looking
for something other than the big-ship-with-fancy-amenities experience.
    "The cruise market is largely made up of baby boomers who are experienced
travellers and are now looking for different destinations and more intimate
ways of cruising," says BCAA's Director of Travel Services, Dale Urquhart.
"They're seeking itineraries with an adventurous edge that takes them to
less-travelled regions and smaller port cities. The focus is now shifting back
to what it was 20 years ago - the destination."
    The survey group - which included 103 BCAA Member Travel Counsellors,
North American Travel Specialists, Travel Consultants and Travel Services'
staff - collectively observed increased inquiries and bookings for the
following types of cruises:

    River cruises. The popularity of river cruising has swelled in the past
five years, expanding from the Rhine to encompass other major European
arteries such as the Danube, Elbe and Seine. Farther afield, river cruises are
being offered on the Volga in Russia, the Yangtze in China and the Mekong in
South-East Asia.
    Hosting 150-200 passengers, river cruises offer ports of calls that are
inaccessible to larger ships, taking travellers away from the crowds and right
into the heart of the destination. Some providers also include their daily
excursions in the overall price, making it great value both on and off-board.
Those prone to sea-sickness are also purposely choosing river cruising over
ocean-bound destinations and disabled passengers can move around with the
support of elevators.

    Cruises to exotic, far-flung destinations. New ports are emerging all
over the world from Australia and Africa to Asia and South America, giving
cruise passengers access to waters they haven't had the opportunity to visit
before. Many cruise lines are being pressured to look for alternate ports as
the sheer numbers of new ships are overwhelming some existing ports.
    Princess and Holland America have become established leaders in charting
new waters. For instance, Princess ships will visit 12 new ports during the
2008-09 season, eight of them in Europe.
    Shore excursions are also changing in response to large numbers of active
and curious generations entering the cruise market. In addition to city
sightseeing tours, cruise lines are offering more adventurous and unique
on-shore experiences such as rafting in Alaska or wine touring in France.

    Cruises with smaller ships. More and more experienced cruisers are
demanding smaller, intimate armadas to escape the crowds and benefit from more
attentive service. Advocates say ships hosting a maximum of 600 passengers are
easier to get around and better for getting to know staff and fellow
passengers. Cruise lines such as Oceania, Princess and Celebrity's "Azamara"
line have expanded their fleet to cater for this niche market and are selling
particularly well - some are booked out up to eight months in advance.
    Urquhart is confident that 2008 will be one of the most popular years yet
for cruising. "The year has just begun and most lines are already at
70 per cent capacity," says Urquhart. "Customers naturally gravitate towards
cruises because they remain excellent value, particularly with the strong
Canadian dollar and the price advantages offered by booking in U.S dollars."

    About BCAA Travel: BCAA Travel is one of the largest travel agencies in
B.C. and boasts the most qualified travel professionals in the industry. All
BCAA travel consultants are required to be certified members of the Canadian
Institute of Travel Counsellors, the highest level of professional achievement
in the Canadian travel industry. BCAA backs its travel advice with the
Anytime, Anywhere Travel Guarantee. BCAA also offers travel planning tools
such as TripTik(R) routing maps & TourBook(R) guides.

For further information:

For further information: Jennifer Timm, Advisor, BCAA Media Relations,
(604) 268-5342, jennifer.timm@bcaa.com; Dale Urquhart, Director, Travel
Services, (604) 268-5073, dale.urquhart@bcaa.com

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