AEGEAN ODYSSEYVoyages to Antiquity, the one-ship cruise line that launched in May, will redesign its 2011 itineraries in an attempt to widen its audience to include a younger demographic.

Beginning next year, all Voyages to Antiquity itineraries will be "cruise tours" that offer a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay on top of cruises on the 380-passenger, 1970s-built Aegean Odyssey.

Mitchell Schlesinger, Voyages to Antiquity’s vice president of sales, said the line wants to widen its appeal beyond its bread-and-butter travel audience, the 60-to-80-year-old demographic.

Part of the strategy results from that demographic not liking to travel in the middle of the summer, Schlesinger said.

The working baby boomer set, or the 45-to-60-year-old market, does the majority of its traveling during the summer, Schlesinger said, but doesn’t have the luxury of time that retirees do.

Comments from travel agents and prospective passengers indicated that 14-day summer cruises, which require 15 to 16 days of travel, were difficult for working travelers to plan.

"The feedback we received from a number of group producers and prospects was for itineraries that were a bit shorter," Schlesinger said. "The 45-to-60-[year-old] demographic has less time to travel and is targeted by cruise lines offering seven- to 10-night cruises."

Schlesinger said that by modifying the line’s itineraries to be predominantly 10- to 12-day vacations, the line hoped to attract "working boomers."

The modified trips will be 14-day itineraries, with the cruises taking anywhere from seven to 12 days, enabling prospective passengers with less time to opt out of the hotel stay and receive credit, Schlesinger said.

The pre- and post-cruise hotel stays will be in Rome, Athens and Istanbul.

"This change enables us to sell effectively to both demographic segments and even attract families with older teenagers who would find the experience interesting," Schlesinger said.

Voyages to Antiquity was started by Gerry Herrod, the founder of Orient Lines, which Norwegian Cruise Line bought in 1998 and shut down in 2008.

Herrod’s new line is centered on Mediterranean history and culture.

Schlesinger said the new sales strategy was a throwback to Orient.

"This was a very successful formula," he said, explaining that Orient offered 10- to 12-day, roundtrip cruise-tour itineraries to the Mediterranean and Baltic that were purchased by baby boomers as well as older clients who had time for longer itineraries.

Schlesinger said during its first season, the line experienced about 95% cabin utilization, including a significant number of singles, which he attributed to having waived the single supplement for the inaugural year.

This report appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of Travel Weekly.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI