Intrav sells Clipper line but vows to keep cruises on itineraries

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St. Louis-based Intrav, an upscale tour operator specializing in river cruises, land and safari journeys and small-ship expeditions, sold its Clipper Cruise Lines operation but said small cruise ships would remain a key element of vacation packages.

"We are now going to operate in a way most tour operators do, by leasing a vessel here and leasing another there," Randy Durband, Intrav's president, told Travel Weekly. "Like many tour operators, we prefer not to own capital assets, leaving the management of motorcoaches, airplanes and cruise ships to people who focus on that. So this is all a matter of focus."

To that end, Intrav's parent, First Choice Expeditions, recently sold the Clipper Odyssey and Clipper Adventurer expedition ships to Miami-based International Shipping Partners, a firm that owns and operates cruise ships of various sizes.

Intrav said it would continue to operate its scheduled Clipper Adventurer departures through February and will charter the vessel for Antarctica expeditions for the next five years. Clipper Odyssey sailings will continue through September. 

On other itineraries, "We are going to be looking now to expand relationships with [operators of] other vessels," Durband said. "We are going to maintain [small cruise ships] as an important aspect of our product line. We want to continue to position ourselves as a small-cruise player, but not a cruise ship owner."

Clipper Cruise Lines had been part of Intrav since 1997, but Durband said, "From the time that First Choice purchased us, the goal was to have Intrav focused as a tour operator, not a ship operator."

First Choice also owns Travcoa, TCS Expeditions, International Expeditions (including Park East) and Country Walkers.

Going forward, Durband said, Intrav intends to develop several new tour itineraries for 2008. "We will have some announcements shortly," he said.

Durband noted that the company has had a strong response for its Wings Over series of tour itineraries that offer visits to the Nile, Kilimanjaro (Kenya/Tanzania), southern Africa, Turkey and Australia/New Zealand.

Looking beyond 2008, Durband said, "We would like to go back to some of the destinations that we've done with the Adventure and the Odyssey. We will be regrooming the product line" and likely working with ISP "on some expedition products in the future."

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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