Plantours likes to pick remote locations for its itineraries aboard the Hamburg. But the pandemic has changed this strategy a little.
“At the moment, it’s really difficult to plan because we face many restrictions all over the world. We don’t know what the future holds and how we’ll be able to cruise,” said Oliver Steuber, managing director. “But we are an operator going into remote areas, and this is something that we sell well, so we will do that in the future.
“Antarctica is still in our deployment. We have had very good experiences there over the last couple of years; it is always on our schedule. But we also have a plan to go from Cape Horn to Cape Town, and this is something we want to do at a later point,” he added.
The cruise line avoids mainstream destinations often congested with bigger cruise ships.
“We have a maximum of 380 passengers onboard, so we are a niche. We also do classic cruises like the Baltic or the Caribbean. But mostly, we are trying to go to Svalbard, Greenland and other soft expedition areas,” Steuber said.
Plantours does have traditional cruises that are repeated, but it also tries to introduce new destinations regularly.
“We have nearly 30 days of operations in Greenland. And then we do the Great Lakes, which we always do after Greenland. This is more of a fixed factor that is always in our planning. But we try to bring in other destinations. For example, this year and last year, we had some new cruises in the Channel Islands, the islands between France and the UK. That’s something new,” Steuber said.
“It’s always a mixture of traditional cruises that are always good for sales, but also some new ones,” he added.
In general, Plantours plans itineraries about one to two years in advance. At the moment, according to Steuber, the cruise line is working on its May 2022 to May 2023 program.
He said that the pandemic hasn’t really affected the planning window but dealing with changing restrictions is tough.
“Normally, we are a little bit late (in putting out programs) in comparison to other operators. This year, we started planning earlier because we had some time,” Steuber said. “We have to plan something, but we don’t know how it works or if it will work at all. This is something that is really difficult. For this year, we have to put up alternative itineraries now because Canada is completely closed for 2021. So, we are working on some alternative cruises.”
Some of the destinations that are difficult to plan right now, according to Steuber, are South America and Brazil.
“From the availability (point of view), the most difficult was always Cuba. Because Cuba was overcrowded with ships a couple of years ago. It was always a headache to find the right slots,” he said. “But now, there are fewer ships because the US companies can’t call there.”