Worst timing ever? Kontiki Expeditions, a new cruise line, plans to launch later this year
Even as most established cruise lines around the world remain mired in a global halt to operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, there's a new cruise company hoping to start up by the end of the year.
To be called Kontiki Expeditions, the just-announced brand plans to specialize in voyages on intimate, yacht-like vessels that will hold just 18 passengers a piece.
The idea sounds great. The timing? We're not so sure.
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Designed to offer trips to off-the-beaten-path places that only can be accessed by very small ships and yachts, Kontiki Expeditions is being billed as a "new concept in luxury ocean vacations focusing on conscious travel and immersive experiences."
The company's initial vessel will be 128 feet long and feature nine suites, a sun deck, a gourmet salon, two outdoor lounges, bar, Jacuzzi, spa treatment room and fitness area. To be called Kontiki, it's scheduled to debut in December with sailings on two itineraries along the little-visited coast of Ecuador.
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The two initial itineraries will be one-way routes between Mompiche in the north of the country and Mompala in the south. They'll offer a chance to explore small Ecuadorian towns, historic sites and nature areas full of wildlife while traveling in an upscale vessel with a wellness focus.
“We are pioneers in offering luxury sea expeditions along seldom-traveled routes,” the founder and CEO of Kontiki Expeditions, Carlos Nuñez, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Our new expeditions reveal the beauty and authenticity of coastal Ecuador, passing through small, uncrowded towns and historical sites; forests and wetlands; pristine beaches; and protected ecological reserves.”
The new ship will sail with wellness professionals, naturalist guides and a local chef. There will be 10 crew members in total as well as two local experts.
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The vessel will carry kayaks, paddle boards and snorkeling equipment for passenger use. Diving also will be an option.
Nuñez said a fundamental part of the Kontiki program would be to support the communities its vessels visit.
During initial sailings in Ecuador, passengers can expect to see such wildlife as blue-footed boobies, sea lions and howler monkeys, the company said. A focus on cuisine will include the incorporation of local seafood and produce on board and on land as well as tastings of local chocolate.
The company said it would implement measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus such as temperature screenings for passengers and enhanced cleaning. Crew will wear masks and gloves when serving meals, and meal times will be staggered.
While most cruise lines around the world have halted all operations, a handful of small ships in Europe -- mostly river ships -- have just begun resuming voyages on a very limited basis. Industry watchers say small vessels that focus on single-country itineraries may have an easier time restarting operations than bigger ships with itineraries that include multiple countries.
In part, this is because small vessels offer a sort of small-group travel that’s easier to manage in an era of social distancing than the mass tourism of big ships. The typical river ship in Europe, for instance, has fewer than 100 cabins. It essentially operates as a small boutique hotel — albeit one that happens to move from town to town. Touring always is in small groups or on an individual basis. Onboard spaces rarely are crowded.
Fares for the new Kontiki Expeditions sailings start at $7,245 per person per week, based on double occupancy, and include all activities, meals, and transfers to and from ports. Solo traveler rates and private charter rates are also available.
More information on Kontiki Expeditions is available online at the company's website.
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