Enjoy my podcast with Susie Coughlin from Avalon Waterways where we are discussing river cruising.
Susie Coughlin is the Regional Sales Manager for the Globus family of brands. Susie has over 30 years’ experience in sales for coach touring and river cruising companies, Susie has a thorough knowledge and understanding of all things coach and river.
Welcome to the luxury travel podcast, where you will discover information on luxury travel right around the world and hear amazing stories, tips, and secrets from experts and luxury world travelers. Please fasten your seatbelt low and tight and remain seated for the show. Now here’s your luxury travel captain, Allen Suss.
Welcome. This is Allen Suss. TravelManagers Australia. The Travel Cruise Expert. Coming to you on my podcast channel. Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Susie Coughlin, Regional Sales Manager for Victoria Tasmania and Northern Territory for Globus Family Brands.
Hello, Susie, and thank you for coming aboard.
Allen, thanks for having me.
Okay unfortunately Australians are not able to travel yet, but this podcast will possibly be whetting their appetites and they will be all rushing off to hop on a Avalon Waterways river cruise in Europe or somewhere in the world wherever there is an Avalon Cruise. Firstly, let’s talk a little bit about yourself. How did you get involved in travel?
Well, I’ve always had a desire to be in the travel industry and I’m a country girl, I couldn’t get a job in my country town I’m originally from Bendigo.
So I had to move to the city, got a career in travel and I started my travel industry experience at the Northern Territory Tourist Commission. And that was like 30 plus years ago now.
So quite a long time ago now, and obviously have progressed from there to work for other companies. They originally, my background was doing domestic travel.
I worked for another Australian based company after the Northern Territory Commission that we did touring in Australia called great Aussie Holidays.
And then I got the urge to travel myself. So I did the whole, a year off and do the backpacking thing and came back and sort of been working for coach touring companies and river cruise companies ever since. So that’s sort of how I got started in travel.
Well, that’s a pretty good grounding. So have you done much travel yourself?
I think I’ve done a lot, but in comparison to some, it might not seem so, but at the start, most of my travel was within Australia, and as I said, I had the backpack urge and traveled overseas and started in America.
Then I went to Canada and in London and the UK parts of Europe and then came home via Hong Kong. So that was 1990 pretty much written off. And then when I came back, I pretty much picked up where I left off with, various roles with other tour companies.
And I’ve just got to, just travel ever since. So whether it’s been for work, or whether it’s been with friends or family, but I think I’ve done quite a bit of travel. So which is a passion, obviously, otherwise you wouldn’t be in this industry at the moment.
Exactly. We are talking about one of my favorite topics, which is river cruising, which is my favorite cruise topic. And why should, before we actually talk about the company, why should anybody think about doing, for example, a European cruise?
I suppose like doing a European river cruise it’s just a really great way to see the countryside. I have worked for two river cruise companies now. I just think it’s really nice to be able to just, unpack once, just know that, the quality of your accommodation is going to be first class.
When you go out touring for the day, you’ve got plenty to see on the Riverside. You don’t have sea sickness because you’re going to always see land and you’re quite close to land and quite close to any resources that you might need. If you’ve got medical conditions and things like that, you’re not out in the middle of the ocean and you’re traveling on a beautiful river in Europe.
So, I’ve done a number of European river cruises and, I would go back again and again and and I’d even be happy to do the same revisit over and over again.
I just find it a really relaxing and streamlined experience just to be, have that unpack once and just stay on the same luxury vessel for the whole 14 days, make some great friends.
And just get that experience of going into, little, small country towns and villages and, places that you might not be able to get to if you were doing a coach tour, if you were doing a driving holiday through Europe.
Well, that’s true because I’ve been, been there and done that. And I agree with you wholeheartedly. One of the beauties of doing a river cruise in fact, is that you can unpack once and that’s it.
And you’re on the cruise ship from seven days, 14 days, whatever it might be. You don’t have to worry about packing again. Now let’s be more specific. Why should some, why should a client, one of my clients choose an Avalon European cruise.
If I had to put it into a couple of words, I’d probably say just, you know credibility and also experience, but we’ve been cruising the European Waterways now since 2003, the Globus Companies actually commenced operation in 1928.
And then we started our Cosmos brand in the sixties. So we’ve got years and years and years of experience. Obviously we’ve been through, you know high water, low waters, we’ve been through all sorts of things and we’ve handled them very professionally and we’ve always had amazing feedback on the way that we handle any experience that happens on the rivers.
So I suppose that’s probably the main thing. Also our onboard crew, I think of the best of the best, they take care of every detail and Avalon is really a five star cruise experience that with a really relaxed atmosphere. So we explain Avalon is being relaxed luxury.
We think it’s, a really relaxing journey, but you do feel like it’s quite luxurious, but it does have that casual and comfortable dress-code that casual and comfortable atmosphere when you’re traveling with Avalon, as well.
That’s true. The food I find is fantastic and plentiful. Do you want to talk a little bit about the food and meals and whatever else?
So with Avalon, we do have alcoholic beverages included with your lunch and your dinner. You can also have sparkling wine at breakfast, if you would like too. We’ve, had a few changes just during the whole COVID situation, just in reference to onboard protocols and procedures.
And that also involves food-handling, so the food that we have, so you get a full four course a la cart dining experience in the evening which, it can be choices of soups, salads, entrees, mains and desserts, so quite a number of different choices of food, which has actually served to your table, which is great.
We’ve got some amazing Chefs. We also have a, what we call is Avalon Fresh, which is an innovation by a couple of brothers who are well-known Chefs in Europe called the Wrenkh Brothers.
They actually go out and source amazing local produce. That’s very, very healthy. And then on the menu, you’ll be able to see, which is the healthiest option for you to eat off the menu, which has been handpicked by them and passed onto our Chefs.
The other great things in lunch, you can have a sit-down lunch again, you can order off the menu. We do have a buffet, however, just with the changes with what we’re doing with health and safety are all the buffet breakfast now will be replaced with crew service, so that includes breakfast as well.
You can order a continental breakfast, and have it delivered to your cabin if you would wish. We also have light breakfast options and early riser options for people. If they get up before breakfast service actually starts in the dining room, we’ve got afternoon tea that’s provided we’ve also got 24-hour section where people can get tea and coffee and have, a selection of biscuits and pastries available and that’s available 24/7.
So, the food is amazing.
The other option that we have, we have quite a lot of different dining experiences. And, if I wanted to go off on the ship, during the day and not necessarily come back for their included lunch, that’s included in the cost of their cruise. They can actually pre order a picnic lunch and take it with them and just, stay in town and just experience the local towns along the way without having to come back to the ship.
Excellent idea. Excellent. The cabin themselves are very special, but why are they special?
They are extremely special. We’re very famous for our cabins, and we win awards for our cabins all the time. And one of the main reasons is the fact that our beds actually face the window.
So, it’s something we actually introduced, the Avalon Panorama Suite. We see the bed facing the window. And we find that, it’s just really nice to be able to look out from your bed and, just be facing the water rather than be looking at a wall the whole time.
The other great thing with the cabins is we haven’t sacrificed room size, like for now, the balcony can be, but it was instead created a, what we call an open-air balcony, which means that then you’ve got nothing between you and the views. So the edge of your cabin is right at the window of your room.
So we’ve got comfort collection beds. We’ve got really good rooms with good size bathrooms, the walk-in shower. We’ve got luxury, L’Occitane bathroom products, marble bench tops in the cabins themselves.
And the other great thing based on again, you see the hygiene aspect of things at the moment, is we have freshened the inside now. So the air in our ship is not circulated between State Rooms. So every State Room has their own individual air conditioning unit. And so it just mixed with fresh and outside air.
So, and the other thing is the size of our cabins. So our Panorama suites are probably 80% of our cabin types, so they are 200 square feet, and they’re about 30% larger than the industry standard. So, then our windows are above industry standard as well. And we know that they’re 11 feet wide, which normal industry standard is instead 7 foot wide, with a four foot opening.
So, there’s plenty of storage like we mentioned earlier. You just have to unpack once. So you can just push your suitcase under the bed or into the cupboards. And you don’t have to worry about rifling through your suitcase for the rest of your trip.
Yes. Well, I’m well aware the cabins are special and being able to be the way they’ve been created there in fact, have more room in the cabins, the most other cruise ships definitely.
And I’ve said, even though the cabins themselves, are compact, it’s quite fantastic what they have been able to do with the room by creating a bathroom, creating a shower, just in this really small space, but it’s all said and done, but, but you’ve managed to make the small space, a large space, which, which I think is amazing.
I think too, I took some people away hosted some people on a cruise once. And I had one of them say to me, I said, I just don’t feel like I’m on a cruise ship. I feel like I’m actually in a hotel room. And I think, well, that’s a good endorsement of the size of the room and the size of the bathrooms.
And you don’t spend a lot of time in your room. You definitely spend more time in your room, if you have an outdoor balcony. And as I said, if you do have outdoor balcony, should be only sacrificing your room size because the ship’s going to only be a certain width, wide because of the lock system on the, on the European Waterways.
Susie, a lot of people tell me their accommodation is not very important. They’re quite happy to do this. It’s going to be cheap. It’s going to be not so cheap, whatever, but you know what I always think when you walk into your cabin or your accommodation, that sets the tone for the rest of your holiday, if you look at it and you say, isn’t this terrific, you’re going to think the holiday is going to be terrific. And if you look at it, go into a room and it doesn’t look all that inviting you think, oh gosh, this is not so good.
I didn’t even know you think you’re not going to be in the room for long. You’ve been in there for at least eight hours anyway, every day or a third of a day, even if you’re sleeping. So to have a good cabin to my mind is very important.
Can I bring the subject of Solo Travellers? What do you do for Solo Travellers?
At certain times of the year we have special deals where we also have a free Solo Traveller. I’m trying to say no single supplement options.
So, they can travel at the price of twin share. But they travelling on their own, and I find the other great thing to realize too, is that no single supplement. We’re not limiting them to being in the deluxe state rooms that don’t have the the open air balcony if they pay to be on a certain deck. And if I want to pay the price between twin share price of a Panorama Suite they can have a Panorama Suite at the, Twinshare price, just traveling as a single. So that’s at certain times of the year, they come and go.
So we’re thinking now that 2022 our river cruising will be extremely popular. So we do have that special going at the moment. But yet once we sold out, we’ve sold out. So, our Owner Suites, the Superior Suites at the top of the ship. Don’t have the Solo travel deals.
I know we have only been speaking about river cruising in Europe, but you do have some other river cruise ships in other parts of the world.
We have 80 different cruises that go on 10 rivers through 20 countries in Europe, Asia and South America. So, we don’t just cruise Europe, so we also operate river cruising on the Mekong. The Ganges, in India, the Nile, in Egypt, the Galapagos, and in the Amazon.
Just for example, our Mekong Vessel only takes 36 passengers. So that’s a really good size, perfect for small groups, or even if someone had a special occasion and then wanted to take the whole ship and just have a group of friends onboard, 36 is a really good number for that. And then they can do the cruising between Siam reap, and Ho Chi Minh cities.
I think we’ll wrap that up today, we’re going to create some more podcasts on other topics as well, but I thought let’s wrap it up today and finish today with me thanking you on behalf of all the listeners and Susie, I appreciate you coming on board and talking and telling us and giving an explanation of the wonderful opportunities available on Avalon Waterways.
And everyone that was Susie Coughlin from Avalon Waterways, from Globus Family of Brands. And Susie is the Regional Sales Manager for Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Northern territory. And thank you very much, Susie. And this is Allen Suss from Travel Managers, Australia
The river cruise expert until the next podcast. I hope that you have enjoyed my special guest today. today, traveling and need an experienced travel agent to help you book your trip.
Call me directly on 0433 203 713, and as always be on the lookout for our next luxury travel podcast episode.
This is Allen Suss of Travelmanagers Australia, wishing you a wonderful day.