Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2023

73 Many of AVQ’s guests enjoy laughing and chatting with crew members, sometimes forming long-lasting friendships Photo: credit include port charges, gratuities and fees across all of our fleet and products. We’re also forming AQV’s first travel advisory council so they can share both guest feedback and their own insights to help us improve our cruise offering.” Forging strong, mutually beneficial and long-lasting relationships with key partners across AQV’s supply chain is D’Aoust’s second priority. “Partnerships are pivotal to our success, particularly in the ports and destinations we visit,” she says. “For our guests to have amazing onshore experiences, we must collaborate closely with port partners, shore excursion providers, businesses and others to ensure that our calls benefit the local community too. For example, we want to partner with local family businesses to develop shore excursions or invite them onboard to deliver enrichment activities.” Investing in people and partnerships will enable D’Aoust to grow the prestige of the AQV brand. “AQV already has an amazing small-ship product, with immersive itineraries and personalised guest experiences that garner great interest from North American, European and other international travellers,” she says. “However, we aim to continually refine our offering to ensure AQV is the cruise brand of choice for guests wanting to discover North America.” AQV will introduce several new itineraries in 2023, including a 23-day cruise onboard American Countess that will take guests from Minneapolis in Minnesota, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The itinerary is the longest in AQV’s history and will pass through 10 states. “I experienced Pittsburgh’s quintessential charm for the first time in 2022, so I’m particularly excited about this voyage,” says D’Aoust. “We’ll sail down both the Ohio River and Upper Mississippi River, taking guests right through the heart of Americana, visiting more ports than ever before. They’ll be able to enjoy two very different river experiences and have more time to explore destinations.” Other initiatives for 2023 include more in-depth itineraries in the Great Lakes region and new city stay packages for guests wanting to extend their cruise with a land stay in various destinations. AVQ is also capitalising on growing demand for speciality cruises. “We’re hosting culinary, wine- and bourbon-themed cruises and developing others around different themes,” says D’Aoust. “I’d love to focus more on family voyages too.” D’Aoust would also like to partner with other Hornblower Group brands, such as Australia-based experiential travel group Journey Beyond. “We’ll explore how we can extend our offering to new markets. It’s just one of many initiatives that will elevate AVQ’s cruise experience.” “ We aim to continually refine our offering to ensure AQV is the cruise brand of choice for guests” INTERVIEW