Haimark, the luxury river expedition company based in Denver, Colorado, is expanding into new waters. Started in 2012, its current fleet includes eight all-suite luxury river ships, two of which will set sail for the first time next month and four more to launch in 2015.
As if there’s not enough excitement in Haimark’s shipyards, this ambitious, young company just added another vessel to its fleet: an ocean-going ship. Originally the Cape May Light and then renamed the Sea Voyager when purchased by Fleetpro, a Miami-based passenger ship management company, the vessel is undergoing a $3.5 million major refurbishment in order to meet the high standards demanded by Haimark.
Newly christened the MS Saint Laurent, her facelift will be as dramatic as some Hollywood actresses. New carpeting, drapes and bedding will be included in the renovation as well as installation of flat screen TVs, lighting and artwork. Outdoor furniture on the decks will be updated. The ship will have 105 staterooms and suites offering an intimate experience in world-class accommodations. The Saint Laurent, rated a four-star plus coastal cruising vessel, is scheduled to set sail on her inaugural voyage from Portland, Maine to Montreal Quebec, May, 2015, its bow pointed for the North Atlantic.
The Saint Laurent will inaugurate Haimark Travel’s recently established sister company, Haimark Line, which will feature boutique small ship cruises with programs in both the North Atlantic and in the waters of South and Central America.
“We are excited to provide travelers with more choices for small ship exploration in these regions and we have carefully planned itineraries that will excite, educate and enthuse our guests,” Tom Markwell, Managing Partner of Sales and Marketing, explained to Travel World News.
Though the launch date is nine months away, Haimark’s first ocean-going vessel already has more than 50 percent of her 2015 departures sold. Paris-based Rivages du Monde has chartered ten 10-day departures from Montreal, calling at Kingston, Toronto, Port Weller (for Niagara Falls), Ogdensburg, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec and Montreal. Markwell asserted that there’s heightened demand from the U.S. market but he is also expecting a strong response from his river ship clients, especially Australians.
Once launched, the Saint Laurent will ply the waters of America’s historic east coast, the Great Lakes and the Canadian Maritimes. The new itineraries include the ten-day “French Canadian Maritimes and North Atlantic” cruise, embarking from historic Montreal, navigating the scenic Saint Lawrence Seaway to the Canadian Maritimes and visiting beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine before disembarking in Portland, Maine.
The “Historic Coastal New England” thirteen-day itinerary hugs the east coast of the U.S., sailing out of Portland, Maine. Stops include the historic cities of Boston and Newport and the charming southern cities of Charleston and Savannah before arriving in Nassau, Bahamas for its final two days. Other ten-day itineraries offered are the “Historic St. Lawrence River to America’s Five Great Lakes,” which offers a cruise experience sailing the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Chicago.
Stops include the wondrous Niagara Falls, Georgian Bay, Sault Saint Marie and Mackinac Island. The “Great Lakes Grand Discovery,” another ten-day itinerary, sails from Chicago with historic stops on Lake Michigan to Georgian Bay, Lakes Huron and Erie with a stop at Niagara Falls before disembarking in Toronto. “Combining the sophisticated MS Saint Laurent with itineraries containing culturally rich exploration and complimentary shore excursion programs will satisfy pent-up consumer travel demand for domestic cruise product,” said Tom Markwell.
When the seasons shift up north, the MS Saint Laurent will turn its bow south and head for warmer waters. In South and Central America, its routes include Nassau in the Bahamas to the charming historic city of Trinidad which provides an esoteric and rarely seen perspective of the Caribbean. Other routes offered include Trinidad to Cartagena with a journey along the mysterious Orinoco River, Cartagena to San Jose, Costa Rica, with a transit through the Panama Canal, and San Jose to Lima, Peru during the whale migration season, including a stop at Machalilla National Park along the coast of Ecuador – often referred to as ‘Little Galapagos’.
Passengers will have the opportunity to explore many exciting ports including the daytime transit through the Panama Canal, stops on Coiba Island and the Darian jungle, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Accompanying each excursion are well-trained expedition teams and a fleet of newly purchased Zodiac Mach 5’s.
Haimark has industry veterans at its helm—Tom Markwell, Managing Partner and Head of Sales and Marketing, and Marcus Leskovar, Managing Partner, Finance and Procurement, both former executives with Pandaw River Cruises. In 2012 they partnered with Vietnamese national Giang Hoang Hai, an experienced ground operator in Southeast Asia, to launch the company that reflects the three partners’ names. It offers the world’s only five-star, all-suite ships plying the rivers of Southeast Asia and the recently announced, Peruvian Amazon.
Haimark has been closely aligned with the travel-agent community, realizing that travelers don’t book cruises independently. They offer up to 30 percent commission on groups though there is a sliding scale from 15-20 percent depending on volume for FIT bookings.
Haimark Travel, 800-798-4223; www.HaimarkTravel.com