Cruise Lines Get Creative With Shore Excursions

Cruise Lines Get Creative With Shore Excursions

Cruise lines are designing land excursions that go far beyond a simple port tour By: Marilyn Green
<p>Clients can visit the Taj Mahal with Regent Seven Seas Cruises. // © 2015 iStock</p><p>Feature image (above): Explore Chile’s Atacama Desert with...

Clients can visit the Taj Mahal with Regent Seven Seas Cruises. // © 2015 iStock

Feature image (above): Explore Chile’s Atacama Desert with Ponant’s three-night land tour. // © 2015 iStock

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Luxury cruisers are thoroughly aware of the advantages of their mode of travel — such as packing and unpacking once and accessing local culture and history. The only drawback has been that some iconic destinations are too far out of reach.

To solve this, cruise lines have become more creative in planning shore excursions. In addition to pre- or post-cruise extensions, longer trips are scheduled during a cruise, and the industry is now seeing land excursions designed to link two cruises.

Pre and post trips have gone well beyond turnaround port tours. Some are event-oriented; others follow themes. For example, Crystal Yacht Cruises’ Crystal Esprit is offering a pre and post New Year’s Eve Extravaganza in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, complete with three- or four-night accommodations at Dubai Taj Hotel and a fireworks display. Those booking with Seabourn Cruise Line can choose special-interest trips such as the three-night Tuscan foodie adventure out of Rome that includes a cooking class, a farm visit, a wine tasting, regional cuisine and an impressive program of sightseeing.

Ponant’s pre and post options in South America include a three-night Iguazu Falls trip and a three-night exploration of Chile’s Atacama Desert. In Central America, Windstar Cruises is expanding its land tours into Costa Rica, with three- to five-day packages to Tortuguero, La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises augments its array of options on Europa 2 with tailor-made excursions that use private guides and even private helicopters.

Other extended land packages come without a price tag. Crystal Cruises’ expanding overland programs include complimentary experiences such as three nights in Berlin; three nights in Lima, Machu Picchu and Cuzco, Peru; and two nights in Paris. Some are complimentary for all guests, such as the three-night land tour on Crystal’s roundtrip San Francisco 102-day Pacific Rim cruise. Others are offered free to guests in higher categories. Regent Seven Seas Cruises currently offers guests in all suite categories a complimentary multinight pre or post land program on multiple cruises in Asia and Africa, including three-night extensions in Bangkok, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Overnight adventures during a cruise are the ultimate in unpacking just once. In 2016, Paul Gauguin Cruises will offer romantic overnights in luxury resorts in Bora Bora or Moorea during seven- to 10-night cruises. On Regent’s spring sailings on Voyager, travelers can purchase two-night trips to visit India’s Taj Mahal or China’s Terra-Cotta Army.

Silversea Cruises’ new Grand Expeditions offer five combined voyages that range from 18 to 34 days. Each will have two expedition cruises, including a western Galapagos Islands cruise, linked by a bucket-list overland adventure such as exploring Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls.

With extended excursions such as these, seagoing cruises are, in some cases, moving into river cruise territory. Travel agents are speculating as to whether river cruise lines will now start selling overnight excursions to exceptional seaports, in addition to pre and post packages.