Celebrity Cruises describes its cruise tour clientele as “experience-seeking travelers,” and that’s a pretty apt description across the board. “They’re not the twenty-somethings, it’s usually more of the middle-aged traveler that is sophisticated about cruising in general. It’s a natural fit to sell them on the idea of extending the cruise vacation,” said Morse.
Royal Caribbean’s Parquet believes that the destination dictates the type of client right for a cruise tour.
“In Alaska, it’s the customer looking for wilderness and adventure. In Europe, South America and China, it’s the customer looking for a cultural experience,” said Parquet.
At Princess Cruises, cruise tours attract passengers looking to “get out and off the grid,” said Charlie Ball, president of Princess Tours.
Ball notes that cruise passengers have become much bolder in terms of the destinations they want to explore.
“Five or 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have had many requests for Cambodia, for example. The cruise passenger is completely different from what it was a few ship generations ago. People are willing to use the ship as a platform for exploring a lot more of the world,” said Ball.
Alaska the Archetype
Many new cruise tours will visit India in 2008
For 2008, a number of lines will offer cruise tours on five different continents. But, Alaska remains the cruise tour archetype rich in overland destinations such as Denali National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the Kenai Peninsula, Arctic and the Yukon.
Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International, among others, will feature cruise tours to Alaska’s interior this season, each emphasizing a unique selling point.
Princess Cruises will offer more than 20 cruise tour choices in Alaska, where it boasts a strong infrastructure. The line’s Princess Tours subsidiary owns and operates five riverside wilderness lodge properties, a fleet of deluxe motorcoaches and 10 luxury railcars.
“Initial results for 2008 indicate a very strong showing. And we’re seeing a trend to longer vacations as opposed to last year,” said Princess Cruises’ Ball. Holland America Line celebrates its 60th year in the cruise tour business in Alaska in 2008. The line prides itself on its “Personal Wilderness Concept,” with programs from Glacier Bay to the Arctic.
“One of the things we’ve been striving for is consistency. We have 29 cruise tours, and we haven’t changed them in four years. We find that works best for agents,” said Linda Springmann, vice president of Alaska marketing and sales for Holland America Line.
Holland America Line’s 29 cruise tours range from 10 to 20 days, and feature amenities such as the luxurious, domed McKinley Explorer railcars and customized Explorer Coaches. Introduced in 2007, the coaches include such comforts as leather seats, battery-charging stations, LCD monitors and a mini-galley. Every seat is also equipped with a headset and eight channels of audio.
Though Holland America Line emphasizes consistency, it does take steps to enhance and refine its product, said Noel De Chambeau, director of Alaska sales and marketing. New for 2008 is Uncommon Journeys, a premier summertime dog-mushing experience.
Passengers relaxing aboard Royal
Wilderness Express train in Alaska
Royal Caribbean International sells cruise tours all over the world, with Alaska being its main product. But, in the past few years, the line has expanded into Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In 2008-2009, it will launch in Asia and South America.
“What our cruise tours have to offer is exclusivity. From beginning to end, our clients travel with the same people. And they also have a dedicated tour director, called an Adventure Specialist. It creates a really close bond within the group, and our customers really appreciate that,” said Parquet.
Princess Cruises has also expanded internationally, offering 14 cruise tour itineraries in destinations such as Asia, Australia, Canada/New England, Europe and South America.
The Princess lineup of exotic cruise tours gives passengers a chance to visit three of the new Seven Wonders of the World, as well as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Machu Picchu, The Great Wall of China, Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
A new Princess cruise tour featuring the Galapagos Islands debuts in 2008. Also new are cruise tours to Beijing, Hangzhou and Xian, combinable with several Asia voyages; and Tropical Highlights of Australia, which is an add-on to Australia/New Zealand or Asia/Australia sailings.
At Celebrity Cruises, new exotic cruise tour destinations for 2008-2009 include Australia/New Zealand and South America. And, Azamara Cruises will also introduce cruise tour products in 2008. Highlights include a seven-night Asia adventure and European expeditions that travel between Venice, Florence and Rome. South America cruise tours
include Argentina’s renowned wine country, nestled at the foot of the massive Andes Mountains.
Not Just the Big Ships
Cruise tour guests on a safari in South Africa
The types of lines offering cruise tours are nearly as diverse as the product itself. Exploration line Cruise West offers an array of popular cruise tours in conjunction with its small-ship lineup around the world. For 2008, Cruise West will position eight ships in Alaska and offer two different land tours to Denali National Park. Additional cruise tour selections include a journey to Mexico’s Copper Canyon after a Sea of Cortez cruise (and a flight to Los Mochis from La Paz).
In Asia, Cruise West offers an 11-night Hidden Treasures of Japan cruise tour, featuring a roundtrip itinerary from Kobe. For 2008, the line offers a Grand Asia Tour that visits four countries: Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam. Clients can add-on two optional tours: Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Kyoto, Japan.
In Costa Rica and Panama, Cruise West has extended the length of its cruise tours to nine nights, in order to make the most of the region’s myriad natural wonders. Tours in the South Pacific include a flight to Santiago, Chile, and an excursion to Easter Island.
Guests of Silversea Cruises can enjoy the line’s fully-escorted optional land programs before or after their cruise. Ranging from three to six days, tours are available in the Far East, Southeast Asia, South America, Turkey, Africa and Portugal. Highlights include a tiger safari in India; a pre-cruise venture into the landscapes of Cappadocia, Turkey, and an overland journey on the Eastern & Orient Express between Singapore and Bangkok.
“People are definitely getting back to the exotics,” said Brad Ball, Silversea’s director of corporate communications.
Other trends in the ultra-luxury market include an interest in longer cruise tours.
“We’re getting more requests for five- and six-night post-cruise tours. Our guests realize that you can’t see everything in a country in one or two nights,” said Ball.
Ball attributes the interest in longer stays to the fact that travelers are more comfortable being away from home for longer periods of time.
As for what is in particularly high demand at Silversea, Ball cites “anything having to do with China, because of the Olympics.”
The temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia, are
featured on a number of cruise tours in 2008
The line is also seeing a resurgence of interest in safaris, and is offering them in popular Kenya and South Africa cruise tour packages.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers an array of Concierge Collection pre- or post-cruise extended land programs. Destinations include the Loire Valley, Provence and Bordeaux; England and Scotland; the Western Mediterranean and Greece; the Arctic Circle; Bhutan, Tibet and the Peruvian Amazon.
“We aim to offer unique opportunities for our guests, who tend to be very well-traveled. So, it’s a constant challenge to provide exclusive experiences,” said Darius Mehta, director of land programs for Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
Mehta also finds that Regent Seven Seas customers are eager to experience new and exciting destinations.
“North Americans aren’t as wary about travel as they were. In the past, things such as SARS, bird flu and the like would have kept them away. I think if anything, our clients are refusing to be scared away. They’re embracing exotic cruises and inland journeys before or after the cruise,” he said.
Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Adventures offer extended land programs in destinations around the world, including India, Bhutan and China.
“The more exotic, the more responses we get to it,” said John Stoll, director of land programs for Crystal Cruises.
He added: “Well-heeled clients know that they could certainly explore certain locations on their own, such as Europe. But they want to continue the Crystal experience, so these extended land tours are quite successful.”
Advice for Agents
European offerings include
excursions to Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Stoll advises agents interested in selling Crystal Adventures to sell the Crystal cruise product first.
“Our clients want to extend the Crystal experience when they take the land tours, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with our cruises first,” said Stoll. He also emphasizes that one of the most important things an agent can do is to ask clients what’s most important to them in a land tour.
Princess Cruises’ Ball agrees.
“You need to ask the customer, ‘What are the two or three things you have to do at a destination when you’re there? What’s your peak experience?’ Then, find the cruise and the cruise tour product that matches up to that.”
Royal Caribbean’s Parquet has some additional advice.
“Agents might sell cruises only and then try to up-sell with a cruise tour. That’s not so easy to do because of the big price difference,” said Parquet.
His message to agents is to open the conversation with the complete package, both cruise and cruise tour.
“Talk to them first about a cruise tour and you’ll find it’s easier to move down,” said Parquet. “In Alaska, it’s a given that you should go with cruise tours first. More than likely, 70-75 percent of your cruise clients are able to do cruise tours there.”
Like other lines, Royal Caribbean offers a number of sales tools to help travel agents learn more about, and sell more, cruise tours.
“Ninety-nine percent of our bookings come from travel agents. It’s a complex product, and it takes a travel agent to deliver the service that our customers need in order to book,” said Parquet.
“They’re a great product to sell. And they’re backed by the reputation of the cruise lines. If there’s a problem, you know your clients won’t be stranded,” said Morse from Martin’s Travel and Tours.
Best of all, said Morse, client satisfaction ratings from cruise tours are typically pretty high.
“The greatest thing is when a client calls to tell you that they had a wonderful time,” said Morse. “Making people happy is the best part of this job.”
|2008 CRUISE TOUR OFFERINGS|
Asia; Europe; and South America
Carnival Cruise Lines
Alaska; Europe; Australia/New Zealand; the Canadian Rockies; and South America
Alaska; Japan; Cambodia; Mexico; Costa Rica; Panama; and Easter Island
Bhutan; India; China; Europe; and South America
Holland America Line
Alaska; Europe; and Australia
Alaska; Western Canada and the Canadian Rockies; Europe; South America; China; Southeast Asia; and Australia/New Zealand
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
UK; France; Western Mediterranean and Greece; the Arctic Circle; Bhutan; Tibet; and the Peruvian Amazon
Royal Caribbean International
Alaska; Europe; Australia; and South America
Africa; India; Far East; Southeast Asia; South America; Turkey; Portugal; and Cambodia