The cruise industry is changing, with more cruiselines offering cruise-only holidays to cater for more adventurous clients.
Many travellers now demand flexibility from their holiday, and cruise passengers may want to book their own flights or organise accommodation for the beginning or end of a cruise.
It sounds like a market that is ripe for dynamic packaging, and companies such as Low Cost Holiday Group and On Holiday Group are already moving in. But is the DIY approach really right for cruise?
Yes – cruise passengers want to create their own packages
If your clients’ cruise starts or ends in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, it makes sense for them to stay a few days in the Eternal City.
The new generation of younger, more adventurous cruise passengers wants flexibile holidays. As a result, many cruiselines now offer cruise-only prices alongside the flight-inclusive tariffs.
The Italian cruiselines have gone one stage further, with Costa Cruises showing the cruise-only price in the main grid and listing flight prices as the alternative. MSC Cruises also shows the cruise-only price, with flights and transfer costs at the back of the brochure.
Princess Cruises head of brand marketing Pieter van der Schee said the cruiseline made the cruise-only discounts more attractive last year to meet demand from passengers wanting to make their own travel arrangements.
“Cruise-only is still a small proportion of what we do but most US clients arrange their flights separately, and it will happen here,” he said.
There are specialist booking systems for agents who want to dynamically package cruises. Amadeus Cruise enables agents to integrate the cruise with any flights and hotels on the global distribution system.
Princess Cruises: A 10-night Scandinavia and Russia cruise from Copenhagen on Star Princess, departing September 9, costs £1,165 per person cruise-only. Return EasyJet flights cost £62 and Resorthoppa transfers cost £161 for up to three people.
MSC Cruises: A seven-night Mediterranean cruise on MSC Orchestra from Venice, departing September 15, costs £900 per person cruise-only. Return EasyJet flights cost £123 and Resorthoppa transfers costs £240 for up to three people.
Norwegian Cruise Line: A five-night Caribbean cruise from Miami on Norwegian Pearl, departing December 8, costs £339 per person. British Airways flights cost £353 and Resorthoppa transfers cost £92.
No – cruise passengers prefer the security of ready-made packages
One of the main reasons people like cruising is that they don’t have to worry about anything.
At the very least their cruise package will get them from the arrival airport to the ship and back again, and cruiselines such as Hebridean International Cruises and Voyages of Discovery lay on representatives at UK departure airports to ensure clients don’t have a problem at check-in.
If something goes wrong, for instance bad weather preventing the ship from returning to port on the day of the flight, weather, passengers have a guarantee that the cruiseline will arrange alternative flights.
Some cruiselines link their cruises to charter flights from the UK, which helps keep prices down. It is also a promise that if a flight is delayed, the ship will wait.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines agency sales manager Jeremy Hatton said: “Our traditional passengers like packages because everything is laid on for them.”
He said the cruiseline has escorts on its own charter flights and offers a bonded luggage service from Barbados, which means that when passengers check in their bags at Gatwick they are delivered straight to the ship.
He added: “We hope to be able to offer the same service when we start cruises from Civitavecchia on Balmoral next year. It suits older clients but we are offering cruise-only fares for the first time next year to attract younger passengers.”
Princess Cruises: A 10-night Scandinavia and Russia cruise from Copenhagen on Star Princess, departing August 20, costs £1,385 including flights and transfers.
MSC Cruises: A seven-night Greece, Turkey and Croatia cruise on MSC Orchestra, departing September 15, costs from £1,140 per person, including flights and transfers.