Ask any cruiseline representative and they will tell you that once someone has tried a cruise, they will come back for another.

Island Cruises reckons an average 45% of its passengers each year are first-timers. Ocean Village says its figure is 60%, with up to 80% on some cruises on new ship Ocean Village Two.

P&O Cruises head of brand marketing Philip Price said more cruise newcomers than past passengers have booked holidays aboard its new ship Ventura, while Carnival UK chief commercial officer Peter Shanks said more than 70% of Princess Cruises’ Alaska passengers are first-timers.

Ocean Village head of marketing Gill Haynes said: “It’s great that we are getting so many first-timers on board. They might take a villa another year and then come back to us after that. We are putting cruising on their holiday option list.”

Here are some tips for getting reluctant clients on board.


Cruise and stay

Several cruiselines package land stays either before or after the cruise. For those not sure they will like a holiday at sea, it could be the final clincher.

Ocean Village head of marketing Gill Haynes said cruise-and-stay holidays account for about 15% of the cruiseline’s sales.

“We advise agents selling cruise to push the benefits of visiting six places in one holiday, but if there is resistance, cruise-and-stay is a good halfway house. In reality, the cruise always scores higher than the land-based holiday in customer questionnaires.”

Island Cruises director of sales Leslie Peden said: “Cruise-and-stay is especially popular with first-time cruisers. Combining a week’s Mediterranean cruise with a week in a Majorcan hotel means they can enjoy the best of both worlds.”

Sample cruises

Thomson Cruises: A seven-night Colourful Coasts cruise from Tenerife on Thomson Destiny followed by seven nights’ half-board at the Hotel Bahia Princess in Costa Adeje costs from £859 per person next winter including flights and transfers.

Ocean Village: Seven nights’ bed and breakfast at the Hilton Barbados followed by a seven-night Sugar and Spice cruise on Ocean Village Two in December costs from £1,649 per person with flights and transfers.

Island Cruises: Seven nights on Island Star in the Mediterranean followed by seven nights’ half-board at the Hotel Pollensa Park in Puerto Pollensa in Majorca costs from £779 per person in March 2008 including flights and transfers.

Norwegian Cruise Line: A 15-night Treasures of the Eastern Caribbean (link opens pdf document) cruise-and-stay holiday, combining seven nights’ room-only in Orlando with a seven-night cruise on Norwegian Dawn next year costs from £1,049 per person including flights and transfers.


Short cruises

A two, three or four-night sailing is a great way for cruise virgins to sample a holiday at sea.

Carnival Cruise Line pioneered the mini-cruise concept 35 years ago, and it has since been adopted by cruiselines sailing from the UK. The concept is also popular in the Mediterranean, where Louis Cruise Lines and Costa Cruises operate short cruises from Italy, Cyprus and Greece.

“We are encouraging agents to sell short cruises as a great-value alternative to a city break.”

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering taster cruises from the UK for the first time in 2008, and shorter cruises are also offered by Cunard, Royal Caribbean International, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Thomson and P&O Cruises.

P&O Cruises head of brand marketing Philip Price said 44% of passengers who booked a cruise of seven nights or fewer in 2006 have since booked or travelled on a cruise of seven nights or more.

From next year, Royal Caribbean is offering four-night cruises from Southampton, Barcelona and Stockholm, taking in Tallinn and St Petersburg.

Head of field sales UK and Ireland Michael English said: “With prices from £260 to £280 cruise-only, we are encouraging agents to sell these as a great-value alternative to a city break.”

Sample cruises

Louis Cruise Lines: A two-night cruise from Limassol to Port Said in Egypt in October on Serenade costs from £154 per person including taxes and gratuities. A 12-hour excursion to Cairo costs £45.

P&O Cruises: A four-night cruise break from Southampton to Rotterdam, Bruges and St Peter Port in Guernsey on Oriana in May 2008 costs from £399 per person.

Royal Caribbean: A four-night cruise from Barcelona to Palma de Majorca and Ibiza on Navigator of the Seas next summer costs from £459 per person including flights and transfers.

Carnival Cruise Line: A five-day eastern Caribbean cruise from Miami on Imagination costs from £169 per person cruise-only in January 2008.


Themed and special interest cruises

Whatever your client’s interest or hobby, there is likely to be an ocean or river cruise that covers it.

Crystal Cruises offers 28 themed cruises, ranging from wellness and food and drink programmes to jazz, film and theatre voyages.

UK director of sales and marketing Sophie Higgins said: “Guests enjoy access to industry experts, talented performers and culinary stars. Agents should talk to first-time cruisers about their interests and then match them to a theme and destination.”

Fred Olsen Cruise Line offers Flagship Golf packages on selected cruises that include four rounds of golf, onboard tuition with a PGA pro, social events and competitions.

The cruiseline operates ArtsClub cruises on topics such as wildlife and photography, history, dance and wine. Fred Olsen’s new Civilisations packages include lectures and exclusive shore excursions.

Fred Olsen general sales manager Lol Nichols said: “Civilisations is aimed at the kind of cruise customer who wants to indulge an intellectual curiosity while on board. It offers genuine benefits for agents as well as extra commission.”

Sample cruises

Crystal Cruises: An 11-night Mind, Body and Spirit cruise from Caldera, Costa Rica, to Miami in December on Crystal Serenity costs from £3,483 per person including flights, transfers and one night in Caldera.

Silversea: A 12-night Culinary and Wine cruise to Alaska from San Francisco on Silver Shadow in July 2008 costs from £3,885 per person cruise-only.

Fred Olsen Cruise Line: A 15-night Amazon Wildlife and Photography ArtsClub cruise from Bridgetown, Barbados, on Braemar in February 2008 costs from £1,644 per person including flights and transfers.

Viking River Cruises: A seven-night Classical Music Cruise on the Danube on Viking Sky in December costs from £995 per person including flights and transfers.