Cruise-and-stay packages are growing in popularity. Jane Archer looks at how to sell them

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Why just sell a cruise when you might be able to persuade clients to book a week or so at sea and a few nights in a hotel?

Not only will they see more, but the combination is the perfect compromise for couples who can’t agree on their vacation.

As long as there are good flight connections, the sky really is the limit when it comes to selling cruise-and-stay holidays. It could be a cruise from or ending in Barcelona, Bangkok, New York or Singapore, with a few days in the city at the start or end; a journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express linked with a voyage from Venice; or a ride on a Rocky Mountaineer train through Canada followed by an Alaska cruise.

It could be a few nights at Walt Disney World followed by a Disney cruise from Port Canaveral or one of the many cruise tours offered by the likes of Princess Cruises and Silversea (Sample Product, page 48).

Norwegian Cruise Line sales director Nick Wilkinson says: “There are some really exciting and unusual packages. There’s nothing that you cannot do.”

The biggest cruise-and-stay programme is offered by sister lines Thomson Cruises and Island Cruises, which offer voyages linked to 44 Thomson properties in Majorca, Corfu, Cyprus and Turkey this summer and 47 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Tenerife, Barbados and Turkey, for winter 2013-14.

The programme offers one-week cruises combined with up to seven nights in one of the land-based resorts, all packaged with Thomson Airways, which has flights from 19 UK regional airports. Prices start from £1,040 full-board for a seven-night Highlights of the Mediterranean cruise from Palma on Thomson Dream on May 18 followed by a week’s half-board at the Thomson Rey Don Jaume Hotel including flights from Bournemouth.

Thomson Cruises managing director Fraser Ellacott says cruise-and-stay holidays account for about 30% of the line’s fly-cruise business, but believes there is potential for more growth, especially from the new-to-cruise market. “This is the best of both worlds for people who haven’t yet cruised as they don’t have to give up their hotel holiday. We have plans to grow this market.”

Ellacott says feedback from Thomson retail stores suggests clients booking the operator’s upmarket Sensatori and Couples brands are adding a cruise to their hotel holiday.

He now hopes clients who stay in Platinum-branded properties will combine a land-based stay with a cruise on one of Thomson’s Platinum-branded ships. Thomson Dream has been sailing as a Platinum ship since January, while Thomson Celebration takes on the brand from May 6.

Many cruise lines feature a selection of hotels in their brochures which agents can easily add on to the start or end of the cruise. Crystal Cruises, for instance, has a selection of properties in cities such as Copenhagen, Monte Carlo, Stockholm and Rome, with group or private transfers, while Star Clippers has teamed up with Kirker Holidays to produce a programme of cruise-and-stay holidays in the Mediterranean and northern Europe.

Hurtigruten features properties in Oslo, Trondheim, Tromsø, Bergen and Kirkenes, with Bergen prices from £63 for one night at the Scandic Scenic including breakfast.

Hurtigruten UK managing director Kathryn Beadle says: “Hotel stays in Bergen are popular as this is where our cruises start and end. From Bergen it is possible to take a full-day Norway in a Nutshell excursion (£121), a journey by bus, trains and ferry through some of the beautiful scenery in the area.”

Voyages to Antiquity builds a hotel stay in key cities, either at the start or end of the cruise (and sometimes both), into the cost of most of its packages so passengers have a chance to see more of the places they are visiting; new this year Regent Seven Seas Cruises includes one free hotel night at the start of each cruise.

Regent is also offering new packages combining a 10-night cruise from Venice to Barcelona on Seven Seas Mariner with two nights in Verona and gold tickets for the opera at the Arena di Verona. Departures are on June 26 (when the opera is Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida) and August 10 (for Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco), with prices from £3,895 including flights and transfers, meals, drinks, shore excursions and gratuities.

river cruise-and-stays

Several river cruise companies also offer cruise-and-stay options; for instance, combining a few nights in Lisbon with a cruise on the Douro in Portugal, or packaging Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Warriors, around a Yangtze river cruise. Another favourite is to combine a week’s cruise on the Mekong with hotels in Siem Reap in Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam.

New for 2013, Viking River Cruises is combining a seven-night cruise from Amsterdam to Basel with two nights in Lucerne, while Titan Travel offers a new three or four-night cruise on the Douro on the Spirit of Chartwell barge that hosted the Queen during the Thames Pageant last year, combined with three or four nights in the Pousada de Amares-Santa Maria do Bouro.

Departures are available in June, September and October, and cost from £1,695 for three nights’ full-board on the barge and four nights’ B&B in the pousada including flights and transfers.