New to cruise: sail-and-stay

Singapore skyline

Offer clients nervous about taking their first cruise a sail-and-stay combo they can’t resist.

You wouldn’t go to New York and miss the Empire State Building, or visit Athens and not climb to the Acropolis. So why sell a cruise to clients that starts or ends in these cities, and others with such iconic sights, without selling them an extra few nights on land?

Sail-and-stay holidays are a good way to make extra cash from existing cruise clients; more importantly, they are a proven way of tempting customers to try a cruise. Some might not have thought of a holiday afloat but will be open to new ideas, while others might be thinking about a cruise but reluctant to commit to an entire holiday on a ship. Whichever, if the holiday combines a cruise with a few nights on tour or in a hotel, they will feel at ease by not putting all their eggs in one basket.

And if couples cannot agree whether this is the year he gets his trip to Universal Studios or she finally tries that cruise she’s been hankering after, a holiday pairing the theme park with a voyage from Port Canaveral is the perfect solution.

Celestyal Cruises offers three, four and seven-night voyages around the Greek islands from Athens that agents can easily combine with a city break to appeal to new cruisers.

Chief operating officer Chris Theophilides said: “We have a very high percentage of first-time cruisers on our ships and almost all add a land element. It’s an easy way to convert clients to cruise – and by upselling agents can earn extra commission.”

Celestyal Cruises can help agents organise hotels in Athens and day tours from the city, for instance to the Peloponnese or Delphi. Theophilides said the cruise line is also looking at offering tours and hotels in Heraklion in Crete, which is available as an alternative embarkation port to Athens. Thomson Cruises taps into the hotels and flights offered by all the TUI brands to offer cruise-and-stay holidays at most of its embarkation ports but there are endless other options for agents to consider.

Clients could add a cruise to city breaks in Rome, Barcelona or Venice, stay a few nights in New York ahead of a transatlantic crossing to Southampton on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, or linger in Singapore and Hong Kong either side of a voyage between the two cities.

Irresistible combos

The trick for agents trying to get first-timers onto a ship is firstly to present the cruise-and-stay holiday as a package rather than giving them the option to turn down the sea element, and second, to make the land and sea combination irresistible.

For instance, who could resist a week of sun, sand and sea in Bermuda packaged with a transatlantic crossing from New York to the UK or a cruise from Venice with a one-way journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and a few nights at the swanky Cipriani Hotel?

According to Holland America Line UK managing director Lynn Narraway, bolting an Alaska cruise onto a journey through the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer train is a sure-fire way to hook first-timers.

She said: “Some 82 per cent of people booking Holland America’s Alaska cruises have never been on a ship. They are going to Canada for the Rockies and then deciding to add a cruise. Once they have been to Alaska, they book another cruise with us. It’s a fantastic entry point for first-timers.”

Narraway advises agents to convert clients to cruise by using language they will understand.

“People know what land holidays are all about. Talk about Alaska, Australia, South America in terms of the places they can visit, get them excited to go and then introduce the cruise.”

Saga, Titan Travel and Cosmos all offer a wide range of cruise-and-stay holidays that agents can tap into if they are not confident about dynamically packaging, or do not have the financial bonds needed to do it themselves.

Not just the oceans

Taj Mahal
Add a visit to India’s Taj Mahal to Uniworld itinerary

River cruise lines are equally conscious of the need to woo first-time cruisers with exciting destinations. Cruises pairing Prague with the Danube are a perennial favourite but there are plenty of other options, for instance combining the Douro with Lisbon and Madrid, the Danube with Vienna and, in Asia, Bangkok and the Inle Lake with the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar.

New next year, Tauck’s 11-day Rhine Enchantment pairs three nights in Milan with a cruise between Basel and Amsterdam, while Uniworld is packaging a Danube cruise between Passau and Budapest with two nights in Munich and an included tour to the futuristic BMW World car plant.

In India, Uniworld precedes a river cruise on the Hooghly River (a tributary of the Ganges) with a Golden Triangle tour of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Uniworld managing director, UK Kathryn Beadle said: “For many, a trip to India is not complete without the Taj Mahal, but as you can’t cruise there it makes sense for us to combine the cruise with a land tour that takes in this iconic sight.”


1 Show how a cruise adds additional sightseeing options to a land holiday.

2 Present clients with a cruise-and-stay package rather than suggesting they add a few nights on land to their cruise.

3 Combine a cruise with iconic experiences such as the Orient Express or Taj Mahal so customers can’t say no.

4 Do a per diem calculation to show first-timers the value of a cruise with all meals and entertainment included.

5 Pair like with like. Clients choosing a five-star hotel will want the equivalent standard on their cruise.


  • Celestyal Cruises’ three-night Iconic Aegean cruise round-trip from Piraeus visits Mykonos, Kusadasi, Patmos, Heraklion and Santorini. From €399pp cruise-only departing 30 March 2018.
  • Scenic’s 11-day Luxury Mekong and Temples Discovery cruise tour pairs two days exploring the Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with a one-week Mekong cruise from Kampong Cham to My Tho (for Ho Chi Minh City). From £4,540pp departing 15 September 2018, including flights.
  • Titan Travel’s 18-day Deluxe Alaskan Voyage pairs the Rocky Mountaineer train with a seven-night Holland America cruise round-trip from Vancouver that visits Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. From £4,399pp departing 5 May 2018, including flights.


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