Cruise: Go niche with themed cruises and excursions

Cruise: Go niche with themed cruises and excursions

Next time clients excuse themselves from a cruise because they prefer to “do things” on holiday, be ready with your practised “but did you know….?’ routine.

Nothing to do with rock-climbing walls, ice skating and ten-pin bowling this time, but the many weird and wonderful special-interest cruises on offer for passengers who want to come home from their holiday with more than just memories.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has a big selection of themed cruises, from music and dance voyages to painting and comedy itineraries, as well as history-related Civilisations packages.

General sales manager Lol Nichols said the music and dance cruises sell well, as do the Civilizations packages. He said: “Some agents use themed cruises to target special-interest groups but they should make more of them.”

Nichols said Olsen’s Flagship Golf cruises bring in passengers who would not normally consider cruising with Fred.

Peter Deilmann Rivers and Cruises offers an eclectic mix of themed cruises covering everything from music to horses. Managing director Stuart Perl said they are great for selling cruises to special-interest groups.

Editor's note: For a different angle on niche packages, read this week's feature on special-interest rail and coach tours.

Who offers what

Fred Olsen offers special-interest cruises under the guise of the ArtsClub or the Civilisations programme.

ArtsClub cruises, which cover topics as diverse as antiques, wine, the Archers and big band music, are accompanied by experts – or some of the cast in the case of the Archers. There are free talks and lectures and themed excursions on sale to passengers.

Civilisations is a paid-for package of lectures and excursions aimed at people with a deeper interest in a subject, this year everything from Polar exploration to Baltic literature and Celtic history.

Balmoral has a 24-night Ancient Civilizations cruise in November from £2,287 per person. The full Civilisations package is an extra £999 per person; a lecture-only option costs £299 per person.

Fred Olsen’s Flagship Golf packages, on cruises in the Med, Caribbean, Canary Islands and Baltic, include four rounds of golf on different courses, a welcome party for players and partners and up to five lessons with a PGA Pro. It costs £400 per person in the Caribbean, £350 per person elsewhere.

Luxury lines Silversea and Crystal Cruises have special-interest food-and-wine cruises hosted by leading chefs and sommeliers from around the world who give cookery demonstrations and prepare meals.

Anton Mosimann will be on Silversea’s Silver Wind in October, on a 12-day cruise from Istanbul to Rome, as part of the line’s Culinary and Wine series. Prices start from £3,172 per person cruise-only.

Crystal also has cruises themed around jazz, ballroom dancing, health, tennis and golf, while Silversea has cruises targeted at golfers, history enthusiasts and nature lovers, among other interests.

Oceania has a culinary cruise in August with US celebrity chef Jaques Pépin, who is the line’s executive chef. He will be on a 14-night Roman Revelations cruise from Barcelona to Istanbul departing August 9 and giving cookery demonstrations, preparing special menus and organising culinary events. Prices start from $2,224 (dollars correct) per person cruise-only.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has Le Cordon Bleu workshops, operated by chefs from the eponymous cookery school in Paris, giving budding Nigella’s hands-on experience guided by the experts. Cost is $499 per person, which includes three two-hour workshops, dinner with the chef, a Le Cordon Bleu cookbook, chef’s hat and apron.

For those who like to keep active, Hebridean International Cruises has Footloose voyages in Scotland, with guided walks at each port, while Peter Deilmann is offering cycling packages on 25 river cruises this summer. There are daily guided tours by bike for an extra €595 per person.

Deilmann also has an equestrian cruise on the Danube from May 31 to June 7, giving horse lovers the chance to visit stables and stud farms, and see a private show at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. The package costs an extra £250.

Spies, hogs and spooks: Themed cruises

Oceania Cruises’ Nautica has been given a licence to thrill on a Spies, Lies and Espionage cruise in the Black Sea in July, sailing from Istanbul to Athens and visiting the former Soviet ports of Sochi, Yalta, Odessa and Sevastopol. CIA, KGB and RCMP professionals will be on board to teach passengers the tricks of the spying trade.

Hogs on the High Seas are members of the Harley Owners Group who cruise together. The next Hogs cruise is a Western Caribbean voyage on Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas from November 1-8. It’s mostly Americans, but British Hogs are welcome. Leathers are required for formal nights.

Carnival Valor will be hosting a Psychic Medium cruise in the Western Caribbean from June 28-July 5 for anyone who want to make contact with the other world. There will be psychic medium shows and a Mingle with the Mediums cocktail party. But anyone interested will know that already!


  • Want more on the cruise sector? Read Cruise Lines, Jane Archer's blog for Travel Weekly


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