Cruise: Cash in on trend for short break voyages

Cruise: Cash in on trend for short break voyages

Pick up any 2010 cruise brochure and you’ll spot a very clear trend – an increase in the number of short break cruises from the UK.

Short break cruises have been around for a long time, pioneered by Carnival Cruise Lines in the 1970s to make cruising accessible to all, but used mostly by cruiselines to help fill a gap in the schedules or sell a ship relocation.

But cruiselines are increasingly using them as a key sales tool. New-to-cruise clients can get a taste of cruising by trying out a holiday at sea without risking much money or time on something they might not like, while regular clients can get a quick cruise fix in between their longer voyages.

P&O Cruises managing director Nigel Esdale said just over half of passengers booked on its short cruises this year are new to the brand, which also includes new-to-cruise guests.

Clients can choose two-night weekends away in Belgium, five nights hopping around the Med, or ad-hoc seven-night cruises to Iberia or Scandinavia (as opposed to the fixed weekly flycruise seasons sold in the Med).

In 2010, for instance, Princess Cruises is offering four seven-night cruises from Southampton to Iberia and Scandinavia, one more than last year, in May, July and

It is also launching new one-week ‘Interludes’ cruises on Ocean Princess (the ship is currently called Tahitian Princess, but will be renamed in November). There will be two ‘Interludes’ from Dover and eight in the Mediterranean.

Head of brand marketing Pieter van der Schee said the new short cruises have been added in response to demand.

He said: “Our clients like longer cruises but the seven-night itineraries have been doing very well. They appeal to  first-timers as well as regular clients who want to fit an additional cruise in during the year.

“We get a lot of families over the May half term, and mature clients who want a short break during term time.”

Princess’ 2010 seven-night cruises from Southampton start from £599, or £85 a day for accommodation and all meals. Van der Schee said: “The price  makes them easy to sell. Agents should target first-timers, and also offer them as an alternative if clients are looking for a short holiday to the Canary Islands or Spain.”

Cruiselines also see short cruises from the UK as an ideal product for agents looking to make a sale to recession-hit clients as the prices are great value because there are no flight costs.

P&O Cruises, which is offering 25 short cruises for 2010, has a three-night break from Southampton on Azura in October 2010, visiting Zeebrugge, the port for Bruges, and Le Havre, from £284 per person. That’s just under £94 a day with all meals included. Clients who book by June 30 will also get free car parking at Southampton port.

P&O’s short cruise selection also includes two-night cruises to Zeebrugge and seven-night breaks to Iberia. In July 2010, Azura has a seven-night cruise to Dublin, Cork, Bilbao and Brest, with prices from £599 per person.

Holland America Line is testing the mini cruise market with two four-night cruises on Eurodam this July – from Copenhagen to Dover and a round trip from Dover, which is also the cruiseline’s first ex-UK cruise. This will be followed by a two-night sailing from Dover to Copenhagen.

Holland America Line UK managing director Lynn Narraway said the Dover cruise fits in with the cruiseline’s focus on building business in the UK. “I’ve been asking for this for a long time. It’s all about introducing Holland America to the British market, either to regular cruisers or first-timers.”

By Easter, the Dover cruise was 75% sold, with about 95% of the passengers from the UK. Narraway said: “We are positioning it as an alternative to a city break. Reader offers and agents such as Thomas Cook Cruise have really got behind it.” An outside cabin on the return Dover cruise costs from £459 per person including all meals.

Narraway, who also heads Carnival Cruise Lines in the UK, said there has also been an increase in demand for Carnival’s mini cruises from Florida this year. It sails three and four-night cruises from Miami to the Bahamas and Cozumel in Mexico. Prices start from £199 for four nights’ cruise-only.

She said: “They are perfect as part of a longer holiday in Florida, or for a mini-break for clients who own villas there.

“It is also something a bit different for people who have done the theme parks and are looking to try something new.

“If clients have never cruised before, it’s a good taster and at least they can be sure of enjoying the rest of their holiday if they really don’t like the cruise, which is unlikely.”

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