Cruise: Winter warmers for 2011/12

Cruise: Winter warmers for 2011/12

Crystal Serenity in Sydney

While a few cruise lines stay in the Mediterranean over winter, cashing in on the growing popularity of visiting cities and sights when the crowds have gone, generally speaking the new season means new destinations and itineraries as ships leave Europe in search of alternative climes.

The Caribbean is a perennial favourite, but other destinations are gaining in popularity. Asia and Australasia are always popular while the Arabian Gulf, with cruises from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is the hot new winter cruise destination. Plus Antarctica, the coldest and most inhospitable place on earth, remains a must-do for many cruisers.

“Winter for us means exotic cruises,” says Pieter van der Schee, Princess Cruises head of brand marketing. “The Far East is our big seller, followed by Australia and New Zealand, and the Panama Canal. These are big holidays so people book early. Our 2011-12 exotics brochure was out last year.”

Highlights of Royal Caribbean’s winter 2011-12 programme include 12-night Caribbean cruises from Bayonne in New Jersey on new ship Celebrity Silhouette, launching in July. Jo Rzymowska, associate vice-president and general manager, UK and Ireland, reckons others to watch this winter are cruises from Dubai on Brilliance of the Seas, Southampton on Independence of the Seas and Fort Lauderdale on Allure of the Seas, one of the world’s biggest cruise ships.

Agents admit winter 2012 sales are not easy as widespread discounting this summer has conditioned clients to wait for prices to drop. “Things are selling but it is a challenging market,” says Steve Philippou, managing director, Gill’s Cruise Centre. “We are having to work a lot harder for the business.”

There are already plenty of winter discounts out there (see below), with Nile cruises among the bargains.

Discover Egypt commercial director Philip Breckner says this is a great time to sell a Nile cruise as the prices are good and feedback from clients is that the sightseeing is great because tourist numbers haven’t recovered from the political unrest in January.

Discover Egypt has a 50% reduction for a second person booking a Nile cruise this winter to stimulate bookings. Fly-cruise prices in December start from £699 for seven nights including sightseeing, which means the second person pays only £349.

Red Sea Holidays has seven-night Nile cruises in December from £599 fly-cruise including shore excursions. Sales director Jason Hilton says keen pricing is helping Nile bookings bounce back. “We expect to see a strong season and have added capacity into the programme.”

However, Norwegian Cruise Line has cancelled its Egypt itineraries this winter, and is instead sailing to the Canary Islands from Barcelona. Introductory fly-cruise prices start from £667 including savings of £150 per cabin.

Coral Princess, Panama Canal

Top deals for winter 2011-12

Voyages of Discovery: £260 off a 17-day Tales of India and Arabia cruise brings the lead fly-cruise price to £1,799 including gratuities.

Thomson Cruises: £200 off a 14-night Caribbean cruise on Thomson Dream on January 12, 2012, brings the lead fly-cruise price to £1,449, plus £100 onboard credit.

SeaDream Yacht Club: Almost $3,000 off a seven-night Caribbean cruise from Barbados on February 6, 2012, reduces the lead cruise-only price to $4,391.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises: £560 off a 12-night Idyllic Isles Caribbean cruise on December 4, brings the fly-cruise price to £3,119 including shore excursions, drinks and gratuities.

The Arabian Gulf

The Arabian Gulf is the hot new cruise destination, growing steadily in popularity since Costa Cruises tested the market in Dubai in 2001 with one of its older ships. Last year, the line named Costa Deliziosa in Dubai and based the vessel there alongside another new ship, Costa Luminosa.

For winter 2011-12, Costa in back in Dubai – new ship Costa Favolosa, which launches in July, is sailing seven-night Jewels of the Emirates cruises – and it’s also trialling cruises from Abu Dhabi on Costa Mediterranea.

The cruises visit Muscat in Oman, Fujairah, Dubai and Bahrain. Two are in December and one sets sail in January 2012. Fly-cruise prices start from £1,029.

MSC Cruises is making its Arabian Gulf debut this winter, sailing cruises from Abu Dhabi on MSC Lirica that call at Muscat, Fujairah, Khasab in Oman and Dubai. Passengers can also sail round-trip cruises from Dubai. Fly-cruise prices start from £849.

Royal Caribbean International is starting its third Dubai season earlier than usual, in November, in response to demand. The seven-night cruises, on Brilliance of the Seas, visit Fujairah and Abu Dhabi, and stay overnight in Muscat in Oman. Fly-cruise prices start from £1,034 on December 12, down
from £1,239.

This year, 103 cruise ships, up from 13 in 2005, carrying more than 390,000 passengers will visit Dubai. Some are there for a day, others are based there.

Asia-Pacific and Latin America

Winter is the perfect time for clients looking for an exotic cruise in destinations such as the Far East and Asia, South America, Australia and New Zealand.

Voyages of Discovery is making its Far East debut this winter, sailing an Empires of Sun cruise that visits Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and the Philippines, as well as Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Osaka and Nagoya in Japan.

Discovery will also be visiting Australia for the first time, on a 21-day cruise from Manila to Sydney and a 26-day voyage from Sydney to Singapore. Fly-cruise prices start from £2,679.

Ultra-luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises is circumnavigating South America on January 6, 2012. The 72-night cruise, on Seven Seas Mariner, costs from £22,179 including flights, transfers, drinks, unlimited shore excursions and gratuities.

Princess Cruises has voyages up the Amazon and around Cape Horn, while Azamara Club Cruises has a 14-night cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong in February 2012 that visits Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and Hanoi in Vietnam.

Antarctica continues to be popular. This winter Compagnie du Ponant will have Le Boréal and L’Austral sailing to the White Continent, while Hurtigruten’s Fram will be sailing 10 voyages and six itineraries ranging from a 12-day Antarctic Discovery voyage to a 20-day Shackleton’s Antarctica, which takes in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

The 15-day Polar Circle Quest cruise from Ushuaia on February 2, 2012 ventures beyond the Antarctic Peninsula and into the Antarctic Circle. Cruise-only prices start from £4,271.

Hurtigruten managing director Kathryn Beadle said: “Antarctica is one of the last unexplored areas of the earth, appealing to well travelled customers who want to experience something different. Our customers want to physically experience the destination by going ashore, rather than just viewing the scenery from the ship.”


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