travel

Land ho! Cruise lines offer tours beyond the sea

In an undated handout photo, tourists in Greece. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara have trips to destinations like Oman (camping in the desert) and Cambodia (Angkor Wat). ― NYT picIn an undated handout photo, tourists in Greece. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara have trips to destinations like Oman (camping in the desert) and Cambodia (Angkor Wat). ― NYT picNEW YORK, April 11 ― Over the past decade, cruise lines have been offering more opportunities to spend time on land. Now one is starting its own land-only tour company.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd has just begun a subsidiary, GoBe.com, a global tour operator and the first noncruise venture for the company. Through the website, travellers can book day trips in 97 countries and nearly 900 cities. Management intends to triple its offerings in the first year.

Though Royal Caribbean’s cruise lines have established expertise in organising shore excursions, the new company is building a new network of tour guides and operators and will focus on destinations well beyond ports.

“We want to be strong in Las Vegas and Madrid and the interior of India and China,” said Billy Campbell, the managing director of GoBe. “We are global and focused on interior destinations.”

A mix of private and group excursions and offerings range from a tour of a fashion design school in Milan (US$293 or RM1,299 for up to eight people) to a three-hour surfing class at Geriba Beach in Brazil (US$194). The service also offers a custom program through which a traveller can request a custom itinerary, including arrangements for activities during long airport layovers. The company is working to add multiday tours.

Some of Royal Caribbean’s cruise lines, which include Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, have been at the forefront of encouraging cruisers to spend more time in a destination, often embedding overnight-or-longer side trip options into a sailing itinerary.

Azamara’s “Cruise Global, Stay Local” programme allows travellers to stay on land and venture further from port for a night or two — camping in a desert in Oman, for example, or spending a night in Venice — before rejoining the ship.

Celebrity Cruises’ multiday excursions include two nights at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and a two-day trip to Jerusalem, Galilee, and Bethlehem in Israel.

The travel research company Phocuswright reported that spending on tours and activities will approach US$150 billion this year, more than double the size of the cruise and car rental markets combined.

“Our motivation is not just an extension of what’s happening on ships,” said Larry Pimentel, Royal Caribbean’s chief destination experience officer. “Noncruisers are a gigantic market and they’re moving online and letting their fingers do the shopping seven days a week.” ― The New York Times

MORE ON MMOTV