How cruise lines are building a better shore experience

Richard Humphreys explores the creative combination tours now on offer

How cruise lines are building a better shore experience
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will sail to Reykavik in Iceland, allowing guests to enjoy The Blue Lagoon spa

By Richard Humphreys |

For many people, travelling is a fascinating experience because it allows them to leave their comfort zones and expose themselves to different people and new cultures. While this can be a rewarding undertaking for some, for others, the experience can be overwhelming. Booking a shore excursion through a cruise line is an easy way of solving a passenger’s uneasiness says JP Salazar, chief of staff at The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, who believes that trust in a brand is key.

“Behind any given tour in the world, there is a team of people that select the best operators based on expertise, high quality assets including, vehicles, guides and insurance, among other things,” he says. “The goal of the shore excursion team is to provide guests with a portfolio of curated experiences that will allow them to discover the destination with peace of mind and satisfy different travel styles.”

Martin Lister, head of itinerary planning and destination experience at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, agrees: “Booking a shore tour through a cruise line gives the guest the confidence that the research and preparation has been done in association with professional local experts who know their destination and are experienced in delivering.”

However, notes Lister, tour programmes curated by cruise lines must provide guests with value for money. “It is important to make sure the content is appealing, but it’s also critical to describe tours honestly and correctly, so the guest knows what they are buying and that the tour meets their expectations,” he says. “Exchange rates and the economies of different countries do play a role in achieving value for money. Norway, for example, is considered an expensive country, yet the tour content is rich, so our guests rate it our number one region in the world for tour satisfaction.”

Price is always a big factor when passengers are booking shore excursions, and cruise lines need to be aware of their competition. “These days most cruise lines, including P&O Cruises Australia, offer a best price guarantee that will match or beat the price of comparable tours,” says Sture Myrmell, president of P&O Cruises Australia and Carnival Australia. “If guests find the same tour for less elsewhere, P&O will refund 110% of the price difference, which can be enjoyed in the form of non-refundable onboard spending money.”

Myrmell says that the industry needs to continue educating consumers about the advantages of taking a shore tour with a cruise line that has access to many destinations around the world. “P&O recently partnered with some of its local shore tour guides to create educational and engaging videos that provide a taste of the shore tours on offer,” he explains. “This content can be easily found and viewed on P&O’s website and social media channels.”

Increasingly, cruise lines are also offering their services and guidance to travellers who want to explore a destination on their own.

“We recognise that everyone who pays the cruise fare deserves the opportunity to have a great experience within the destination,” says Lister. “We don’t penalise independent guests because they are not buying a shore excursion, we treat them with equal importance. Destination satisfaction is important so that’s why we have added members to our destination experience team to improve the information and guidance that we offer to the independent guests.”

Cruise lines can measure the success of a tour in many ways, but some are so special that they stand out to operators and guests alike. “A tour that I consider special is an experience we created for Aruba where we take our guests to learn the aloe agriculture process,” says Salazar. “We will take the guests to The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Aruba to participate in a workshop where they will learn how to create an aloe scrub and then enjoy an aloe treatment massage.”

Far away from the sun and heat of the Caribbean, Fred. Olsen’s long cruises through Greenland’s Qooroq ice fjord, where passengers get up close to icebergs, has been particularly successful. “It’s something that mass-tourism is unable to experience regularly and has exceeded the expectations of the many who have taken the trip,” says Lister.

Meanwhile in Australia, Myrmell has seen a trend towards smaller groups taking part in shore tours that involve locally owned operators. “These tours are typically cultural experiences that provide deeper insights into traditional living and leave guests with a new sense of appreciation and understanding of a destination,” says Myrmell. “A recent example is P&O’s ‘Modern Village Tour’ in Vanuatu where a local family welcomes guests into their home for an authentic and personal cultural experience.”

This article was first published in the 2019 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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