Late-evening port calls and overnight stays are cropping up in itineraries where cruise lines have not traditionally offered them, including in the Caribbean.

Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line are among those offering overnight stays on itineraries leaving from U.S. home ports. Windstar Cruises has overnights in the British Virgin Islands on several itineraries.

And Celebrity Cruises said last week that 43 cruises in 2016 will include an overnight stay in one of six Caribbean ports, from Cozumel to St. Maarten.

“This gives us the ability to say we have more overnights in the Caribbean than any cruise line in the industry,” said Dondra Ritzenthaler, Celebrity’s senior vice president of sales, trade support and services.

Lines that operate larger, contemporary ships have generally avoided overnighting in port, while lines with older, destination-oriented products have played up the idea, particularly in European destinations.

Azamara Club Cruises, for example, has based its marketing in part on the “longer stays, more overnights” mantra. Ports such as Venice, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, Hong Kong and Sydney increasingly are attracting overnights in port from a variety of cruise lines.

“While overnights have been a trend in the marketplace in Europe and Asia, there really hasn’t been a movement [in the Caribbean], and we believe we are a leader in this initiative,” Ritzenthaler said.

Azamara doesn’t offer overnights in the Caribbean primarily because it doesn’t sail there much. But Azamara has capitalized on a lament voiced by many cruise passengers that they don’t get enough time to explore and experience the destinations on a typical itinerary. Overnights greatly expand the window for landside activities. “Consumer and trade research indicates this is something they desire,” Ritzenthaler said.  

Starting in January, Celebrity will overnight in Aruba, Barbados, Cartagena, Cozumel, Curacao and St. Maarten. 

Most of the ports are on the periphery of the Caribbean basin and are reachable only on longer cruises. Celebrity said it will offer the overnights on its itineraries of 10 days or more, primarily on two ships, the Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Equinox.

Ritzenthaler said the line picked the ports because they are among those rated highest by consumers.

Other lines offer overnights closer to home. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, has an overnight stay in Nassau built into the three-day itinerary for a Carnival Ecstasy sailing from Miami. Carnival also has late-night departures in ports, such as an 11 p.m. sailaway from Curacao.

Traditionally, overnights have not been a feature of most contemporary lines because they mean giving up some onboard revenue, such as casino and specialty dining sales. Also, staying in port overnight often adds to the port charges a ship pays, and can mean a reduction in the overall number of ports a cruise gets to visit.

Princess Cruises is another line that is sprinkling late-night and overnight Caribbean stays into its 2016 itineraries. The Regal Princess will offer late departures when it calls in St. Thomas and Cozumel, while the Caribbean Princess will do the same in Aruba.

On departures in November and December from Long Beach, Calif., to the Mexican Riviera, the Star Princess has a five-night cruise with an overnight in Cabo San Lucas, a route which will be taken up by the Ruby Princess in 2016.

Celebrity has been selling the 2016 Caribbean winter season since fall 2014, and ships have been booking well, Ritzenthaler said. Now booked guests will get the bonus of an overnight stay. “This will be a really wonderful gift for these folks,” she said.  “We think it will be a differentiator.”


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