Celebrity Cruises plans to launch regular high-end cruise tours to enhance its Modern Luxury market position, with three to be offered in 2015 and more to follow.
The product will be known as Celebrity Explorations. Travel agents will be able to earn commission on the land portion at the same rate as their cruise commission, said Dondra Ritzenthaler, Celebrity's senior vice president of sales and trade support and services.
"We are always trying to think of things that our travel partners will like and embrace," Ritzenthaler said, while at the same time being popular with cruise customers.
A pilot cruise tour this year that included an African safari followed by a Black Sea cruise sold out three or four weeks after sales opened, Ritzenthaler said. "We were very motivated," she said. "The consumer clearly likes this idea."
Cruise tours, which package a cruise with a pre- or post-cruise tour, have been popular for years in Alaska, where Princess Cruises and Holland America Line have built lodging and transportation infrastructure to support them.
Luxury lines such as Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises more recently have expanded their cruise tour lineup.
At Celebrity, the three launch tours will be on different continents, starting in Australia, where the land portion will include a three-night stay in Sydney and a guided city tour, Sydney Harbor dinner cruise and koala encounter.
Ritzenthaler said the packages can be coupled with several other itineraries, including the South Pacific and New Zealand.
The first cruise tour open for booking is Jan. 15 on the Celebrity Solstice.
In August, Celebrity will reprise the five-night African safari cruise tour, this time paired with several itineraries from Southampton, England, on the Celebrity Eclipse, including Spain and the Canary Islands.
The package includes meals, a stay at a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, and airline tickets for internal flights, all commissionable, Ritzenthaler emphasized.
A third cruise tour, starting in December 2015, will combine an Amazon river cruise with a 14-night voyage on the Celebrity Infinity either between Argentina and Chile or to the Antarctic.
The four-night river cruise will be provided by Aqua Expeditions on its Aria Amazon vessel, which has 16 staterooms.
All of the cruise tours will have limited capacity, although the other two will accommodate more guests than the Amazon expedition, Ritzenthaler said. "Every one will be slightly different — bold and big enough to get the travel partners' attention, but it won't be 400 or 500 [people]," she said.
Unlike the pilot cruise tour, where past Celebrity guests got early booking access, the new cruise tours will open to all guests on the same date.
Ritzenthaler said Celebrity's expedition ship in the Galapagos, which operates under the name Celebrity Xpedition, will continue to be independent of the Celebrity Explorations product.
Celebrity Explorations will also be distinct from the stand-alone tour operator called TourTrek that parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is developing, Ritzenthaler said.
Prices for the African safari/Iberian cruise package begin at $7,999, while prices for the Amazon river cruise packaged with a 14-night cruise between Argentina and Chile start at $10,599.
Prices for the Sydney and South Pacific cruise tour start at $2,149 and are lower because the land program is shorter and doesn't involve internal flights, a Celebrity spokeswoman said.