FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orient Lines sweetened the appeal of its
Scandinavia & Russia cruise-tour, a combination seven-day
cruise and two-night hotel stay introduced last year, by heeding
passenger and agent comments and adding more time in Stockholm,
Sweden, and St. Petersburg, Russia.
Extra time to explore the Swedish and Russian ports was created
by redesigning the itinerary from a roundtrip cruise from
Copenhagen, Denmark, to Stockholm into a one way from Copenhagen to
Stockholm, or the reverse.
Last year's 10-hour stay in Stockholm was expanded into an
overnight aboard the ship and a sightseeing tour.
For the visit to St. Petersburg, the change means two full days
and an overnight instead of the 12-hour stay offered last year.
One-way itineraries are the norm for Orient Lines.
"By sailing one way, you get to stay longer in a port and visit
more ports," said Mitchell Schlesinger, Orient Lines' senior vice
president of sales, marketing and passenger services. "That's part
of our destination-intensive philosophy."
Included hotel stays are also a calling card for the cruise-tour
The Scandinavia & Russia program features two nights at a
first class or deluxe hotel in Copenhagen, giving passengers ample
opportunity to visit the city's castles (an optional, $115,
full-day excursion visits Frederiksborg, Fredensborg Palace and
Kronborg Castle on the island of Zealand) and Tivoli Gardens.
Similarly, the added overnight aboard the ship in St. Petersburg
"enables people to spread out the tours they take and also see a
cultural event in the evening," Schlesinger said.
This year, evening excursions in St. Petersburg are a ballet
performance at the St. Petersburg Conservatory ($55 per person) and
performances of Russian folk songs and dances, highlighted by the
high-kicking dance of the Cossacks, ($48 per person) at Carnival
Is the inclusion of Russia a key selling point to the mostly
Scandinavian itinerary, which also features a 10-hour day in
Helsinki, Finland, and a six-hour visit in Tallinn, Estonia?
"Yes, dramatically so," said Schlesinger. "There's so much
history and beauty in St. Petersburg, and that is a very big
Orient Lines' Scandinavia bookings are 50% ahead of this time
last year, Schlesinger said, "because of the combination of being
[in Scandinavia] for a second season and changing the Scandinavia
& Russia itinerary."
Orient Lines carried about 14,000 U.S. travelers in Scandinavia
"Our acquisition of the Crown Odyssey prompted the expansion
there," Schlesinger explained. "After obtaining the
[1,030-passenger] Crown, we put it on the Mediterranean itineraries
and moved the [830-passenger] Marco Polo to the Scandinavian
Agents Marek Kubik, president, owner and founder of
1-800-Sail-Yes in Dunedin, Fla., and Craig Martin, president of
Cruisin' Inc., Philadelphia, sold groups on Russia &
Scandinavia cruises last year, and both said that the relatively
small ship, the included hotel stay in Copenhagen and additional
time and overnights in St. Petersburg and Stockholm are key selling
points this year.
"On a small ship," Kubik said, "you are not one of thousands of
people. You get to talk to everyone."
Kubik also credited cruise director David Lawton for being "a
real cruise director" and "great entertainer. He runs his own show
and is very visible on the ship."
Lawton, also director of entertainment for Orient Lines, will be
the cruise director aboard the Marco Polo's Scandinavian
itineraries from June 1 through Aug. 5.
Kubik also said a ship of the Marco Polo's size has the
advantage of docking close to town in cities such as Tallinn, where
it is near the Old Town harbor and within walking distance of the
city. Larger cruise ships are forced to dock a half hour's drive
away from the city at Mugga harbor.
"You probably see as much in that nine-day package as some
others' 12-day packages," Martin said, "but it's, of course, less
expensive, and it's a great value."
Both agents had high praise for Orient Lines as a cruise
"Individuals or groups," Martin said, "this is the one cruise
line we never get any complaints on."
Also from an agency perspective, Martin added, "in handling
special requirements for a group, [the line] works with you for
soft as well as tight sailings, unlike some of the majors that tend
to fight you all the way and work with you only if they need your