-- During a panel discussion about niche cruise operators at the
Cruise3sixty convention here, a travel agent raised her hand and
asked whether tour operators entering into the cruise business was
If youre Tauck
World Discovery, the answer is a most definite yes.
which is known first and foremost as a tour operator, also is in
the cruise business -- and not just in the river-cruise side of the
business, where tour operators have long held a stake. Tauck is an
oceangoing operator, too.
Tauck has, in
fact, offered cruise tours since the mid-1980s.
But we didnt
market them as cruises, said Michael Marino, Taucks senior manager
of product operations.
Now, the company
is working harder than ever to expand its cruise business, Tauck at
Sea, and take advantage of cruise as a buzz word to expand its
In a statement
last month, Tauck said that the number of clients booking its
cruise products grew 60% in 2005. It said it is anticipating
continued dramatic growth in the category for 2006.
Robin Tauck, the
company president, said advance bookings for the Treasures of the
Aegean cruise are up 240%.
Tauck isnt the
only operator drawing on the trend.
Kent, for example, charters one of the American Safari yachts for
its Alaska Inside Passage cruises and uses two 50-passenger vessels
from Bora Bora Cruises to sail in the Tahitian Islands. Globus owns
Avalon Waterways, a river-cruising firm in Europe.
The strategy to
charter or take group space on different ships enables tour
operators to offer a cruise program that is unusually
are grouped loosely into three categories. The Elegant Yachts
category includes the Windstar ships and smaller French-owned masted yachts like Le
Vessels category includes Clipper Cruise Lines ships (each under
138 passengers), a 226-passenger vessel called Le Diamant that
cruise aficionados will recognize as the former Song of Flower and
the tiniest ship in the Tauck collection, the 40-passenger,
1,025-ton Isabela II.
A third category,
Luxury Liners, includes midsize luxury ships and
About 20% of
Taucks tours include a cruise component.
The prices on
cruises include pre- and post-cruise stays, wine with dinner, tips
and excursions, and are therefore higher than the lines
seven-day cruises from Athens to Istanbul on the 149-passenger Wind
Spirit or Wind Star begin at $3,399 per person, but Tauck is
offering a package that includes the same cruise for $6,790
per-person.Tauck estimated its extras are worth around
reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].