ORLANDO — During its annual convention here on Sunday, Ensemble Travel Group announced enhancements to its hosted cruise program that will offer guaranteed departures and elite excursions.
"The Ensemble cruise program has long been a standout in both the consortia and consumer marketplace," said Libbie Rice, who made the announcement during her keynote with fellow co-president Lindsay Pearlman.
"So why mess with success?" Rice asked. "Because it's what great organizations do when the time is right."
Pearlman said the guaranteed hosted cruise departure program will start out small, like the Ensemble hosted cruise program did 15 years ago. Today, the hosted cruise program has 300 to 350 departures annually.
The guaranteed departure program will offer 20 sailings in Europe beginning spring 2016, Pearlman said. Cruise lines participating in the pilot are Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea Cruises.
Each guaranteed departure also offers another element, Ensemble said.
"With each departure, with the help from our partners like Made for Spain and Excursions, it features an elite, private excursion guaranteed to keep your clients buzzing and coming back for more," Rice said.
Excursions in 2016 will be offered in Barcelona; Belfast; Dubrovnik, Croatia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; and Valletta, Malta.
Pearlman offered an example of an elite excursion in Barcelona: First, guests would have a private paella dinner hosted by a well-known chef. Their evening would end with champagne in the bell tower of Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi.
In addition to guaranteed departures and elite excursions, Ensemble also announced a new partnership with Un-Cruise Adventures.
"Based on what we're seeing with many of you, your cruise business is strong and growing, but we think we can help you ramp it up a little bit in the niche cruise category," Rice said.
In the past few months, Ensemble has partnered with Fathom and Blount Small Ship Adventures. Un-Cruise Adventures is the consortium's latest partnership.
Un-Cruise Adventures has a personal, small group approach, Rice said, with cruises in Alaska, Mexico, Hawaii, and the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest.
It has a fleet consisting of expedition vessels, boutique yachts and a replica turn-of-the-century coastal steamer.