A fly-cruise-what? Cruising is considered among the fastest growing sectors in tourism everywhere, riding its wave of popularity. For rand-stretched South African travellers, it is certainly one of the best value-for-money holiday experiences, thanks to inclusive fares, bonus add-ons and early-bird booking incentives.
In the South African market, significant special offers are usually run seasonally and if it's an international cruise, travellers can snap up deals released periodically. For example, early bird Mediterranean cruise deals are often advertised in September and October.
READ: Anniversaries and loyalty programmes: Cruise through your holidays with the best offers around
By the end of 2019, 30 million people will have expected to take to the seas and cruise, according to new data released by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). That’s three million more passengers than last year.
There data shows that globally, the Mediterranean is second only to the Caribbean in terms of preferred international cruising destinations, "but among South African travellers it takes first place".
With the growing demand and many competitors, cruise companies are continually looking to one-up each other.
So what is a fly-cruise package exactly?
“The term ‘fly-cruise' simply refers to a cruise where one would first have to fly to the destination to join the ship,” explains Divan Viljoen, Marketing Campaign Manager at Cruiseabout, a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group.
“A fly-cruise is a bundled package that includes the cruise fare and flights. Retailers also usually add in extras such as travel insurance, hotel accommodation, transfers, tours, and anything else the traveller may require.”
While local and regional cruises remain prevalent, there is something particularly special about cruising the far-flung corners of the globe. Fly-cruising not only allows you to adjust to the time zone of the new destination and beat any lingering jet lag, but passengers can experience two holidays in one by adding a few days in the port of departure pre or post-cruise.
SEE: Your ship's coming in! Popular cruises to plan for 2019
The most popular cruise destination for South African travellers at this year's Flight Centre Travel Expo held in Johannesburg, the allure of the Mediterranean is as strong as ever. Ages-old towns and cities meet sparkling deep blue and turquoise seas in the region.
While Europe can be a daunting prospect for South Africans travelling on the rand, Viljoen remarks that a cruise that offers accommodation, all meals, transport from port to port and entertainment, as well as other extras, is unbeatable value.
“The Eastern Mediterranean, such as cruising the Aegean coastlines of Greece and Turkey, and Croatia, Spain and Portugal, have seen increased interest,” he explains. “These are also beautiful countries with many stunning views and attractions and a rich sense of history.”
Top pick: Seven-night Italy, Greece and Croatia sailing onboard the MSC Lirica.
Ease into the rhythms of the Caribbean on a fly-cruise that visits some of the most colourful and vibrant ports in unbelievably blue Caribbean waters.
Discover the bustling beaches and palm-tree lined promenades of Miami and soak up the city’s strong Cuban influences. Take to the waters in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, a popular port of call with stunning beaches and different attractions. In Cozumel, Mexico, enjoy unspoilt beaches and explore the country’s unique history.
Top pick: Seven-night Jamaica, Mexico, Bahamas & Cayman Island sailing on board the MSC Seaside.
One of the coolest travel trends in 2019 is the popularity of cold-climate destinations. From Iceland to Norway, cruise-lovers are bundling up and heading far south and way up north.
Expedition cruises visit areas usually explored by scientists or documentary filmmakers. This type of travel has become a viable and popular alternative to the more mainstream and traditional cruise markets.
While fares might differ, cruises to Alaska, the Arctic and Antarctica are increasingly on the radar. And if the South and the North Pole seem just a tad too far, the Norwegian fjords are far more accessible and also stunning.
Top pick: A 13-night Northern Lights cruise onboard the MS Finnmarken
Almost as trendy as cold-climate destinations, river cruising is in demand. Ideal for venturing deep into the heart of a destination, especially in Europe, where larger ocean cruise ships can't access, consider a river cruise in India, the Far East or Egypt.
There are various speciality river cruise lines with on board features catering to every type of traveller, special interest and demographic.
Top pick: A 7 night cruise on the Danube with U River Cruises, a trendy cruise line 'designed for the Millennial and Millennial-minded traveller'.
The Middle East
Cruising along the coastline is a fantastic way to explore the fascinating Middle East
Middle Eastern itineraries visit countries and offer sights and attractions as diverse as they are exciting, brimming with history and culture. From desert dune bashing safaris and glitzy mega-malls in Dubai to the souks of Doha to the theme parks of Abu Dhabi, fresh seafood and desert sands in Muscat, a cruise is a hassle-free way to view it all and only unpack once.
Top pick: A seven-night cruise onboard the Costa Diadema visiting Dubai, Oman, Doha and Abu Dhabi.
With great fly-cruise options to almost anywhere, be sure to book early for the best fare, cabin selection and bonus value add-ons. Don’t miss the boat!
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