Cruise lines say come fly with us

Carnival Cruise Lines has opened up the next battlefront for the Australian passenger – flights.

The operator of Fun Ships is offering CruiseAir packages, allowing cruisers to book flights to homeported or overseas ships through their travel agents or direct.

While at first it seems there is not much new in cruise and flight packages, the announcement signals renewed interest as the major lines prepare for 2015 – the year when one million Australians are expected to take to cruising.

The launch of Carnival CruiseAir packages follows an increase in interstate bookings for the Sydney-based Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend, as well as the debut of the cruise line’s new fly-cruise options to Singapore and Hawaii this year.

Carnival Cruise Lines Vice President Australia Jennifer Vandekreeke said CruiseAir would make it easy to book cruises and flights from 63 different cities across Australia and New Zealand.

“Guests can choose their airline, class and seat. It offers immediate flight confirmations and all packages include one piece of check-in baggage per person.

“CruiseAir also gives peace of mind with ‘next port’ protection, which means that if there’s a flight delay or service disruption we’ll get guests to their next appropriate port of call.

“Plus it offers post-cruise protection – so if a cruise is late into port and a guest misses their return flight, we’ll work with the airline to re-book the flight and ensure our guest gets home.”

Royal Caribbean, one of Carnival’s main rivals, maintained it was already offering Choice Air, which is also available through travel agents or through its Air/Sea department.

A spokesperson told Cruise Passenger: “Our air arrangements offer a seamless, worry-free way to get from your home airport to the departure port and back again Transfers between the airport and the port can be arranged at an additional cost.

“We will from time to time offer ChoiceAir Specials. Customers will have their choice of virtually any economy, business class or first class fares.”

Frequent flyer points are also becoming an important new incentive to cruise passengers. Qantas already has a purchase system allowing its loyalty card users to book cruise, and an announcement is expected next week on a similar scheme for Jetstar.

Princess Cruises’ eZAir and P&O Cruises CruiseAir were launched more than two years ago, accessing real-time pricing and flight availability.

The increasing competition in the cruise market and homeporting is expected to lead to keener pricing and better value for cruisers.