|Celebrity Cruises, which launched Xpeditions -- its soft-adventure-oriented cruise line spin-off -- a year ago with year-round Galapagos sailings, continues to tweak the program's boundaries.|
In a swanky New York event this week aimed at attracting trendoids and other Big Apple hipsters, the line unveiled its expansion plans. Rather than the expected announcement -- that it would be adding another vessel to the fledgling small ship line -- Celebrity's announcement instead focused on another aspect of the Xpeditions concept.
In this case, it's a whole new series of genuinely exotic, soft adventure, on-land adventures that represent every region in which Celebrity sails. These are available to passengers who cruise on the line's mainstream ships (as opposed to Celebrity Xpedition), and range from one-day port excursions to multi-day pre- or post-trip land tours.
In the former category, a cruise to Hawaii could include a seven-hour expedition to Hana, on Maui, with tours through lava tube caves, a gourmet picnic and a helicopter sightseeing flight. In Bermuda, passengers can take an aquatic archeology trip on a catamaran. In Alaska's Ketchikan, travelers could embark on a quest for black bears in a remote area of Prince of Whales.
In the pre- or post-cruise category, passengers traveling on a Panama Canal cruise could go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, meet personally with Apollo VII Astronaut Walter Cunningham and take a dinner cruise. Overnight accommodation is included. In Europe, there's a three-night post-cruise trip to Switzerland's Matterhorn. And in South America, a pre- or post-voyage detour to Easter Island is offered out of Valparaiso.
As these are easily the industry's most exotic and imaginative offerings, be prepared for wallet-burn: Daily in-port adventures average about $700 while overnight pre- and/or post-cruise expeditions start at about $2,400.
This new series of offerings isn't the first effort by Celebrity to raise the bar on its claim-of-exotica as far as Xpeditions is concerned. Following the launch of its Galapagos cruises on Celebrity Xpedition, the line added itineraries to the Arctic and Antarctic aboard Kapitan Khlebnikov (a polar icebreaker), a pre- or post-cruise option to experience a race car driving academy in Palm Beach, and a behind-the-scenes tour of Moscow.