The operator will package flights and hotel stays with cruises onboard lines like Silversea and Crystal, as well as offering Oceania Cruises, Azamara, Celebrity, Star Clippers and private yacht charters.
Elegant Resorts hopes to cash in on a trend for cruise customers wanting a tailor-made holiday. Commercial director Alison Scott said in a press statement: "For those looking for a luxurious cruise experience that is perfectly suited to their needs, there is currently no definitive guide. The beauty of our Luxury Cruise brochure is that rather than navigating their way through a vast array of ships and itineraries, clients can turn to our expert team for advice to ensure that they find the ideal cruise. We will also take care of the flights, private transfers and additional accommodation and provide recommendations for add-ons."
Luxury tour operators have been somewhat snooty in the past about cruising, despite its high price tag, and some have commented that there is little crossover between customers booking top land-based resorts and high-end cruises.
Several dabble in cruising -- Cox & Kings, for example, sells Swan Hellenic river cruises and cruisetours to the Galapagos and South America, while Abercrombie & Kent packages Antarctica and various river cruises alongside a big Nile programme -- but until now, most have steered clear of ocean cruising, however luxurious, on anything other than expedition ships.
But Elegant Resorts isn't the only operator to see an opportunity. Virgin Holidays Cruises, already Britain's third biggest cruise tour operator after just two years of trading, focusing mainly on mass-market cruises, is about to launch a "Platinum Collection" in its 2010/11 brochure, which goes on sale December 11.
Cruises on Silversea and Regent Seven Seas will be packaged with luxury hotels and Virgin flights in Upper Class, with a view to adding more lines in the future. "We recently did a fantastic cruise-and-stay package with Silversea with Upper Class flights, a stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami, a nine-night cruise to Barbados and a few nights at The House on Barbados' west coast," commercial director Ashley Royston told Cruise Critic. "People are looking for an all-encompassing holiday experience, not just a fly-cruise."
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor