Updated October 10, 2019
While you might think cruising follows a fairly simple formula -- sail to destination, explore destination, sail to another destination and repeat -- there are actually many different variations, with one to suit everyone. Cruise package holidays typically offer something extra on top of the average cruise, whether that's a hotel stay, tickets to a special event or little additional touches to theme your cruise to an interest or occasion. Having everything you need for a fantastic cruise holiday organised and packaged up for you is a failsafe way to a stress-free getaway, so these cruises are a great option for those who like to keep holiday hassles to a minimum.
Take your pick from our top 10 types of cruise packages to ensure your next holiday is smooth sailing from start to finish.
1. Cruise & Stay Packages
Most cruise lines offer cruise and stay options, where you can combine a cruise with a hotel stay in a particular destination. Basically it's a cruise holiday and a regular holiday, rolled into one. Whether you choose to tag a city break stay onto the end (or beginning), or prefer a longer holiday, it's a good way to get the best of both worlds. You'll enjoy the multi-destination aspect of a cruise, plus all the facilities onboard, before being able to spend more time exploring and enjoying one place.
Thomson Cruises has a varied choice of cruise and stay options, including lots of longer seven-night holiday stays. One example is the two-week Canary Island cruise and stay packages, which include a seven-night cruise around the Canaries plus a seven-night hotel stay on either Tenerife or Gran Canaria.
Or, if you fancy a bite of the Big Apple, Cunard offers transatlantic cruises from Southampton to New York which include a three-night stay in the city that never sleeps. With no stops along the way, these cruises are aimed at those who want to spend more time at sea, making the most of everything a huge cruise ship has to offer. In the case of Cunard's Queen Elizabeth this includes an Elemis spa, formal events in the Queens Room ballroom, the Insights enrichment programme and theatre productions in the Royal Court Theatre.
2. Cruisetour Packages
A cruisetour package goes one better than a cruise and stay, usually including hotel stays in more than one destination. They combine cruising with on-land touring, including travel between non-coastal destinations, as well as organised tours and experiences along the way. They're a good option when not everywhere on your must-see list is easily accessible from a cruise port, and will take you to places that aren't doable in the usual day excursion.
Princess Cruises offers some good examples of cruisetours, with a wide choice of destinations including America, South America, Canada, Australia and Europe. Close to home there's the Ring of Kerry tour, which travels the panoramic 100-mile scenic road along Ireland's western tip. After spending four days touring the Irish counties of Limerick, Cork and Kerry, you'll cruise from Southampton, around the U.K. and across to Paris, with port stops including Guernsey, Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh and more.
3. Festive Cruise Packages
Christmas and New Year are ideal times to squeeze in a holiday, as many workplaces close for the festive break. And you can guarantee a magical atmosphere onboard -- Christmas cruise packages by P&O Cruises, for example, include presents for everyone, festive meals, carol-singing choirs, elaborate decorations, festive films and New Year's Eve parties.
Many Christmas cruises also give you the chance to visit some of the world's best Christmas markets. The Fred. Olsen Christmas Markets of Germany & Denmark and Irish Christmas Markets itineraries are two examples. And even if you've only got one night to spare, you can still enjoy the festive cruise experience with Cruise & Maritime Voyages. This cruise line offers overnight packages including a festive lunch and dinner on selected dates through December.
Despite cruising's one-time reputation as being just for grown-ups, the family cruise market is booming, with cruise lines rushing to meet demand with holiday-resort megaships and informal cruises. Royal Caribbean International is one of the biggest names in family cruising, offering fantastic-for-families cruise packages as standard. Expect endless onboard activities, including bumper cars, climbing walls and surf simulators, family dining options, kids' clubs catering for ages 6 months to 17 years, and some brilliant family accommodation solutions, including interconnecting and flexible configuration rooms on some ships. The Dreamworks Experience featuring Shrek and the animals of Madagascar is also a big draw for those cruising with little ones, and is available on 10 of the fleet's 25 ships, including popular Quantum and Oasis-class ships.
5. Wedding and Honeymoon
If you love the idea of saying "I do" while sailing a sparkling ocean, a wedding cruise package can make your dream come true. P&O Cruises is one line offering easy-to-organise weddings at sea, with complete packages including everything you need for a romantic wedding day, plus the option to add on those extra finishing touches, like the bouquet and cake. The captain will even conduct the ceremony for you. Commitment ceremonies and vow renewal packages are also offered -- and the best bit is that your dream honeymoon is included too.
Princess is another cruise line offering weddings through its Tie the Knot programme, with a choice of getting married at sea, in-port or at your destination (choose from beach, garden and glacier ceremony options).
6. Adventure and Activity Packages
If lounging around by the pool isn't your idea of holiday heaven, an adventure or activity cruise package might be more up your street. Those who enjoy gentle exercise could consider walking cruises on the 50-guest Hebridean Princess. These cruise packages are "ultra all-inclusive," with everything from Champagne to picnic baskets included in the up-front cost. Passengers will also benefit from experienced guides on the Footloose walking itineraries, the use of bicycles, transfers and parking in port, all entrance fees to places of interest (think castles, gardens and country estates), free Wi-Fi and pre-paid tips. Hebridean will even arrange fishing trips and speedboat rides, free of charge, if the mood takes you. Hebridean Cruises specialises in cruising the Scottish islands and Highlands on Princess, but also sails European rivers on the Royal Crown ship.
For something a little more challenging, Hurtigruten is a Norwegian expedition line offering cruises to the Arctic and Antarctic on its glacier-proof explorer ships. This line was the first to include a Northern Lights Guarantee on selected cruises -- so if you don't see the spectacular lights streaking across the sky, you can cruise again for free! There are several special package cruises available in 2018 including a 13-day The Frozen Land of the Penguins sailing in January 2018 and 19-day The Ultimate Antarctica Experience, which includes lectures by "urban birder" David Lindo, activities in the explorer room and ashore, access to an onboard science centre, Antarctic landings in rugged Polarcirkel workboats, free hot drinks, free rubber boot rental, and a wind and water resistant jacket.
7. Pampering Packages
When it comes to cruising, there's luxury and then there's luxury. You won't find yourself slumming it, whichever cruise you choose, but if you blow the budget on a high-end line, you'll enjoy a whole new level of indulgence. Silversea is one luxury cruise line offering these ultimate pampering packages, with everything from butler service to premium spirits included in the cost.
If ultimate pampering for you means spending your days relaxing in the onboard spa, Celebrity Cruises offers spa packages which include AquaClass staterooms with soothing spa extras like an aromatherapy diffuser, upgraded toiletries and flavoured teas, unlimited access to spa facilities, a personal spa concierge, exclusive dining in "clean cuisine" restaurant Blu and much more.
8. Special Event Packages
Some cruise packages are created around a special event, with some lines including tickets and transfers to the event and others offering them at an additional cost. For example, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Star Clippers all offered packages to the Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco in May 2017, with tickets included, while Fred. Olsen and P&O Cruises offered tickets as a cruise add-on.
If sporting events aren't your thing, there are other special event cruise packages to suit every interest. Cunard has a variety on offer, including a special Transatlantic Fashion Week sailing in September 2017.
9. Themed Cruise Packages
Themed cruise packages are a great way to combine a holiday with a favourite or new interest, and there are plenty to choose between, from wine tasting on a river cruise to "Strictly Come Dancing" and cookery themes on P&O Cruises. Some cruises offer themed itineraries, like the Fred. Olsen Lochs, Castles & Coasts of the British Isles cruise that visits iconic sites from the big and small screen, including filming locations from Harry Potter, James Bond movies, "Game of Thrones" and "Broadchurch."
Or you could choose to go back to school on your cruise with the enrichment programmes that are offered as part of your package. Princess Cruises' Scholarship@Sea programme offers up to 40 free courses per voyage, and the Cunard Insights programme gives cruisers the chance to try all-sorts, from star gazing in the only planetarium at sea to attending lectures from experts in their fields -- with guest speakers selected to suit the itinerary, for example, the award-winning wine writer and broadcaster Will Lyons will be a special guest on Queen Victoria's Voyage du Vin sailing in June 2018. Passengers will get to take part in masterclasses with the opportunity to gain a Cunard Wine Academy certificate.