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 cruise package variations, with one to suit every type of traveller. Package cruise 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 nine types of package cruise holidays to ensure your next getaway is smooth sailing from start to finish.
Some cruise lines offer cruise and stay options, where you can combine a cruise with a hotel stay in a particular destination tagged on before or after. 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.
Marella 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. There’s also the option to stay in the Balearic Islands with a hotel stay in Palma before or after a Mediterranean cruise.
Or, if you fancy a bite of the Big Apple, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 offers transatlantic cruises from Southampton to New York, which include a 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. I
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. Some of the best known are the cruise tours it offers in Alaska which includes pre- or post-cruise stays in the lodges it co-owns with Holland America Line in Kenai, Mt McKinley and Denali.
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. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' Classic Christmas Markets and European 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 Ambassador Cruise Line. This cruise line offers overnight packages including a festive lunch and dinner on selected dates through December.
The family cruise market is booming, with cruise lines rushing to meet demand with holiday-resort megaships and more informal cruises to suit holidaymakers of all ages. Royal Caribbean 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.
If your little ones are big fans of Elsa, Olaf and Mickey, Disney Cruise Line offers superior family cruising packages. And for superhero fans, Marvel Day at Sea offers the chance for families to spend time with characters such as Spider-Man, Iron Man and Captain America on sailings on select cruises from Miami to The Bahamas and the Western Caribbean.
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).
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 Hebridean 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! It has one ship based in the UK, in Dover, MS Maud, which offers expedition cruises along the west coast.
The Galapagos is a bucket-list destination that offers plenty of adventure for nature buffs with cruise line packages offered by lines including Silversea Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Hurtigruten that offer the chance to take part in up to two excursions per day. You might hike, snorkel, swim or go on a nature walk with an expert.
Galapagos sailings can be packaged up with land-based visits to destinations such as Peru's Machu Picchu, the Ecuadorian rainforest or a day or two exploring Quito or Guayaquil pre- or post-cruise. Given the logistics of flying to and from Ecuador, a land add-on is pretty much a necessity.
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. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea, Seabourn, Azamara and new line Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection offers packages with extra inclusions, such as suite accommodation, drinks, and speciality dining options, with some also including shore excursions (Regent Seven Seas Cruises) and Wi-Fi (Silversea Cruises).
If ultimate pampering for you means spending your days relaxing in the onboard spa, Celebrity Cruises offers spa packages that include AquaClass cabins 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. Other cruise lines to also offer spa-class accommodation and pampering added perks include MSC Cruises, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.
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, Azamara, MSC Cruises and Star Clippers all offered packages to the Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco, with tickets included, while Imagine Cruising creates special sporting and music-themed cruise packages.
If you’re cruising Down Under, you could tie in a cruise with P&O Cruises Australia and an experience at the Australian Open. Luxury boutique line Azamara offers a series of cruises with golf integrated into the programme in partnership with PerryGold, a golf travel operator. A hit with golf fanatics, the all-inclusive sailings visit some of the world’s best courses, ferrying passengers from ship to course, with fares covering green fees, carts, on-course lunch and tips.
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 cookery 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 stargazing in the planetarium to attending lectures from experts in their fields.
Cunard has a variety on offer, including special Cheltenham Literature Festival and the English National Ballet, where you will get extra performances, talks, discussions and other events depending on the nature of the cruise.