|Agents will soon be able to book new Costa Cruise Tours, including a seven-night western Mediterranean cruise coupled with a three-night land stay in four different destinations. // Photo by Costa Cruises|
Costa Cruises has always billed itself as an “Italian Style” seagoing vacation and now clients headed to the Mediterranean can get a dose of that Italian-style hospitality on land as well. Starting Dec. 15, travel agents can book new Costa Cruise Tours for 2015 via veteran operator Central Holidays, which has a 43-year history of delivering land tours and vacations within Italy and throughout the Mediterranean.
The new cruise tour packages will consist of a three-day pre-cruise stay and a seven-night western Mediterranean cruise on either Costa Diadema or Costa Fascinosa. Land stay choices are from four ports -- Barcelona, Spain; Marseille, France; and Civitavecchia (for Rome) and Savona, Italy.
“Costa is the perfect match,” Gianni Miradoli, CEO, Central Holidays, Miradoli, Italy, stressed to reporters participating in a joint Costa-Central Holidays press call on Wednesday. “Costa knows the sea, Central Holidays know the land.”
Born in Savona, Miradoli said he's very excited about his firm's new relationship with Europe's largest cruise line.
Scott Knutson, Costa’s vice president, marketing and sales, North America, stressed that Central Holiday’s wholesale division already enjoys strong support from the travel agency community. It's also beneficial to Costa that the tour operator has existing relationships with all major consortia.
About 85 percent of Costa’s North American customers booking a European cruise typically stay one night or more on land, according to Knutson. Miradoli noted that those guests getting right on a ship in Civatavecchia and seeing Rome for five hours don’t really get into the feeling of the destination, which a longer three-night stay will provide.
Travel agents will book the new tours through Central Holidays, which will service the entire booking including payment of commission -- ranging from 10 to 17 percent, based on Central Holidays' normal commission structure.
Commission will be paid on a bundle of elements, including transfers, the hotel stay, many meals, guided tours and the cruise. In addition, while the cruise commission is paid by the tour operator as part of the overall package, Costa will get a pass-through of the booking details from Central Holidays.
That means agents will have the cruise sale added to their Costa profile, getting credit for it "so they can grow their production with us,” Knutson said, noting it will help agencies increase their commission paid for other Costa products they sell worldwide.
Air will also be sold, upon request, by Central Holidays; commission will be 5 percent on the rates the company has negotiated with individual airlines as part of negotiated air contracts. No commission will be paid on published fares.
Miradoli and Knutson both stressed the flexibility of the packages. For example, should clients not wish to take the pre-set tours offered during a particular pre-cruise city stay, Miradoli said Central Holidays can customize a program to fit the client's interests. Knutson said Costa has priced the cruise based on inside cabin, oceanview stateroom and balcony stateroom rates, but will provide suite pricing upon request.
The new Costa Cruise Tours product will appeal to clients seeking a “true international experience in Europe" rather than the ambience of a floating theme park hotel as with some North American brands, Knudsen emphasized.
So what’s offered? If cruisers take the pre-cruise stay from Barcelona, they'll receive a three-night stay in a first class hotel with hotel taxes and service charges paid. Also included are transfers, a full-day guided history and culture city tour, three breakfasts, one lunch, hosted services from Central Holidays/Costa, a document holder and luggage tags. There's also an alternative for the guided tour to focus on Madrid rather than Barcelona.
From Civitavecchia, pre-cruise stay options include a Tuscany and wine country getaway or Umbrian land package. From Savona, a major cruise turnaround port for Costa, guests might book a nature/relaxation type pre-cruise stay along the Cinque Terre (Italy’s coastal "Five Lands") or a wine and gastronomy stay in Piedmonte.
And from Marseille, guests can select either Provence or the French Cote d’Azur options. For the Provence offering, entitled "Relax, Culture & Family," guests stay three nights in the Grand Hotel Avignon or a similar property, and receive three buffet breakfasts, one lunch, the assistance of a local Costa/Central Holidays representative, a full day excursion to Provence, transfers, a document holder, luggage tags, and hotel taxes and service charges.
“Wine lovers, foodies, spa aficionados and explorers of all types will appreciate the value,” Knudsen said. A 10-day bundled package will start at $1,492 “as when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” quipped Knutson.
The first packages will start operating in early April. Both companies said the relationship is exclusive; Central Holidays does not see itself doing anything similar with another cruise line with the possible exception of river cruising, which Miradoli stressed is a different product.
Starting Dec. 15, agents will be able to make a reservation by calling the new Costa Cruise Tours line at 800-720-3009. The company is also anticipating several booking incentives to help launch the program.
The new brand will also launch a new website this month – outlining a full range of vacation packages agents can book online at www.costacruisetours.com.