Many cruise lines have bolstered their golf excursions as well as onboard golf programs and instruction. All with good reason: According to the National Golf Foundation, nine million Americans are ardent golfers. That's a lot of potential clients. Here's a look at what the cruise lines are doing to make it easier to sell a cruise vacation to a golf enthusiast.
Carnival Cruise Lines (www.carnivalgolf.com, www.carnival.com) has golf simulators on Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph and Carnival Victory. The line's program, which is offered on all 22 Carnival "Fun Ships," gives guests the opportunity to play some of the world's best courses. Shipboard lessons are also available in 30- or 60-minute increments, and instruction is complemented by state-of-the-art "V1" teaching computers, which feature side-by-side comparisons with professional players. All-inclusive golf excursions include pro escort, priority tee times, transportation, cart and green fees.
Celebrity Cruises (www.celebritycruises.com), does not have a simulator but offers a golf concierge program, which Celebrity says fits the brand better. The service is available on cruises in the Caribbean, Baja Mexico and the Mexican Riviera. (On Azamara Cruises, which Celebrity operates, the golf concierge service is available in Bermuda and the Caribbean.) The golf concierge coordinates with the golf course staff to assure everything goes off without a hitch. The service also includes golf fitness, golf clinics and stretching classes.
Costa Cruises ( www.costacruises.com) says that it has no formal golf program in place at this time but that a new program is forthcoming.
Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com) does not have a simulator, but driving ranges are available onboard along with teaching pros on most itineraries.
Crystal's golf program is one of the most robust in the industry. Its recent Baltic golf cruise featured the chance to play at fabled St. Andrews Golf Club and was enhanced by onboard golf celebrity lectures. For 2008, Crystal Serenity will have three golf itineraries offering play at the Monte Carlo Golf Club and courses throughout Europe and New England. They are: an April 26 11-day Mediterranean and Europe voyage from Rome; a September 27 11-day New England and Canada voyage from Montréal; and an October 30 12-day Canary Islands voyage from Barcelona. On other non-golf-themed voyages, guests can arrange play through Crystal Adventures. Crystal also has onboard equipment.
Holland America Line's (www.hollandamerica.com) Prinsendam has a simulator. The line specializes in golf programs for the Caribbean, Mexico and Alaska. Since 2005, the line has sponsored the Great Land Golf Classic tournament in conjunction with its Alaska itineraries.
Although Norwegian Cruise Line ( www.ncl.com) doesn't have simulators, it recently became the official cruise line of the PGA Tour and, as such, will soon announce some new programs and golf-themed cruises. NCL's golf program is currently quite strong in Bermuda and Hawaii. The Bermuda program was launched just this August. Packages range from $85 to $269 per person and include amenities such as advanced tee-time bookings, Callaway club rentals and assistance with planning tournaments and transportation.
The Bermuda program was based on NCL's popular Golf Hawaii program, which features some of Hawaii's best courses such as the Wailea Golf Club in Maui. Pride of Aloha has the industry's first golf pro shop at sea.
Princess Cruises (www.princessgolf.com) has simulators on all ships except Regal Princess, Tahitian Princess, Pacific Princess and Sea Princess.
Princess offers fleet-wide golf programs and has one of the biggest collections of golf simulators at sea. Private instruction is also available utilizing "V1" technology. Ships in the Grand class, along with Island Princess and Coral Princess have nine-hole putting courses. Princess also offers golf excursions at some of the finest courses throughout the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, New Zealand and North America.
Regent Seven Seas (www.rssc.com) does not have simulators, but netting is set up to hit into. The line does not have a structured golf program in place, but a travel concierge aboard each ship can make personalized arrangements.
Seabourn Cruise Line (www.seabourn.com), which doesn't have simulators and used to have a more robust golf program, does offer golf reservations through its Signature Services Desk, either in advance of the cruise or while onboard. The line handles all golf requests on an individual basis.
Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) doesn't have simulators. Its golf program, Silver Links, is offered on Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper and features over 45 courses in more than 25 countries throughout Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico. Before a round, guests have the opportunity to sharpen their games onboard through guidance from a PGA-classed golf professional.
Golfing excursions vary in price from course to course and include all transfers, carts, green and caddy fees. Silversea rents out Nike Golf equipment for as low as $45. Silversea also offers "V1" digital coaching—the cost for a private swing analysis is $30.
Royal Caribbean (www.golfahoy.com, www.royalcaribbean.com) has simulators on 11 of its 21 ships. The line also offered one of the earliest golf programs called Golf Ahoy! way back in 1985. Golf Ahoy! is an excursion package that offers play at some spectacular courses in destinations such as the Caribbean, Bermuda and even Alaska. The program includes green fees, tee times, transportation and golf carts. Golf balls and club and shoe rentals are not included but can be purchased at the pro shops.
The question may arise if it's wise to bring golf clubs on a cruise. Dragging them through the airport can be a laborious undertaking. Some people always like to play with their own, but renting may be the smarter way to go. Most lines offer golf sets by top-line companies like Callaway and TaylorMade.
If your client is dead set on bringing his or her own clubs, recommend having them shipped in advance. It will cost more but will save the headache of lugging them to the airport. Luggage transfer companies like Virtual Bellhop www.virtualbellhop.com) can take care of the arrangements.