Golf and cruise can be a match made in heaven. It’s no surprise cruise lines are upping their offering, writes Sue Bryant.
In theory, golf and cruise should go hand-in-hand; the age group and demographic is perfect, and cruises provide what golfers are looking for – variety, and the chance to play several courses in one trip. It’s surprising, therefore, that more cruise lines don’t embrace golf.
Those that make the effort do it very well, including everything from caddies and carts to transfers and social activities. “For serious golfers, I would certainly recommend booking a cruise with a golf theme as everything is included,” says Scott Anderson, general manager of The Luxury Cruise Company, which has a dedicated golf section on its website. “Also, some of the courses offered are members-only, so by going with the cruise line, clients get access to courses they wouldn’t be able to play independently.”
Azamara Club Cruises (azamaraclubcruises.co.uk) offers golf cruises in association with PerryGolf. All start times are pre-booked, transfers to the course included, caddies and carts booked – and even a packed lunch provided for playing days. There are golf socials on board, a tournament on every voyage and a PerryGolf manager as a point of contact. Azamara’s three mid-sized ships sail all over the world, so there’s plenty of choice. As an example, a sailing to Spain and Portugal in May includes rounds at The Faldo Course at Amendoeira Golf Resort on the Algarve; La Reserva at Sotogrande; and El Saler near Valencia, among others. A 12-night British Isles cruise this July, meanwhile, includes a grounds admission ticket on the final day of The Open at Royal Portrush as well as rounds on legendary courses including The Ailsa at Trump Turnberry, Royal Birkdale near Liverpool and The K Club in Dublin.
Upmarket German-owned Hapag Lloyd Cruises (hl-cruises.com) also features a number of golf cruises, many of them on the ultra-luxurious ship Europa 2, left. As with Azamara, the golf is sold as an additional package, with a PGA pro on board to coordinate events and advise. A seven-night cruise from Barcelona to Monte Carlo in March 2020 gives clients three rounds for an extra £850 (commissionable at 5 per cent) on top of the cruise fare of £3,553. Courses include hilly Son Gual on Mallorca; the parkland San Victoire Golf Club near Marseille; and the posh Monte Carlo Golf Club, high above the Principality, with sweeping views down over the rooftops and the megayachts in the harbour. Early booking is essential with this line, which sells out fast.
Crystal Cruises (crystalcruises.co.uk) has an impressive array of voyages with a golf theme, ranging from Europe to Asia, Africa and the US. On these, rounds are booked individually, rather than as a complete package. Cruises with a golf theme include all kinds of perks, from competitions and social events to a PGA pro to escort all the golf events and often a celebrity speaker. Courses on offer include the Oddur in Iceland, with lava lining the fairways; Mount Murray on the Isle of Man; and Gleneagles.
One to watch for golf clients is newcomer Blue World Voyages (blueworldvoyages.co.uk), planning to launch later this year with a single ship that’s entirely dedicated to sport and wellness. A Hank Haney Golf Center is planned on board, complete with simulators, putting green and pro shop, while excursions for golfers will be offered in most ports. As yet, itineraries haven’t been confirmed but we’ve been told that the Med, northern Europe, the Caribbean and west coast South America will all feature.
Golf cruises are available on more mainstream cruise lines, too, through specialist Fairway Cruises (fairwaycruises.co.uk or, for ex-Florida and Caribbean sailings, fairwaycruises.com). The company works with P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Cunard and MSC Cruises, mainly on sailings from Southampton, although there are some fly-cruises, for example, with MSC, so clients can play courses like the undulating St Anna in Genoa and Il Picciola in Messina, on the slopes of Mount Etna. Everything is covered: green fees, caddy, buggy, transfers, club storage and cleaning, a tour escort and private events on board. “The whole ethos is to provide a fully inclusive and escorted package, taking all the stress away from the client,” says CEO Rob Grant.
Golf isn’t limited to ocean cruising. Luxury river cruise operator AmaWaterways (amawaterways.co.uk) has a Luxury Concierge Golf programme on several of its European ships, with golf cruises leading in at £3,851 for a week. Everything has been taken into account: transport, green fees, club cleaning, a token for the range, a trolley and a welcome pack of 12 Titleist balls, a pitch repair tool and leather shoe bag. All Ama’s golf cruises are on the Danube, with golf days at Budapest, Bratislava, Weissenkirchen, Vilshofen, Linz, Passau and Prague. Golf widows and widowers needn’t feel short-changed, either, as a full excursion programme is included in the fare.