The best way to combine a love of golf and a love of travel by boat is to join a golf cruise. Most major cruise lines offer cruises in all regions of the world catering specifically to golfers; you will have many options, and can find a cruise that matches your particular golfing interests and your budget.
Golf Cruise Packages
Golf cruise packages are priced in different ways. Some cruise lines offer golf programs on every sailing of a particular itinerary, bundling green fees and ground transportation with the cost of the cruise. There’s also plenty of on-board instruction from a resident pro, as well as club storage or rental if you require. Other lines may offer golf packages only on specific sailings. For the real enthusiast, there are exclusively golf-themed cruises on various kinds of boats, often small chartered boats that sail from one course to another.
GolfAhoy is one of the leading golf cruise companies, having operated golf cruises for nearly 25 years. Their fleet consists of nearly 200 vessels, from full-sized cruise liners to river boats to barges that can access golf courses at inland destinations. The 11-day Iberian Crystal Golf Cruise circumnavigates the Iberian peninsula, from Barcelona to Lisbon, stopping for golf at Barcelona, Valencia, and Cadiz (in Spain), Las Palmas and Tenerife (in the Canaries), and Funchal (in Portuguese Madeira) before disembarkation in Lisbon. Costs for this cruise are around $5,600 per person (sharing a double room). For $6,620 per person sharing, you can spend two weeks sailing from Hong Kong to Singapore, playing golf at various courses in China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore. The cruise package includes six rounds of golf.
A more intimate GolfAhoy cruise is a 6-night river barge tour through Provence in the south of France, which includes exceptional cuisine and plenty of sightseeing as well as three rounds of golf. The barge has only nine cabins — for 18 passengers — and books out well in advance; the cruise is waitlisted through 2013. The cost is nearly $6,000 per person, sharing.
Classical Golf Cruises
Classical Golf Cruises is a small subsidiary of Travel Dynamics International, with only two yacht-like ships accommodating about 100 guests each. These are all-suite boats with capacious cabins. One 2-week cruise begins at Walvis Bay, Namibia, rounds the Cape of Good Hope and follows the South African coast all the way around before disembarking at Maputo, Mozambique. Along with five rounds of golf, this cruise includes visits to game parks and other attractions. Rates for this five-star tour begin at about $10,000 per person sharing; penthouse suites with private balcony and sitting area cost twice that amount.
Carnival Cruise Lines
The big cruise lines don’t cater specifically to golfers but offer plenty of golfing opportunities to vacationers who don’t take their golf that seriously. Carnival Cruise Lines has cruises all around the world, and many offer all-inclusive golf excursions during stops. Carnival’s oversized boats also have plenty of on-board golf, including miniature golf courses, putting competitions, pro trainers, video training facilities, and simulators allowing you to play St. Andrews, Pinehurst, and Pebble Beach. Carnival cruises are affordable, often under $500 per person sharing for a 5-day cruise, in the Caribbean for instance.
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Lines is another large-scale line that offers golfing excursions; their cruises around Hawaii and to Bermuda are of particular interest to golfers. A week-long circumnavigation of the Hawaiian Islands costs about $1,000 per person sharing.
Silversea and European Waterways
Silver sea offers a “Silver Links” program of golf cruises lasting approximately 2 weeks to destinations around the world; you can golf in New Zealand, Quebec, Acapulco, Estonia, and scores of places in between. Silversea is a bit more highbrow than Carnival, and two-week cruises can cost from $5,000 to $10,000 per person. European Waterways offers barge cruises through Scotland, England, Ireland, and France with a golf theme. A week on the Scottish Highlander — for eight passengers only — includes four rounds of golf and all the Scottish history you can handle. Rates for these intimate tours are reasonable, at €2,500 to €3,000 per person sharing.
The Ultimate Golf Cruise
For the ultimate golf cruise, you may be able to find a round-the-world cruise that stops at the best golf courses en route in dozens of countries. Such round-the-world golf-specific tours were offered a few years ago; GolfAhoy may have more information. Otherwise, plenty of cruise lines do offer general-interest round-the-world trips lasting from 80 to 110 days. P&O Cruises, Cunard, and Crystal Cruises all offer such trips. P&O’s cruise originates in Southampton (England); the cheapest stateroom costs $15,900 per person, shared. Cunard’s trip, also originating in Southampton, offers lodging on board the new Queen Elizabeth liner; costs range from $25,000 to $75,000. Crystal Cruises offers the most luxurious appointments, sailing from Los Angeles westward across the South Pacific and on. Costs for the 110-day cruise start at $53,000 per person and top out at nearly $300,000. Happy sailing!