Navigating the route to recovery
This is set to be a record-breaking year with an expected 31 vessels due to be delivered
How cruise fleet deployment fell in 2020
Plus, an interview with Steve Wellmeier from Poseidon Expeditions
Windstar can carry its guests to the remote destinations that won’t accept bigger vessels
The line had previous suspended operations until the end of March
The Gateway to Alaska
Plus, Stuart Byron from Royal Caribbean talks about their 2022 summer season
The latest industry offers and appointments
This voyage from Plymouth to Edinburgh is your chance to discover some of the British Isles’ most wildlife-rich destination
From river to ocean, small-ship to mega-vessels, this is our comprehensive list of cruise line cancellation policies and suspension dates
Princess’s Tony Roberts on new developments in the cruise sector and Saga’s Iain Powell on the the impact on the older generation
Royal Caribbean’s Ben Bouldin on innovation and Scenic’s Joseph Grimley on the draw of the small ship
AmaWaterways’ Jamie Loizou on river cruise and Seabourn’s Lynn Narraway on the returning luxury traveller
Steve Witt and Paul Harrison of Not Just Travel on the future of agents and MSC Cruises’ Antonio Paradiso on safety standards
Each issue, cruise expert Jane Archer shares her tips on selling a specific area of cruise. This time, she looks at Wave
Hello and welcome to the latest issue of Cruise Adviser. As is traditional for our January edition, we’ve asked leading figures in the cruise industry – including Tony Roberts at Princess Cruises and Lynn Narraway at Seabourn – to share their predictions for the future of the sector in our Where Next for Cruise? series.
Looking into the future is a more difficult task than ever before – you won’t be surprised to learn that last year’s predictions ended up being, er, a little wide of the mark. That said, for the first time since the virus truly took hold, the route to recovery is visible – we still have to navigate it, and choppy waters lie ahead, but there are many reasons to be optimistic, despite the current situation.
As well as comment pieces, we have Jane Archer’s How to Sell, this month focusing on selling during Wave, plus we’ve got all the latest news, incentives and offers. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the new edition and what you’d like to see more of, so please do email firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you enjoy reading – and good luck selling.
Over the summer of 2020, during lockdown, we dropped our print edition – and we’ve now made that move permanent. This is the third issue on a new interactive platform which will allow us to incorporate video, audio and animations into the design, creating a unique proposition.
We believe that now is the right time to move away from print – with a fast-changing news cycle, the industry’s push towards more sustainable practices, the rise of remote working and busier-than-ever work schedules, a proper, thought-out digital magazine is the only sensible way to go. You can read more about our thinking here.
Cruise Adviser exists to make your job easier, help you better understand cruises and, ultimately, sell more of them. Our reader surveys over the summer have helped us understand the challenges you face and the questions your customers are asking. This issue, and the ones that follow, will help you navigate these stormy waters – explaining the latest Foreign Office and travel corridor advice, safety protocols, testing breakthroughs, as well as covering the latest news, from ship launches to fam trips and incentives; features about the best new itineraries; comment; interviews; and analysis.
Cruise Adviser is the leading cruise publication for the travel trade. The award-winning magazine contains insightful comment, features, news and advice for those looking to sell cruise holidays. Uniquely aimed at frontline travel agents, two thirds of readers say the magazine has helped them make a sale.
Cruise Adviser is published monthly, and is out on the second Wednesday of the month.
Anthony Pearce, director
Advertising and partnerships
Sam Ballard, director
Bryan Johnson, senior sales manger
020 3865 9338
07532 709 734
London, SE1 1TY
020 3865 9360
The latest Clia report reveals the majority of cruise passengers are happy to take a cruise in the next year
About two-thirds of regular cruise passengers are willing to take a cruise in the next year, while 58 per cent of non-cruisers are willing to try it in the coming years, according to the latest report by Clia.
The 2021 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report outlined that there is a positive story going into 2021, with 27 Clia member cruise ships due to launch next year – taking Clia’s global fleet to 270 vessels.
Kelly Craighead, Clia president and chief executive, said: “For the cruise community, there is no denying that 2020 was not the year we anticipated. Still, the industry wasted no time adjusting course to address the challenges before us.
“Clia’s 2021 report highlights the extraordinary steps the cruise community took to develop and implement enhanced public health protocols to keep putting people first, while continuing to focus on innovation and responsible tourism practices that make cruising the best way to experience the world.”
The report also found that passengers spent $385 in port cities before boarding a cruise and $100 in each port during a cruise. The full 2021 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report can be viewed here.
As we reported in December, the UK government has published its full Global Travel Taskforce report, which explores the return of cruise.
However, the report reveals that it has been proposed by Public Health England that it may be appropriate to resume cruises when the national alert level is at level 3 and when a move to level 2 is being considered by the Chief Medical Officer.
The report says: “It is critical that we proceed cautiously and are mindful of the public health risks as we consider when it is safe to restart cruises, and whether it is safe to move between stages.
“The protection of public health must come first, while enabling economic recovery and the growth of the sector. We need to ensure that there are clear public health measures so that we can increase demand for cruises safely.
“However, it is also vital that we provide clarity on the conditions for cruise restart to enable the sector to undertake effective financial forecasting for their businesses (and ensure financial viability); communicate with clarity to their crew, supporting travel supply chain and customers; secure future bookings for 2021 and beyond; and plan for operational restart.”
It also notes that FCDO travel advice on cruises is kept under continuous review and that the transition between each phase would be subject to agreement by the Department for Transport, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Public Health England, the Foreign Office and other bodies. See more here.
Only 12 of 22 planned cruise ships were delivered in 2020 as Covid-19 disrupted a year when the industry’s exponential growth was set to continue.
As a result, 2021 is set to be a record-breaking year with an expected 31 vessels due to be delivered, worth a staggering $13.6 billion in total, according to Vessels Value, which monitors shipping data.
The current cruise order book sits at 104 vessels, worth an aggregated value of $60.3 billion, accounting for 34 per cent of the overall global shipping order book.
After ordering activity between 2014 and 2018, last year was due to the following the record-breaking 2019 for delivery of vessels.
However, as the infographic on the next page shows, deployment fell as demand plummeted record lows due to restrictions brought about by Covid-19.
Ordering has slowed significantly, according to the company, with delays introduced.
Major operators chose to remove their older, less efficient vessels from their fleets meaning that, in 2020, the balance between removals and deliveries was more aligned for the first time in many years.
Guy Cooper, cargo analyst at VesselsValue, said: “Going forward, cruise companies and shipbuilders must now be cautious not to oversupply the market without the increase in demand to match. By 2028 the fleet is projected to increase in size by 28 per cent, with the ability to carry over 925,000 passengers at any given time.
“Hopefully the Covid-19 vaccine will be the catalyst that propels the cruise industry back onto its previous positive trajectory. The stock market is already starting to reflect this with share prices for the major cruise lines over double what they were back in April.”
Viking Octantis takes to the water in Norway; it is set to debut in January 2022
Viking Cruises has officially floated out Viking Octantis, its first expedition vessel. The ship, which is set to debut in January 2022, has now touched the water for the first time – marking a key construction milestone in its development.
The 378-guest ship is being built at the Fincantieri Vard shipyard in Norway and it will now move to a nearby outfitting dock for further construction and interior build out. It will spend its maiden season in Antarctica and North America’s Great Lakes. A second expedition ship, Viking Polaris, will launch in summer 2022.
Viking has also developed a series of short videos about the new expedition voyages, ship design and prestigious scientific partnerships, which can be found on its website here.
“Working with Fincantieri over the last eight years, we have built the world’s most beautiful ocean ships. We are pleased to continue our partnership with Fincantieri’s Vard and celebrate this important milestone in the construction of our first expedition vessel,” said Viking chairman Torstein Hagen.
“In creating ‘the thinking person’s expedition’, we are perfecting polar expedition cruising, and we will usher in a new era of comfortable exploration in the heart of North America.
Viking Octantis and her sister ship, Viking Polaris, will allow our guests to explore further – to the ends of the earth as well as closer to home. I would like to thank our partners at Vard and everyone working at the yard for the hard work and dedication on the building of Viking Octantis; we look forward to welcoming her to our fleet in early 2022.”
When you think of sailing the paradise waters of the Caribbean or the azure seas of the Mediterranean, what springs to mind? Beautiful food, great company and the chance to wander around the charming streets of a Greek village – or grab a beer at a beach bar in some far-flung corner of the West Indies? Few cruise lines can compete with Windstar when it comes to avoiding the crowds in these cruise hotspots. The company operates six small ships that exemplify a relaxed, personal service – that call at ports too small for bigger ships. Whether that’s on board the company’s 342-guest flagship, Wind Surf, the world’s largest sailing ship; or the 312-guest Star Legend, a ship that was built for ultra-luxury clients and is currently undergoing a massive renovation as part of the $250 million Star Plus programme.
While all of Windstar’s ships have their own characters, they all share one common theme: they are small ships operating in a market where vessels are only getting bigger. The diminutive proportions mean that Windstar can carry its guests to the remote destinations that won’t accept bigger vessels. Destinations such as Tahiti, where in 2022 Star Breeze will call at Mo’orea, Raiatea and Tahaa – beautiful French Polynesian islands that lie dotted across the Pacific Ocean. Guests will learn about local cultures, eat incredible seafood and use the ship’s water sports platform to swim, kayak or even water ski.
In the Mediterranean – a region full of famous destinations – Windstar manages to marry the major hubs, like Barcelona and Athens (perfect for connectivity out of the UK) with less visited towns like Messina, Argostoli and Delphi – and a cruise down the narrow Corinth Canal. An example of the intimate shore excursions offered include a trip to the Robola Winery in Kefalonia where you can sample the local drop and visit Kourkoumelata, a village that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953 and then rebuilt by a wealthy local – entirely in neo-classical style.
To attain perfection is a never ending task but Windstar has made massive investments in its fleet with the Star Plus initiative. The company will spend $250 million on three of its ships – Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride – to offer more comfort in-suite and more delight on deck. This is no normal renovation – it involves ships being cut in half and extended, upgrading engines to make them more environmentally-friendly and adding new dining venues that suit their salubrious surroundings. The Star Plus programme is one of the most complex ship projects ever undertaken – and will be completed in summer 2021.
There is no doubt that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years our industry has ever faced. However, as we look to the future, it’s important to remember that we will sail again. And, if your clients want to experience small ship sailing, in a luxurious but informal setting, then there are few companies more equipped to host them than Windstar.
The line had previously suspended Caribbean, European and US cruises until the end of March
Princess Cruises has extended its global suspension until May 14, 2021. It had previously suspended sailings until the end of March. The new pause includes all Caribbean, European and US cruises.
“We appreciate the patience from our loyal guests and travel agents as we work to meet the health and safety requirements for our return to service,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises.
“We continue to prepare our ships for our return to service and we are eager to see our guests back onboard to create summertime memories.”
Guests currently booked on these cancelled voyages will have the option to receive a refundable future cruise credit equivalent to 100 per cent of the cruise fare paid, plus an additional non-refundable bonus FCC equal to 25 per cent of the cruise fare paid.
To receive the above FCCs, no action is required by the guest or their travel agent. The future cruise credits can be used on any cruises booked by May 1, 2022 and sailing by December 31, 2022.
Princess will protect travel agent commission on bookings for cancelled cruises that were paid in full. The most current information and instructions for booked guests affected by these cancellations, and more information on FCCs and refunds, can be found on the Princess website here.
All partners registered by the end of February will also be entered to win a seven-day fly-cruise for two to the Western Mediterranean onboard Norwegian Epic
Norwegian Cruise Line has announced the launch of NCL Freestyle Rewards, a new incentive programme where individual UK travel partners can earn and collect points towards thousands of gifts or vouchers of their choice.
The initiative is the latest in a series of innovations by NCL to provide its travel partners with the utmost support in the run-up to the relaunch of its cruise operations. NCL Freestyle Rewards follows the recent introduction of the brand-new travel agent portal and resource centre Norwegian Central and the new fly-cruise booking platform NCL Air. See the next page for more incentives.
Eamonn Ferrin, VP and managing director of NCL UK & Ireland and MEA said: “We can’t stress enough how incredibly thankful we are for the commitment, hard work and loyalty our travel partners continue to show us at all times. As we enter a new year that provides for novel opportunities for the travel business, we want to offer our valued partners another tool to help them capitalise on the great pent-up demand we see for our cruises, all while rewarding them for their continuous dedication.”
NCL Freestyle Rewards points are awarded based on different booking factors, including stateroom category and cruise itinerary, encouraging agents to identify opportunities to upsell and maximise their point earning potential in the process, it said.
Travel agents have 40 days from booking date to claim their points, with rewards ranging from 200 points for a two to six-day balcony cruise, to 800 points for voyages of seven plus days in The Haven by Norwegian. NCL will run regular promotions and provide bonuses for specific booking types, enabling agents to earn even more.
With no cap on points, travel partners have unlimited earning potential and access to a bespoke online catalogue featuring a diverse collection of luxury, wellness, grooming and lifestyle products, best-in-class technology and seasonal items.
NCL Freestyle Rewards points are available to the agent as soon as they are earned and valid for up to 24 months, providing travel partners with instant awards or the option to collect and save points for higher valued items.
The catalogue is regularly updated and gives agents access to the likes of the latest Apple iPhone, Canon digital cameras, GHD hair products, kids’ toys and books and much more. Points may also be redeemed for gift vouchers for grocery shops, high street fashion brands, experiences or may be applied towards a charitable donation.
In celebration of the NCL Freestyle Rewards launch, the company is offering 50 bonus points to all agents who register by February 28 to start their membership.
As an added incentive, the 500th, 1,000th, 1,500th and 2,000th travel agents to sign up will each get an additional 1,000 points. All partners registered by the end of February will also be entered to win a seven-day fly-cruise for two to the Western Mediterranean on Norwegian Epic.
For more information on NCL Freestyle Rewards, see at nclfreestylerewards.com. Travel partners can apply for membership on the site or e-mail email@example.com to register for an account.
Virgin Voyages has revealed offers including cruise savings, onboard credit and a bonus bar tab as part of its Wave campaign. It has also launched a new online learning platform for agents called Seacademy. The new platform will serve as a one-stop shop for all things Virgin Voyages for agents, which Virgin calls First Mates.
MSC Cruises has launched its Wave promotion which will see a Premium Drinks Package included on all bookings made on the ‘Fantastica Experience’. The promotion is available for all bookings made until midnight on April 30, and includes all summer 2021 and winter 2021/2022 itineraries.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises has launched Upgrade Your Horizon, where guests can enjoy a two-category suite upgrade, up to a Penthouse Suite, on all published cruises when booked between now and February 28.
Royal Caribbean Group is to make a $40 million available to loan to travel agents as part of its RCL Cares programme. The loan initiative is called Pay it Forward. The loans will be for up to $250,000 for qualifying travel agents – although the company said “businesses still need financial wherewithal during this intervening period of slower-than-usual business”. The loans will for three years and will be interest-free.
Norwegian Cruise Line has launched Norwegian Central, a new trade portal which it says will help agents learn, market and sell NCL holidays more easily. Here agents gain direct single log-in access to NCL’s agent booking engine Seaweb, as well to a complete relaunch of NCL’s training platform NCL University (NCLU). It has also launched NCL Air – a platform for fly-cruise bookings which is now available in the UK and continental Europe.
Princess Cruises has extended its 2021 ex-UK season for Sky Princess as part of its Dream With Us sale. The ship, one of the newest in the Princess fleet, will now sail six extra cruises out of Southampton. Prices start from £499 for a seven-night sailing.
It has also introduced a new Princess Promise, reassuring guests that Princess will “make it right” for any onboard service that did not meet their expectations. This may include, but is not limited to, onboard credits, future cruise credits or refunds.
Cunard is offering onboard spend and accommodation upgrades on select voyages as part of its Wave campaign. The offers are available on cruises up to 2023.
Azamara, Royal Caribbean’s destination focused cruise line, has revealed its Wave offer, which will see guests able to take advantage of 40 per cent fare reductions for sailings between March 20, 2021 and May 13, 2022.
P&O Cruises has increased agent commission by one per cent and will give away an additional 100,000 Shine points during the peak booking period until March as a reward for support shown by agents in 2020.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is offering guests up to £600 to spend on board or a free drinks package as part of its annual Cruise Sale. The offer runs until February 2 and includes more than 120 cruises in 2021 and 2022.
Intrepid Travel has launched an incentive giving agents the chance to win a trip to Antarctica. Agents can enter the Race to the Pole incentive by selling an Intrepid trip or joining one of the company’s webinars. Those who make an Antarctica booking will receive five entries into the competition, which runs until February 28. The prize includes flights, transfers, pre/post-departure accommodation and a single berth in a twin window cabin on Ocean Endeavour in the 2022/23 season.
AmaWaterways has launched its second training course on AmaAcademy, its online training platform, focusing on the Danube. The course is designed to help agents increase their sales on the popular river. Travel agents who make a reservation with a deposit within 90 days of completing the new course qualify to earn a £25 Love2shop voucher – limited to one voucher per agent.
Scenic has unveiled its Wave offer, including savings of 20 per cent on Scenic Eclipse sailings, until February 15. Guests booking a 2022 European river cruise can save up to £1,500 per couple while those booking Southeast Asia river cruises can save up to £2,500.
Holland America Line has extended its two per cent bonus commission for travel agents until the end of January. The offer is valid on all 2021 Alaska, Europe and Canada & New England cruises for new bookings made by January 31.
The British Isles is full of destinations that conjure up images of a storied maritime history, pretty seaside towns and close-knit communities. Throw in exceptional wildlife – and the odd eerie evacuated island – and you can see why tours here are so popular. There is no better way to do it than by sea.
Poseidon Expeditions offers an incredible 13-day Legendary History and Wild Nature cruise on board the intimate Sea Spirit that visits the highlights of Ireland as well as all four countries of the United Kingdom in one voyage. The ship has room for just 114 guests, who are looked after by 72 crew and 14 expedition team members, a ratio which rivals the most luxurious ships.
Sea Spirit is nimble enough to reach the castles, abbeys and villages that are scattered along the coastlines of the United Kingdom and Ireland, but, while the ship is small, it still packs a punch. There is a gym, library, lounge, outdoor bistro and main restaurant.
Sea Spirit has an open bridge policy for guests who want to know more about that side of the operation. For the British Isles sailing – which is part of the ship’s annual relocation from Antarctica up to the Arctic – Sea Spirit leaves Plymouth on May 10 arriving at its destination on May 22, 2021 (or from May 8 to May 20, 2022 from Portsmouth to Edinburgh).
Here are some of the highlights of what to expect on the trip:
In the subtropical Scilly Isles, just off the Cornish coast, guests will visit the magnificent Tresco Abbey Garden, with its collection of more than 20,000 exotic plants. The garden is also home to the Valhalla Museum, with its collection of figureheads salvaged from nearby shipwrecks.
The must-see birding destinations of Saltee, Rathlin and Staffa islands, the Isle of Mull and Fair Isle are a hopeful addition to the itinerary (weather permitting). One of the most special places is the famed Bass Rock – an uninhabited island in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland. This bastion of volcanic rock, also known as “the Bass”, plays host to over 150,000 northern gannets in the breeding season, making it the world’s largest colony of these magnificent birds. The voyage is perfectly timed to coincide with this amazing spectacle, as well as the breeding and migration season for over 100 other bird species. While in the Outer Hebrides the ship will also visit St Kilda – a remote island that was inhabited for thousands of years by hardy islanders. That was until after World War One when the realities of the modern world – and a dwindling population – began to close in. The last inhabitants asked to be evacuated from the island and it has been uninhabited ever since.
Sea Spirit calls at Llandudno in North Wales, allowing guests to witness one of the country’s most dramatic landscapes – the mountains of Snowdonia. The call includes a visit to Betws-y-Coed in the Conwy valley, perfect for walking past waterfalls and woodlands in one of the most verdant corners of the British Isles. Giant steps The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim is one of the world’s natural wonders, made up of 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns of different heights that gradually descend into the sea like a staircase. According to Gaelic legend, it is the remains of a causeway to Scotland built by the Irish giant Ffion mac Cumhaill after he was challenged to a fight by his Scottish counterpart Benandonner.
During the visit to the Inner Hebrides the ship will call at the uninhabited island of Staffa (weather permitting), allowing guests to explore Fingal’s Cave. Here, the sea and basalt columns work together to create an eerie melody, which was the inspiration for Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture. Guests will also get to explore the neighbouring island of Iona, where the ancient Iona Abbey was founded in 563AD, making it one of the oldest Christian religious centres in western Europe.
In Orkney, guests will be able to visit the Neolithic village of Skara Brae – the best preserved ancient settlement in western Europe, dating from 3180BC and forming part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney Unesco World Heritage Site. There are so many incredible sights around the British Isles that it would be impossible to see them all in one trip – a cruise is the only way you can come even close. The rate includes all scheduled landings and excursions, so guests can relax and allow an expedition team of ornithologists, naturalists and regional experts – led by historian and award-winning author Dr Huw Lewis-Jones – to show them the wonders of the British Isles.
From river to ocean, small-ship to mega-vessels, this is our comprehensive list of cruise line cancellation policies and suspension dates
A-Rosa River Cruises has suspended all Rhine and Danube sailings suspended up to December 20, 2020. Its season has also ended on the Douro and in France.
AmaWaterways has suspended all cruises, with the exception of the chartered service on the Rhine that has been in operation since July. The company plans to resume voyages in 2021.
Guests who were booked on a cruise that is being cancelled have the option of receiving a future cruise credit, equal to 115 per cent of the value of all services purchased through AmaWaterways, or receiving a full monetary refund.
The future cruise credit is applicable on all European or Mekong River cruise sailings before December 31, 2022.
APT Touring has suspended cruises until February 28, 2021.
For anyone booked to travel in 2020, APT Touring has introduced its new Covid Flexible Booking Cover, which gives customers the option to change their booking free of charge and the flexibility to change their booking up to 100 days before departure.
Avalon Waterways has suspended cruises until February 28, 2021, except for a limited number of festive cruises.
Azamara has cancelled all sailings until April 30, 2021.
Carnival Cruise Line has suspended cruises in North America until February 28, 2021.
Carnival Magic, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Valor, Carnival Victory and Carnival Radiance are in dry dock and are not being listed as returning in 2021.
The launch date for Mardi Gras has been put back to April 24, 2021.
Carnival Splendor will not re-enter service until March 2, 2021, while Carnival Spirit will be operationally paused until June 2021. Both vessels are primarily based in Australia.
Carnival is giving guests who wish to move their booking to a later date a rebooking offer that combines a future cruise credit and either a $300 or $600 onboard credit. Guests have the option to receive a full refund.
Celebrity Cruises has cancelled all sailings until April 30, 2021, including the May 1 transatlantic cruise on Celebrity Apex.
Europe and transatlantic cruises on Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Constellation will also be suspended from May until October 2021.
Celestyal Cruises has suspended all cruises until March 6, 2021.
For all named and paid individual guests impacted by this suspension, Celestyal Cruises is offering a future cruise credit (FCC) valued at 120 per cent of original booking value. Guests will have until the end of December 2021 to redeem their FCC against any of Celestyal Cruises’ itineraries through end of December 2022. To provide additional peace of mind, should guests choose not to redeem their FCC by end of December 2021, they will automatically receive a full refund equal to the original amount paid to Celestyal upon the voucher’s expiration. Celestyal Cruises will automatically send the FCC voucher directly to guests or their travel agents, so there will be no need to call the contact centre other than to rebook.
CroisiEurope resumed river cruise services on the Rhône and the Danube and with its ocean ship in July. However, as a result of recent lockdowns across Europe, the line has suspended all sailings until early 2021.
In a statement the line said: “Customers affected by cancellations can rebook their cruise or receive a refund credit note valid for 18 months from the date of issue, which can be redeemed against bookings made before December 15, 2021, on any cruise subject to availability.”
Crystal has cancelled all ocean, river and yacht sailings until the end of 2020. Sailings on Crystal Esprit are cancelled until March 14, 2021; Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity until March 25, 2021. Crystal’s first scheduled river cruise departure is the March 26, 2021 voyage on Crystal Bach.
Crystal is providing all affected guests with credits equal to 125 per cent of the cruise fare paid on fully-paid reservations – along with a refund of port charges, taxes and fees paid, and any air and hotel packages booked through Crystal. For guests who have not fully paid, the credit will then be based on the deposited amount. Credits are valid on any Crystal experience (ocean, river, yacht or expedition) embarking through December 31, 2023.
For river sailings, guests can move their current 2020 reservation, including all payments made, to an equivalent sailing during the same time period in 2021, with price protection on the cruise fare and port charges – representing a significant value for them. If a guest chooses not to rollover their cruise to a 2021 river sailing, they may transfer their reservation to any Crystal experience (ocean, river, yacht or expedition) embarking up to December 31, 2023 at prevailing rates. All monies paid will be transferred to the new reservation.
Cunard has suspended operations until March 25, 2021 for Queen Elizabeth; April 18, 2021 for Queen Mary 2 and May 16, 2021 for Queen Victoria.
Guests with a holiday affected will automatically receive a 125 per cent future cruise credit (FCC). FCCs may be used for any sailing up to the end of March 2022.
Disney Cruise Line has suspended cruises until January 31, 2021.
Guests booked on affected sailings who have paid their reservation in full will be offered the choice of a future cruise credit (FCC) or a full refund. Guests who have not paid their reservations in full will automatically receive a refund of what they have paid so far. Affected guests and travel agents will receive an email from Disney Cruise Line outlining details and next steps.
The Scenic Group is offering booked guests a flexible future travel credit (FTC) valued at 110 per cent of monies deposited on any affected river and cruise booking and 100 per cent of monies deposited on any affected land tours. Guests will be offered a FTC that can be applied to any new or existing booking across the portfolio of brands through to June 30, 2023. The FTC is fully transferrable to another guest. Should a guest be unable to travel by June 30, 2023, they will be given a refund.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has replace Black Watch and Boudicca with Borealis and Bolette,newer acquisitions from Holland America Line.
Fred Olsen has currently suspended its sailings as follows: Balmoral (suspended to February 2, 2021); Borealis (April 23, 2021); Bolette (March 5, 2021); Braemar (April 1, 2021).
G Adventures has suspended all cruises until January 31, 2021, including the 2020-2021 Antarctic season aboard the G Expedition.
All UK travellers booked on a tour who do not wish to rebook their trip to a later date will receive a fully-protected refund credit note for 100 per cent of the amount paid for all booked tour services, including pre- and post-night accommodation and transfers, as well as an additional 10 per cent travel credit as a gesture of goodwill, to be used on any tour departing up to two years from the end of the month of their tour’s suspension. If the traveller desires a cash refund this will be provided to them as soon as possible, and no later than January 31, 2021. G Adventures is offering a Book With Confidence policy, which lets them cancel and rebook their tour closer to the time of departure.
Holland America Line has cancelled all cruises until March 31, 2021.
In July, the line announced that Maasdam, Veendam, Rotterdam and Amsterdam would leave the fleet this year. Most cruises aboard these ships have been cancelled. The 2021 Grand Voyage has been cancelled and moved to 2022, where it will operate on board Zaandam. Rotterdam’s Grand Africa Voyage in October 2021 will now take place aboard Zaandam on the same dates.
Guests who have paid in full will receive a 125 per cent future cruise credit of the base fare paid. Those who have not paid in full will receive a future cruise credit double the amount of the deposit paid for the cruise.
Hurtigruten has resumed coastal sailings in Norway, but expedition sailings have been postponed.
Voyages to Antarctica are cancelled until March 2021. Expedition itineraries aboard MS Fram, MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Roald Amundsen are cancelled until May 2021. Expedition sailings on MS Trollfjord are cancelled indefinitely.
Marella Cruises has cancelled all sailings mid-February, 2021.
All customers whose bookings are impacted by the changes will receive a refund credit and up to 10 per cent incentive of the total value of their booking, or they can request a cash refund via an online form on the Tui website.
MSC Cruises has suspended cruise operations until March 31, 2021 for its Caribbean voyages from North America. The line restarted limited cruises aboard MSC Grandiosa, but cruises for non-Schengen countries are cancelled until March 20, 2021. It is due to restart in Japan in April 2021.
MSC Cruises UK & Ireland is offering guests affected by the cancellations a future cruise credit of 125 per cent to be used on a future cruise through to the end of 2021.
Norwegian Cruise Line has suspended operations until March 31, 2021.
Passengers booked on voyages up to October 31, 2021 can cancel up to 15 days in advance without penalty.
Oceania Cruises has cancelled all cruises until March 31, 2021.
P&O Cruises has cancelled all cruises until April 2021.
Paul Gauguin Cruises has suspended sailings until March 6, 2021.
Ponant has suspended all cruises up to April 2021.
Princess Cruises has cancelled sailings until May 14, 2021. Voyages longer than eight days calling at a US port have been cancelled until November 1, 2021. Cruises to Japan are cancelled until June 25, 2021. Cruises in and out of Australia and New Zealand are cancelled until May, 2021.
Additionally, Princess has cancelled its 2021 world cruise voyages aboard Island Princess and Pacific Princess, including all related sub-segments. The world cruise aboard Sea Princess that is scheduled to depart in late-May, early-June is still going ahead at this time.
Sun Princess and Sea Princess have left the fleet and all future sailings on both ships have also been cancelled.
Guests currently booked on these cancelled voyages who have paid Princess in full will have the option to receive a refundable future cruise credit (FCC) equivalent to 100 per cent of the cruise fare paid plus an additional non-refundable bonus FCC equal to 25 per cent of the cruise fare.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises has suspended its global cruise operations until March 31, 2021.
Riviera Travel has cancelled all cruises until March 26, 2021.
Royal Caribbean International has cancelled all sailings until April 30, 2021, excluding sailings from Singapore on Quantum of the Seas.
Saga has cancelled all cruises on the new Spirit of Adventure until May 3, 2021 and on Spirit of Discovery until April.
Seabourn has paused global operations until 2021, with Seabourn Encore cancelled until May 28, 2021; Seabourn Ovation until April 18, 2021; Seabourn Quest until November 6, 2021 for voyages longer than seven days and calling at a US port; Seabourn Sojourn until May 24, 2021, including the 2021 World Cruise; Seabourn Odyssey until November 5, 2021, apart from seven-day Alaska/British Columbia and Pacific Coast sailings.
In addition, the line has announced a further delay to its new purpose-built expedition vessel, Seabourn Venture, until December 2021.
Guests with impacted cruises will receive a future cruise credit. If they’ve paid in full they will receive 125 per cent credit of the cruise base fare. If a deposit has been paid guests will receive 125 per cent of the deposit paid, plus $300 on board credit per suite.
Silversea has suspended operations until April 1, 2021.
Titan has suspended all tour and cruise departures until January 31, 2021.
Uniworld has suspended all river cruises until March 2021.
Viking has suspended all ocean and river cruises until March 31, 2021.
For passengers booked on one of the cancelled sailings, Viking is offering future cruise credit (FCC) of 125 percent of the fare paid or a refund equal to the amount paid. Passengers have 24 months to use their FCC. If passengers opting for FCC are then unable to use their voucher, Viking will automatically send a refund equal to the original amount paid.
Virgin Voyages has postponed the inaugural season of its first ship Scarlet Lady until May 9, 2021 and for its second ship, Valiant Lady, until November 14, 2021.
Those booked on a cruise that has been cancelled can opt for 200 per cent in future cruise credit (FCC) which can be applied to another sailing, up to $500 in onboard credit, or 100 per cent refund, plus 25 per cent FCC on the value paid to use for a future booking. Bookings made prior to December 10, 2021 for sailings in 2021 and 2022 will be eligible for cancellation up to 48 hours in advance, with a full credit given.
Windstar has suspended all cruise operations until May 2021. Wind Spirit will resume sailing on May 6, 2021; Star Breeze on May 15, 2021, Star Legend on May 1, 2021; Wind Star on May 22, 2021; Wind Surf on May 9, 2021; and Star Pride on July 14, 2021.
Guests on cancelled cruises receive the choice of a future cruise credit valued at 125 per cent of all monies paid to Windstar Cruises or a refund equal to the amount paid on the Windstar booking. Guests have 24 months to book and embark on any available Windstar cruise using their future cruise credit. In addition, Windstar has launched a new Travel Assurance Booking Policy, which is applicable to new and existing cruises departing until December 31, 2021. Travellers who cancel a cruise booking up to 15 days prior to departure will receive a 100 per cent future cruise credit to be used on another Windstar departure within one year of the issue date of the credit. The offer is for cruise fares only.
By Tony Roberts, vice president, Princess Cruises UK & Europe and Clia UK & Ireland chair
The health and safety of guests, crew and the communities we visit has always been the number one priority for cruise lines. In fact, no other travel sector has anything near the level of screening protocols and stringent health measures that have been standard in the cruise industry for many years.
Nevertheless, the current global health crisis that our world is facing has meant that cruise lines have had to take the already rigorous protocols we have in place and further enhance them, without compromising on guest experience.
Because of this, in 2021, alongside the implementation of new health and safety measures, we will start to see what the ‘future of cruise’ looks like, as lines take advantage of new technologies to change certain traditional aspects of a cruise holiday – once seen as the ‘norm’ – for the better.
For example, Princess is transforming embarkation day by staggering boarding and completely reinventing the traditional muster drill. By leveraging the Princess OceanMedallion technology, guests can select their preferred time to arrive at the port and, once onboard, can watch the important safety training video on their mobile device or stateroom TV, simply verifying their designated muster station with a quick and contactless check-in at their convenience anytime between boarding and sail away.
What awaits guests
Travel agents and guests will already be well aware that, when ships resume sailing, additional protocols will be in place across the entire sector. For Princess, the OceanMedallion wearable technology, which was designed to create seamless experiences for our guests, now lends itself well to travelling in a socially distanced world. We recently announced that, upon return to service in 2021, the Princess Cruises global fleet will feature the ‘MedallionClass Experience’, which means that our guests will be able to enjoy what we are calling a ‘Truly Touchless’ cruise holiday. From the aforementioned staggered boarding and transformed safety training, to contactless payments, keyless stateroom entry and the ability to order food and drink to anywhere on the ship, this innovative technology means that our guests can continue to enjoy next-level service while staying safe at sea.
A reflection on the current moment
Over the past year, cruise lines have worked tirelessly with global health leaders and medical experts to devise and implement best practices for when sailings resume.
However, to be able to fully prepare for a return to service, the UK Foreign Office needs to remove its outdated travel advice on ocean cruising. To this end, Clia is continuing to play a key role in working with the UK government to secure this change and help inform cruise restart.
While news of the UK becoming the first country to kick off a mass vaccination programme is encouraging, the key to the safe resumption of operations is this continued collaboration between cruise lines, medical experts, national authorities and local ports.
We are now looking forward to the government removing its travel guidance and setting a timeline to safely start cruises, so agents and guest alike can feel confident that there is a path back to cruising in 2021.
Many will be relieved that 2020 is behind us. It is now time for us to focus on the future and to the day when cruise lines can get back to what they do best – providing guests with an extraordinary service and unrivalled experience.
By Iain Powell, head of trade sales and third party cruise, Saga
When we sat down in our planning sessions in late 2019, none of us could have imagined the challenges which lay ahead for the world in the coming year. So, as I now sit here, thinking about 2021, I’m reluctant to jump in with the now common phrases of ‘green shoots’ or ‘new norm’; because if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we never know what lays ahead. That said, despite the challenges we must first overcome, there are many reasons to feel positive, optimistic and even excited.
While the pandemic has deeply affected us all, I think it’s fair to say the older generation found their day-to-day lives most significantly impacted. Being among the most at risk, this generation who encapsulate a ‘keep calm and carry on’ spirit was suddenly told they couldn’t just ‘carry on’.
Millions of older people in the UK were forced to shield and isolate, sometimes even when the rest of us could experience some level of normality and human interaction. Many have battled with loneliness and isolation unlike anything they have experienced before. A recent study by Age UK highlighted the issue, citing that 47 per cent of respondents (all over 65) reported struggling with loneliness in 2020; and just under two thirds of people reported feeling a sense of time lost or wasted during the pandemic.
Making up for lost time
At Saga, we’ve spent even more time than usual speaking to our customers. The overwhelming sentiment we take from these conversations is very similar to that of the Age UK research – our customers feel as though they have lost precious time, time set aside for travelling. Lengthy periods spent indoors have built resentment and frustration around cancelled plans and missed opportunities. This time spent reflecting has also provided space for thought, planning and daydreaming about future travel plans. Those trips they never got to take, as well as those destinations they have always wanted to visit.
Trust and confidence are key
The cruise industry was hit particularly hard in the early stages of the virus, starting with the extensive and often unbalanced coverage of outbreaks on cruise ships. The media storm which followed those early cases whipped up a flurry of panic and fear around cruises. Interestingly, older stalwart cruisers seemed less impacted by this coverage, with many knowing that cruise ship travel is in fact one of the most controlled, safe and regulated forms of travel. Therefore, while we all have a job to do in restoring consumer confidence around cruising, that task may be slightly easier in the ‘repeaters’ from the older generation, as opposed to a younger ‘new to cruise’ group, who will likely require more convincing.
We also now know that the older generation of travellers will be among the first to be vaccinated, meaning the opportunity to travel will likely present itself to them before anyone else. Being vaccinated will replace a fear of travel with the confidence to explore. We need the government and FCDO to support this returning confidence with sound, scientifically backed and justifiable guidance. Trust and confidence are key for older travellers.
While we can be very positive and hopeful about the year ahead, we must also remain realistic about the hurdles ahead of us.
The first half of 2021 will still be impacted by suspensions and cancellations and it’s likely that older travellers won’t want to do so until they have been vaccinated, which could take a few months. It’ll then still take time for confidence to build; and I’ll say it again, we need the government’s support with achieving this.
That said, let’s not end on a negative note. New starts are good things. We all have the opportunity to reset, rethink and work in different ways. The ‘grey pound’ will be more valuable than ever and, when they can get back travelling, I’m very confident they will do so in their droves.
By Joseph Grimley, director of trade sales, Scenic and Emerald Cruises
Thinking back to this time last year, I doubt any of us expected the year to pan out how it has done; however as we look ahead we are starting to see some positive changes. Over the past couple of months, we have launched a new season for Scenic Eclipse, our ultra-luxury ocean yacht, and our 2022 European river cruises went on sale earlier than ever; all of which have been met with ever-increasing interest.
I am confident about the coming months; bookings are steadily picking up with plenty of pent-up demand. We are finding more and more customers are ready to book and are wanting to do so in luxury and style, with recent bookings including the very best suites available. Having not travelled in 2020, it appears that customers are willing to spend more to make up for it.
Scenic Eclipse had a very successful first season, sailing through destinations including the Arctic, Antarctica and Central and South America, and we are already seeing indications that this success will continue this year. Our repeat booking rate is looking very healthy. Scenic Eclipse’s new 2022/23 programme, which went on sale last month, sets the benchmark again, from exciting new itineraries taking guests across the Antarctic Circle to our first-ever itineraries to Japan and the Russian Arctic. Plus, the chance to be one of the privileged few to cross the legendary Northeast and Northwest Passages.
Small ship ultra-luxury expedition cruising seems to be experiencing a boom, with several cruise lines venturing into this market and launching new ships; including Scenic, who will be adding a sister ship to the Scenic Eclipse fleet in 2023. Luxury expedition cruising allows guests to visit the most remote parts of the world, offering the highest levels of safety and security to travellers who wish to avoid the hustle and bustle of popular tourist destinations, while not compromising on exceptional comfort and refinement.
Booking trends indicate that travellers are once again starting to plan for late 2021, 2022 and beyond, with ‘small ship cruising’ being particularly attractive due to lower passenger numbers and more spacious surroundings. This time next year, Emerald Azzurra, the first custom-built ocean super yacht launched by Emerald Cruises, will set out on her inaugural sailing on the Red Sea. Once complete, the 100-capacity Emerald Azzurra will offer guests a luxury small ship cruising experience.
It has certainly been a challenging 12 months, but with confidence growing and some exceptional offers in the market, now is the time to engage with customers and look forward to the bookings coming in.
By Ben Bouldin, vice president EMEA, Royal Caribbean International
At Royal Caribbean we’re on a path of continuous innovation. We’ve been on this path since day one and, over the subsequent 51 years, we’ve pioneered countless ‘firsts’, which have seen the cruise industry evolve into the experience our guests know and love today. It’s 2020, however – the year the cruise industry largely stood still – that will be marked as one of the most transformative years to date.
The time and effort our industry has dedicated over the past year to ensure a safe return is going to see our resilient industry come back stronger and safer than ever before. Last year our fiercely competitive industry really came together, vowing never to compete when it comes to health and safety. Royal Caribbean Group formed the Health Sail Panel in partnership with Norwegian Cruise Lines Ltd, which saw world leading epidemiological experts develop a comprehensive set of open source recommendations for both the cruise industry and beyond, as we navigate the new world in which we operate. The work of the Panel will benefit the industry for many years to come.
Undoubtedly, when the industry returns, technology will be at the helm. Already at the forefront of our operations, technology will see developments to both new and existing initiatives such as the Royal App and Muster 2.0 really come into their own, not only in regard to safety, but in improving the overall guest experience and eradicating any friction points that result from crowds, queues and paper. It’s thanks to technological developments that the cruise holiday will continue to become more and more seamless over the years to come.
The suffering resulting from the global pandemic continues. However, I’m optimistic for the cruise industry in 2021. While there won’t be a sudden ‘light switch’ effect with the industry kicking back into action, I expect it to gradually return to its previous strength as the months unfold. Thanks to the vaccine, increased knowledge and in-depth work with international governments, we’re on the right path and I’m hopeful that by 2022 this will be largely behind us.
The industry has a whole fleet of new hardware lined up and I’m sure we’ll see each new ship rightfully celebrated in turn when the time is right. I’m looking forward to launching Quantum-Ultra class ship, Odyssey of the Seas, in Europe next year. Technology is at the helm of our safe return, but it’s also central to everything we do; Odyssey will be a prime example of this. An exquisite ship, it will be the most technologically advanced in our fleet, with innovation central to every element of the guest experience – from the activity spaces to the entertainment venues, guests can really expect to be wowed.
One thing that’s certain is that, after a year stuck at home, everyone is desperate for a holiday. It’s likely 2021 will see guests feeling more confident travelling closer to home, rather than further afield; we have some really exciting ships and itineraries in Europe in 2021, which are going to suit our European guests perfectly. Many will also want to be reunited with and spend quality time with friends and family, once it’s safe to do so, and with a cruise to suit everyone, our industry lends itself perfectly to reunions and making up for lost time. Following a year of cancellations and foregone opportunities, a cruise can provide the ultimate holiday bucket list. Whether it’s ticking off new destinations or sharing new experiences as a family, on a cruise holiday you can really have it all.
I write this in a time of ambiguity. If last year has taught me anything, it’s that there are some things that are simply beyond our control. One thing of which I’m certain, however, is that in 2021 our Travel Partners will be more important to the cruise industry than ever before. Our guests will undoubtedly look to travel agents to guide them with their holiday choices and we will rely on their support in educating our guests on our safety measures. At Royal Caribbean International, we see the travel trade as an extension of our team. We will continue to support our travel partners and ensure they are at the forefront of everything we do.
By Jamie Loizou, managing director, AmaWaterways
Our world has changed but what has not changed is the desire to connect with family, friends, nature and the world beyond our borders. While international travel restrictions and health concerns are still present, experience, trust and flexibility are factors strongly influencing travellers’ decisions for 2021. There are some very positive signs, like the roll out of Covid-19 vaccines, that clearly show we have started down the path to recovery with new bookings for the latter half of 2021 being very strong.
In 2021 trusting the brand will be a key part of any travel purchase decision. We are proud to be the only luxury river cruise line with successful operating experience with the enhanced health and safety protocols, while still receiving excellent guest feedback. During a 12-week period in 2020, we welcomed over 1,500 guests on a series of private German charters and, thanks to this experience, our ships are outfitted and crew stand ready to safely welcome back guests as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.
A question many operators are being asked at the moment is around financial stability and it’s important that we are able to reassure customers to give them confidence and peace of mind in order to secure those valuable bookings. AmaWaterways is a family-owned and operated business and Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Gary Murphy lead with positivity and passion. Our sole focus is river cruising and, with all our ships paid for, we have no corporate debt to worry about.
Customers are also looking for flexible booking policies and this needs to be in the armoury of tools we give our agents to convert enquiries. When it comes to flexibility, we always work hand in hand with our travel partners, but, for even greater peace of mind, we have added a limited time complimentary Ultimate Cruise Flexibility plan that allows guests to reserve their 2021 Europe or Asia river cruise and change the cruise sailing date for any reason up to 48 hours prior to the start of their journey.
River cruising has a real opportunity to grow its market share. Operationally we can be up and running very quickly. We cruise within countries on national waterways where every day begins conveniently docked in the middle of a new town or village. River cruise ships have smaller numbers of guests, which makes small group shore excursions easily manageable and, at AmaWaterways, we offer hiking and biking excursions so fresh air and open spaces can be enjoyed.
We are very confident that river cruise will be one of the earliest travel sectors to rebound. We know that all of us are very eager to dust off our postponed travel plans and start making new plans to travel with the family members and friends that we have missed. With so many milestone birthdays and anniversary celebrations postponed, the river cruise sector is seeing a trend of multi-generational and multi-family groups wanting to reunite in a safe and trusted environment.
More than ever, travellers are looking for holidays that offer meaningful connections with destinations, nature and local people rather than hurrying through a checklist of crowded tourist sites. We are seeing more interest from our guests for more extended stays in Europe by combining back-to-back cruises and adding our optional pre- or post-river cruise land packages.
This has been an incredibly challenging time to be a travel agent. You have been true travel heroes – remaining patient, positive and passionate about travel, while assisting your clients through this period of uncertainties. Only with your continued support, we will achieve the wonderful plans we have for building new sustainable ships, exploring exciting destinations, offering innovative dining options, new theme cruises and immersive excursions – while keeping our guests – your clients – safe and healthy.
Lynn Narraway, managing director UK & Ireland, Seabourn
Over the last few years, the luxury sector has continued to show a strong performance and a more resilient booking curve. There are more luxury travellers out there than ever before, and so with many of these consumers limited to ‘staycations’ in 2020, I believe that there is an underlying and pent-up demand for our guests to travel. Many Seabourn guests have already secured their 2021, 2022 and even 2023 holidays, so that they have a luxury experience to look forward to. I predict that more companies, like ourselves will be launching 2023 product early to meet this demand from consumers.
I believe that the ‘bucket list’ destinations will be key. For example: Antarctica, Australia, the Arctic and Greenland. We have already had to respond to the demands of the luxury traveller towards experiential satisfaction, and the growing number of expedition operators and dedicated expedition cruise ships will continue to develop unique experiences to cater for this demand for ‘soft adventure’ and learning – such as kayaking around Heimaey in the Westman Islands being taught about bird life by an ornithologist, visiting Viking ruins with an archaeologist, or whale watching in Antarctica with a wildlife expert.
These ships have entire teams of scientists and experts onboard, and when our first expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, arrives in December she will present these experiences in ultra-luxury, offering 132 all-veranda oceanfront suites, stunning interiors by designer Adam D Tihany, alongside kayaks, 24 Zodiacs, and even two custom-built six-guest submarines with their own champagne coolers!
Luxury may not always mean ‘actual luxury’ but rather ‘remote’, ‘hard to find exclusivity’, so for some travellers this will be the luxury of being able to access incredible places – and being the only people in that place at the time – which may mean a tour behind-the-scenes at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, or a bespoke cooking class at a Tuscan farmhouse.
People will also be looking at new technology solutions that will protect our environment. For instance, Seabourn Venture will run on MGO (Marine Gas Oil) for 365 days a year, the most preferred clean fuel that can be used. The ship will be equipped with DPS (Dynamic Positioning System), so never needs to drop anchor anywhere, and 100 per cent of the lighting will be LED, with less energy consumption and heat generation that will reduce HVAC consumption. The ship also offers the latest Advanced Waste Water Treatment Systems and more.
I believe there will be more demand for personalised service, the difference between being catered to, and being truly cared for! Consumers will be desperate to travel, however they will need reassurance that the correct protocols are in place, and they will look for this advice even more from their trusted travel adviser.
Most importantly, I believe that cruise will be the safest way to travel. The cruise industry is 100 per cent committed to investing in the very highest standards of protocols to protect our guests and crew.
Positivity is key – and there is plenty of that in this industry. We just need to remain positive over the next few months. This is where our valued travel partners come in. Learn about these protocols and be confident. You are perfectly placed to translate this positivity to our guests to regain their trust and confidence to travel again.
By Antonio Paradiso, managing director, UK and Ireland, MSC Cruises
There can be little doubt that health and safety will be at the top of every entity involved directly and indirectly with any aspect of the travel and tourism sector throughout 2021.
That is to be expected and totally understandable given the global pandemic’s dramatic impact for much of the past year on every element of leisure and hospitality.
The global cruise industry collectively ground to a halt in March, but quickly set to work to identify solutions to safely return ships to sea.
We resumed our own operations in August 2020 when our flagship MSC Grandiosa became the first ship of any major line to set sail following the industry’s lockdown in the spring.
We had worked tirelessly on a new health and safety protocol that was designed for the wellbeing of our guests, our crew and the communities that our ships would visit and one that could be recalibrated dependent on the evolving pandemic.
The protocol was approved by a range of regulatory bodies in Europe and, on August 16, MSC Grandiosa left Genoa in Italy for her first seven-night voyage in the Mediterranean.
It effectively set a standard within the industry and, in many ways, it went above and beyond the guidelines set out by the authorities. One of these was with our approach to shore excursions.
Going ashore is a key aspect of a cruise holiday. We don’t believe in ‘cruises to nowhere’ as this is not a rich and complete cruise experience. So, we decided to implement protected excursions, a concept that we will see across the cruise industry in 2021.
A ship is a controlled environment and our protocol encompasses every aspect of life on board, from first ensuring that guests and crew test negative for Covid-19 before reaching the ship, through to ongoing testing and monitoring on board.
So, it is crucial that we are also able to control the risk and exposure when guests go ashore and to deliver the same high standards of health and safety on board.
This is just as reassuring to the destinations that are visited, so they know that cruise lines are bringing healthy guests to their communities and that best practices of health and hygiene will be applied when local attractions are visited.
When we announced last summer that visits ashore would only be possible through our official shore excursions, there were people who wondered whether such an approach could possibly appeal to cruise guests, especially those who had previously been enthusiastic fans.
When we resumed our sailing operation with MSC Grandiosa we offered nearly 60 different shore excursions during five port calls. They proved to be popular, much in demand and many completely sold out.
Guests came back to the ship – and we carried more than 30,000 – from these shore excursions happy, having had an enjoyable time ashore, and they were reassured by the same high standards towards health and safety undertaken by our tour operators and tour guides that they found on board the ship.
Naturally, we and the whole of society hope that during the year ahead the pandemic subsides and we can all return to our pre-coronavirus ways of life which will in turn relax our health and safety measures gradually and responsibly both ashore and on board.
But during the second wave that swept across Europe in the latter part of 2020 our protocol ably demonstrated that shore excursions can take place in a controlled yet enjoyable manner.
We have shown that people can still discover beautiful destinations, ports and attractions that are integral to a cruise holiday, all managed in a safe and responsible way.
By Steve Witt and Paul Harrison, co-founders, Not Just Travel and The Travel Franchise
At the height of the pandemic last spring, looking out from Bournemouth beach on the south coast, the skyline was dominated by the incredible sight of several cruise ships taking shelter in the bay. It would have been easy to think, ‘What will become of these ships and their crews?’ But that’s to underestimate our love of cruise and ships in general.
Within a week of the cruise ships mooring in Bournemouth and Weymouth bays, hundreds of ‘ship tourists’ turned up to have a look at them, as people made the most of their socially distanced outside exercise opportunities. Cruise ship tourism became a phenomenon along the south coast throughout the year – providing an unexpected boost to the economy, as people turned up to have a coffee and look at the new skyline.
This illustrates the universal allure of travel and the yearning we all have to get out and explore again. At Not Just Travel our homeworking travel consultants have already seen a huge surge in bookings since the positive vaccine news was announced. In fact, we believe we are seeing an extended Peaks season. Where traditionally Peaks would run from Christmas to March, we started to see bookings spike in November, as the great news about the vaccine and positivity around Christmas and Black Friday boosted customer confidence. We hope we are going to see this continue.
We started our business the day before 9/11 so we know something about creating a successful business in tough times. The coronavirus pandemic was a very different situation to 9/11. Back then, no-one wanted to travel, but now, customers are desperate to travel and can’t. We are already seeing really strong sales and we believe that this will only increase as more people receive the Covid-19 vaccine. In fact, we believe cruises will be one of the first travel sectors to recover. Why? Because cruises have always been a popular holiday choice for older customers and those who want to visit various destinations in a short space of time. The over-65s will be some of the first groups to be immunised and so will be more confident about travelling. Anecdotally, we are hearing this is the case from our travel consultants. They are seeing a trend of older customers booking holidays and cruises for summer 2021 and beyond.
Throughout last year our team worked tirelessly to help customers to get refunds or re-book their cancelled cruise holidays and we have seen a very high percentage of people swapping their cancelled holidays to 2021. Those cruise companies who issued cruise credits of more than 100 per cent of the value of the holiday won a lot of customers’ hearts. It was a very smart move because it kept customer loyalty and, in many cases, we have seen customers book additional cruises.
Despite Covid-19, we have had our best ever sales days for cruises as customers rushed to make the most of the great deals on offer. In fact, MSC’s short cruise offers led to our busiest ever day of cruise bookings in our history. Holidays may look different in the future and we may need to take extra precautions going forward, but cruising is still phenomenally popular.
We believe that travel insurance will be the single biggest trend to hit the travel industry in 2021. We offer Covid-19 insurance on all our travel insurance packages and that has proven hugely popular and reassuring for customers. It will also be increasingly important because the EHIC scheme has ended. This means that insurance will be an essential going forward for travellers and we recommend it on every booking. Where once you were covered as an EU citizen for reciprocal treatment in the EU, now you won’t be, so make sure you always book it. It may be that a new reciprocal scheme will be brought in with a new trade agreement, but until we know the fine details, it is always best to be safe, rather than sorry.
The travel industry has been through a lot recently, but we predict we are going to see the biggest bounce back in recent history. People have missed their holidays, they have missed their cruises and adventures, and we are really looking forward to helping people reconnect with friends and family on those big holidays we have all been dreaming about through 2020.
Each issue, cruise expert Jane Archer shares her tips on selling a specific area of cruise. This time, she looks at Wave
Wave might be very different this year, coming as it does while the world is still learning to live with Covid and cruise ships are not sailing, but that’s why it’s all the more important for agents to get behind it. The deals that cruise lines unleash this time of year are always a valuable tool for kick-starting sales after the festive season, but this year there are months and months of pent-up demand from hundreds of thousands of avid cruisers for sellers to tap into. The Centre for Business and Economic Research estimates some £197 billion has built up in savings while the world has been on hold, and with interest rates close to zero and people desperate for a foreign holiday, agents who get on board with selling cruise are in for a bumper year. We’ve picked out some of the best deals in the Western and Eastern Mediterranean on big and small ships, and on the river Rhine in Germany.
Who? Holland America Line
Where? Western Mediterranean
When? September 22, 2021
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £1,069pp including flights
Holland America has lined up a bumper giveaway to get 2021 bookings off to a bonza start. The line is throwing in drinks packages, a night of speciality dining and cabin upgrades, while selected European cruises (including this one, from Barcelona to Civitavecchia by way of Florence and Tunisia) come with free flights and transfers. Offer expires February 28.
Drinks on us
Who? MSC Cruises
Where? Eastern Mediterranean
When? November 5, 2021
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £569pp
Raise a glass to MSC on this cruise, which is giving away drinks packages that usually costs £35 per person per day with cruises booked by April 30. The line already includes tips as standard. The voyage, a round-trip from Bari in Italy, is on MSC Sinfonia and adds the lesser-known ports of Kotor in Montenegro and Sarande in Albania to favourites Venice, Mykonos and Santorini.
Don’t dismiss those first-time cruisers. Everyone needs a holiday after this year and everyone loves a bargain.
We’re staying with the Med for this look at some the irresistible deals that await customers who prefer smaller ships. Once again, they are spoiled for choice, with discounts and giveaways galore. In addition to the offers below, clients can bag free drinks or onboard credit from Fred Olsen, get $500 off selected SeaDream Yacht Club sailings and save with Seafarer Cruises, which is offering 10 per cent off Variety Cruises’ island-hopping sailings around Greece.
Where? Greek Isles and Ephesus
When? October 9, 2021
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £4,799pp including business class flights
Seabourn has sailed into Wave with an enticing offer of business class flights, transfers, suite upgrades, $500 per suite onboard credit and 300 minutes free internet alongside its inclusive drinks, tips and speciality dining fares. If that isn’t tempting enough, this cruise hops around Greece and Turkey, with an exclusive evening classical concert at Ephesus. Book by March 1.
Where? Western Mediterranean
When? October 28, 2021
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £909pp
Savings of up to 40 per cent and free wi-fi (the latter only for those booking an oceanview cabin or higher) headline Azamara’s Wave offer, which runs until March 31. As far as this cruise is concerned, that means a discount of at least £550 per person (original fare: £1,459pp) in addition to Aza’s standard fare inclusions of drinks and tips. The cruise is from Civitavecchia to Barcelona.
Where? Western Mediterranean
When? July 26, 2021
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £3,360pp including business class flights
Luxury cruising with Silversea is even more affordable this Wave, with up to 20 per cent off numerous cruises for clients who book and pay in full by February 28. In this case, that means a saving of £840 per person (original fare: £4,200pp) alongside the always-included business class flights, transfers, drinks, wi-fi and tips. The cruise is from Civitavecchia to Barcelona on new ship Silver Moon.
Price is just one part of the sales process. Matching the right clients to the right cruise is still vital to ensure they come back again and again.
The Rhine is one of the most popular rivers among Brits, so where better to seek out great offers lined up for this Wave season. Most revolve around discounts but there are also tempting giveaways. To those below, add Newmarket Holidays, which has lopped 10 per cent off all A-Rosa’s 2021 cruises, taking eight nights on the Rhine in June to £1,593 per person with flights, and APT, which has savings of 20 per cent on a Rhine cruise with Aled Jones. Both are valid until January 31.
Who? Emerald Waterways
When? May 1, 2021
How long? Eight days
How much? From £2,195pp including flights
Emerald Waterways is slashing up to £1,200 per couple off all its 2021 cruises for Wave, as well as throwing in free drinks packages worth $27 a day. All that, and clients still get flights, transfers, excursions, tips and wi-fi as standard with Emerald Waterways. This cruise (original price: £2,795pp) is from Basel to Amsterdam. Offer expires February 28.
Be aware of the Covid protocols in case clients ask, but steer the message towards the joys of a cruise and the wonderful places they’ll visit.
Who? Nicko Cruises
Where? Middle Rhine
When? October 26, 2021
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £1,495pp including flights
With savings of £500 per couple on all 2021 Rhine sailings booked by January 31, there are even more reasons to sail with Nicko. The discount is offered by Light Blue Travel, Nicko’s UK GSA, which also includes flights, transfers, drinks, tips and excursions in the price. This voyage (original price: £1,745pp) is round-trip from Frankfurt and includes overnights in Strasbourg and Rüdesheim.
When? April 19, 2021
How long? Eight days
How much? From £2,370pp including flights
All-inclusive cruising with Scenic just got even better value thanks to a Wave offer that slashes up to £1,500 per couple off the price (original price for this cruise: £3,120) and adds private UK transfers to the standard offering of included flights, overseas transfers, drinks, excursions, speciality dining, tips and wi-fi. The cruise is from Basel to Amsterdam. Offer expires February 15.