“We know that our valued Venetian Society members are our greatest ambassadors and that the majority of our most loyal guests regularly refer their friends and family to Silversea,” says Barbara Muckermann, Silversea’s chief marketing officer. “We have launched the Sail With Us referral programme to extend our gratitude to our close-knit community, recognising their trust in our cruise line and rewarding them with savings on voyages to all seven continents. Our Sail With Us promotion makes it possible for our loyal guests to introduce their friends to the unrivalled comfort and elegance of our ships and the amazing destinations to which we sail.”
FREE Extended Explorations also offers reduced 10 per cent deposits and is applicable to bookings made between March 1 and 31, 2021. Alternatively, guests who do not wish to take advantage of one, or both, of the free land programmes can opt to receive savings of up to £2,320 per suite. There is a dedicated toolkit for travel partners to access guides and digital assets here.
All travel partners booking any of the FREE Extended Explorations up to March 31, 2021 can enter a prize draw to win one of five luxury Globe-Trotter suitcases. Simply register your booking at RSSC.com/FREE-Extended-Explorations-Globe-Trotter-Contest
“With massive pent-up demand for the ultra-luxury cruise experience we have no doubt that Regent guests will want to extend their travel in some of the most exotic destinations in the world, at no extra cost,” said Graham Sadler, senior vice president and managing director, EMEA, Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “I strongly encourage all of our Travel Partners to utilise the dedicated FREE Extended Explorations toolkit to take advantage of this incredible opportunity and to also enter the prize draw to win one of these stunning Globe-Trotter suitcases.”
For more information, please visit RSSC.com/agent or call 023 8068 2280.
The boss of the luxury touring specialists and sister brand Travelmarvel says they’re ready to return and “we’ve already started filling those ships”
In the UK, APT operates its five-star eponymous product, as well as Travelmarvel, which is four stars and offers a more relaxed atmosphere on board. All being well, the latter will be sailing from August to the end of November. Cruise Adviser spoke to Paul Melinis, MD UK & Europe about European cruises in 2021 and the return of long-haul in 2022.
Cruise Adviser: APT is perhaps best known for its long-haul itineraries, but with short-haul likely to open sooner, is there a renewed focus on Europe?
Paul Melinis: “We’re the number one river cruise specialists going into the Mekong; we sell more cabins to the Mekong than anybody else, and we also operate in Myanmar and do a little bit in China on the Yangtze. But Europe is a big focus for us. So, it’s not a renewed focus, it’s a focus that has been there, and continues to be. We sell longer trips – the majority of UK operators sell seven-night cruises, but the majority of ours are 14 nights, because, as an Australian company, we obviously have to serve the Australian guests, and they’re not going to just come to Europe for seven nights. That said, we do also operate seven-night cruises, so we’ve got a mixture that we specialise in.”
When do you expect to be sailing?
“We will operate a programme in August, if we can, to the end of November. It is going to be UK guests only, because obviously no Australians can travel. I can tell you that we’ve already started filling those ships and I think it is going to be a two-pronged attack. What I mean by that is that the majority of people booked to travel with us in Q2 will move to Q3, which is your best-of-August class. And then there’ll be a time when people will be vaccinated and there’s so much pent-up demand for travel it will become a late booker’s market. And then [operators] will be scrambling around saying, ‘Should I put a ship on the river?’ It’s like a chess game at the moment, people are waiting to make the first move. But we’ve made the move, and we’re travelling if borders allow it; if we can offer the same experience that our guests know and want, then we will operate.”
River quietly got back up and running last summer when the majority of cruise couldn’t operate. That puts it in good stead.
“We’re not really comparable to ocean cruise lines; they’re a lot bigger and so their protocols are going to be a lot different, and most worldwide cruises float into a lot of ports. Sure, we cross a lot of countries so there’ll be a many border restrictions, but I think you know with ships carrying 160 guests, it’s a lot easier to get your protocols and everything correct. You’re more nimble; you can make changes quickly on the ground. Our guests are 55-plus, so the majority of those will have been vaccinated hopefully by the end of May, then will be ready to go. And you know we’ve seen the difference in [attitudes] once people get a vaccination – they want to travel, they want to take a holiday this year. We all want to take all a holiday this year, it’s just being able to do it safely and in a way that we are used to. But, you know, it’s going to be an ever-changing scenario and we’re just going to have to get used to some rules. I can’t see masks going away any time soon; I can’t see social distancing being abolished. Even with the vaccine, the virus is here to stay, so it’s just how we deal with it.”
Are you looking at formalising a vaccination policy?
“I don’t think you can force anybody to have a vaccination, everyone’s got their own views on it. I think we take it day by day and see what the government asks us to do, and we’ll follow the guidelines. If they say that everyone must be vaccinated before getting on board, then we’re going to follow that. It’s just more of a ‘watch it and see’ exercise. One thing that we will guarantee is safety and security. It’s absolutely the heartbeat of what we’re going to do.”
How have you been keeping in touch with travel agents during the pandemic?
“That’s been a new experience for us! The trade continues to be just over 75 per cent of our business, so we’ve spent a lot of time and effort working with trade. We’ve got a team of business development managers, and our national sales manager, Jess [Shelton-Agar], speaks to the trade on a regular basis. We’ve been there for every agent; they’ve done a fantastic job, because it has been very difficult. You can imagine the number of changes they have had to make. We’re talking about river cruise, but these guys are selling across the board, and across the world – so it’s been a lot harder for them.
“We’ve worked very closely with them to make sure that all of our APT guests have been looked after, to a point of working with some partners, where we’ve said, ‘Look, we know that you’re super busy, we know you’ve got tons of incoming calls, we know that most of your staff are on furlough and some are down to a one and two-person show, so what we’ll do is go above and beyond’. So I brought a lot of the staff back, we upped our reservations, numbers and we started calling APT guests on behalf of travel partners for a while just to share the load. And that proved very successful. It shows how strong our partnerships are, because we are actually calling their clients that are booked through us, but on behalf of them. So, we got the messaging right, and they were happy with it and we found that very successful. Our move-over rate was nearly 80 per cent, which was fantastic. We weren’t expecting anywhere near that – in a world today where a refund is widely available and anybody who wants a refund must be paid a refund, we managed to save that money, which was very, very good.”
How was your wave period?
“We knew it was never going to be a normal January, but we went out and ran a small campaign with a selection of partners. I was actually surprised at the results. We had targeted a certain number of new bookings and, although we didn’t get the same amount as we normally do – that was never going to be the case – I was quietly pleased and surprised how many new bookings we had. The majority now are looking at 2022. We started out with Europe because we saw that Europe is going to be the place that everybody wants to go. Europe is very close to home, and you know it’s not that long a flight, so people will be OK with masks. Then we launched Asia, and Asia outperformed Europe in some weeks, which was incredible. So, people are thinking about Asia in Q1 in 2022.”
It’s really interesting to hear that long-haul might return sooner than expected.
“Yes, I’m surprised. We did not predict that it would come back like it did. Asia will always be on the long-haul dream map and I think Asia has done a really good job [of handling the pandemic]. If you look at the numbers in Cambodia, for example, you’ll be shocked. So, I think that they’re going to be up and running quicker than we think.”