6 JULY 2020
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“Whatever happens, I, for one, will have no hesitation in being aboard another cruise ship or rivership soon, and I think that many, many people will see cruising as a very viable and desirable way to holiday.”
The words of Douglas Ward, perhaps the world’s authority on cruising. Since its very beginning in 1985 his “Cruising and Cruise Ships” has emphasized health and safety on board, not more so than now.
BTN’s Editor-in-Chief, himself an experienced cruiser, points out that even 25 years ago, when Crystal introduced Crystal Harmony, a disinfection routine was in place prior to boarding. Cruise ships have always been hygiene focused and on his last cruise, prior to lockdown, the new Saga Spirit of Discovery featured washing facilities prior to restaurant entry, and sanitary stations at the entrance to all eateries. The complexity of getting the ships to sea is immense and with the British ported ships it may be easier to recruit UK staff than from overseas. There are plenty of hospitality industry people available.
This month’s BTN cruising review has not been easy to put together as there has been no cruising worldwide. As a benefit for readers we list below most of the major cruise ship lines and suggest clicking through from time to time for any updates. Keep the list for future use, though you can always do a BTN search under ‘still in dock’. John Burke is ON TOUR with ferries in this issue.
We are indebted to Virginia M. Sheridan, Managing Partner, FINN Partners, based in the cruise capital of the world, Miami, for a bullish view of the future, but we must also cover ITV’s sensationalist report on the failings of the industry when it all went wrong. And full credit to Sue Bryant of the Sunday Times who explained in the programme, in a rational manner, the current situation. Douglas Ward’s further comments follow.
Cruise & Maritime (CMV) is expected to be the first British cruise line to go to sea post Covid-19 with late August sailings from Amsterdam, Dublin, Edinburgh (Rosyth), Hull, Liverpool, Newcastle and Tilbury. A full programme is planned for September and the company says bookings are strong for 2021. Of the British cruise lines no firm news from Fred Olsen to date, nor Saga. P&O says it is 'extending its pause' until 15 October. QM2 was due for a major drydocking in November but now says on its website that voyages are planned from 1 November for Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, and 23 November for Queen Elizabeth.
Hurtigruten relaunched their operations in Norway on 16 June, with MS Finnmarken the first ship to sail the coast of Norway following lockdown. Following guidance from the Norwegian Government, Hurtigruten were able to safely accommodate guests on board whilst adhering to government guidelines.
CRUISING: The Road to Recovery
Virginia M. Sheridan
"The coronavirus pandemic has cut a deep and devastating swath through the entire travel industry – with negative impact on all sectors – but none greater than cruising.
The cruise industry is an estimated $75bn business, highly attractive to 40m people who take one or multiple ocean or river cruises around the world per year. Since the emergence of Covid-19, the industry has suffered from harrowing headlines and an almost total shutdown of business and uncertainty about its reopening.
No stranger to incidents stimulating negative press, the cruise industry is always under the media microscope. Images of distressed passengers and large vessels floundering at sea play a major role in the frequency and ferocity of coverage.
There is probably no other sector of travel that generates such strong emotion – people are either faithful fans or those who cannot imagine ever stepping on a cruise ship. There is not much of a middle ground on cruising.
On the business side, ships are expensive propositions. The largest ones with glamorous shopping promenades, scores of restaurants, theatres, water attractions, ice rinks and even a planetarium can cost well over $1bn to build. Then there is the cost of maintenance and crew, which can number in the thousands. Few businesses are willing or able to take on that level of financial and operational obligation, especially in the absence of a bailout.
Today’s cruise industry has become a global industry with ports and destinations around the world vying for cruise industry business; each offering up new terminals, ground operations and technology to make passenger processing efficient and a pleasant part of a highly anticipated journey, rather than the tedious experience of air travel. Exciting shore excursions that enhance local economies are also in the mix with opportunities for passengers to easily experience remote locations, such as Greenland, Antarctica, Falkland Islands and even a bucket list African safari – with many such programmes giving back to local communities.
In short, the cruise industry is big business for shipyards, industry suppliers, employment (about 421,000 American jobs according to Cruise Lines International Association), cruise destinations, direct and indirect spending, and consumer enjoyment.
In the face of dramatic and devastating financial impact and a tarnished reputation, many wonder if the cruise industry can stay afloat and what cruising might look like post Covid-19. Here are some thoughts on cruise industry survival.
Staying Power: The cruise industry has always been resilient. It has had more comebacks than Brittany Spears – though this is its toughest ordeal. To regain firm footing, greater collaboration between lines and governing authorities is critical. A rising tide lifting all ships has never been truer – and the cruise lines need to work together for unified standards that benefit the entire industry. After the Italian Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise industry instituted new safety initiatives and opened the door to greater willingness to shine a light and do something about sensitive subjects that impact passengers, crew and the environment. More of that is needed now – resulting in cruise enthusiasts regaining confidence in cruising.
Loyalty: The industry is extremely fortunate to have a very loyal customer base – cruise bookings for 2021 are already higher than 2019 with some reports saying a 40% increase. The cruise industry understands loyalty and is smart in the ways it rewards customers with booking incentives, and in the case of Covid-19-related cruise interruption, giving passengers the option to postpone cruise vacations without incurring fees.
Huge Sales Force: For decades, the cruise industry has cultivated hundreds of thousands of cruise-selling travel agent/advisors, investing heavily in training to make them one of the most informed sales forces in the world, and one that receives rewarding compensation for high-volume producers. Advisors specializing in cruise planning do well in their niche and enjoy the satisfaction of helping customers navigate the complexity of choosing the right cruise, thereby making them loyal cruise-goers for life and an ongoing source of business.
Value: People like deals and there will be bargains galore when ships start sailing again. The cruise industry, however, has moved away from price as the motivation to cruise. There are many other value markers on the benefits of taking a cruise and the industry will lean in on transformation, inspiration, and exploration more than cost as it rebounds with existing and new customers.
Global Market Value: Ships are commodities as they can be quickly moved to areas of recovery to build new markets and be attractive for acquisition to countries and companies that want to easily move into the cruise industry without having years-long shipbuilding delays. This is already taking place as cruise lines sell off, dismantle, or retire parts of their fleets.
Size Matters: Cruise lines will merge, get rid of older vessels, and some brands will shrink, become part of a “mother brand” or disappear. These are natural outcomes of a major economic crisis in any industry and assuredly the type of changes the cruise industry can quickly adopt for economic survival.
Innovation: This is where cruise lines are the MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the travel industry. The list is endless from Swarovski crystal staircases, flow riders, robotic bartenders, personal submarines, technology-based entertainment, exclusive access ships within ships, youth programming and private islands. There is no shortage of creativity in the cruise industry to drive high impact customer experiences and this will continue as a key element of ship design in the future.
Improvement: A hallmark of the cruise industry is ongoing improvement. Ships today have become iconic symbols of ground-breaking ways to entertain, feed and pamper customers through unrivalled amenities. The industry has also made strides in sustainability, safety, security and technology. The captains of sea will over-perform to ensure onboard health and safety protocols are met including sanitization, air filters, passenger screening, fewer passengers per ship to accommodate social spacing, enhanced cleaning measures, limited passenger contact with food (bye, bye buffets), staff training and regular health checks, increased onboard medical services, and ensuring that shore excursions follow onboard health and safety protocols.
The road to Covid-19 recovery is long and complicated. The cruise industry has every reason to be concerned about its future but for many reasons and to many people, it will remain a viable, newly reimagined business proposition that the smart people running this global industry are already figuring out".
Douglas Ward comments further:
"I feel that the cruise companies with small ships will try to distance themselves from the larger companies and concentrate on quality and a more personalised experience. Companies with the Large Resort ships will concentrate on offering cruises for the whole family. But all cruise companies will value their loyal passenger base, while attempting to entice new-to-cruise passengers by marketing their "cruise with confidence" approach.
In any event, cruising will return, albeit in a modified form, and, as previously stated, with reduced passenger numbers (and more medical staff) per ship. Passengers will need to be more flexible as the cruise industry comes back to life. I do, however, think that destinations and shore excursion operators will need to offer small group experiences, with all the appropriate adjustments to transport and logistics.
I don't think that pushing for an early comeback will be as easy as some think, particularly when it comes to sourcing crew, obtaining visas and air transportation, and training, with multinational or language-specific crew being one of the most difficult aspects to the success of any cruise operation.
Whatever happens, I, for one, will have no hesitation in being aboard another cruise ship or rivership soon, and I think that many, many people will see cruising as a very viable and desirable way to holiday."
As things stand Editor-in-Chief Malcolm Ginsberg will be joining the Edward Elgar, Britain’s largest river ship, in mid-August for a cruise on the Avon. And maybe going to sea at the end of the month?
See also CLIA UK & Ireland www.cruiseexperts.org
Here is a list of deep sea cruise operators.
|Cruise Company||Web Address|
|Carnival Cruise Line||www.carnival.co.uk|
|Cruise and Mareitime − CMV||www.cruiseandmaritime.com|
|Disney Cruise Line||https://disneycruise.disney.go.com|
|Emerald Yacht Cruises||www.emeraldyachtcruises.co.uk|
|Hebridean Island Cruises||www.hebridean.co.uk|
|Holland America Line||www.hollandamerica.com|
|Marella Cruises by TUI||www.tui.co.uk/cruise|
|Norwegian Cruise Line − NCL||www.ncl.com|
|Paul Gauguin Cruises||www.pgcruises.com
|Regent Seven Seas||www.rssc.com|
|Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection||www.ritzcarlton.com/en/yachts|
|Royal Caribbean Cruises||www.royalcaribbean.com|
|Saga Ocean Cruises||https://travel.saga.co.uk/cruises/ocean.aspx|
|Scenic Ocean Cruises||www.scenic.co.uk/ocean-cruises|
|Scenic Discovery Yachts||www.scenic.co.uk/our-ships/discovery-yachts|
|Seadream Yacht Club||www.seadream.co.uk|
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
John Smith, London
A very valid point about recruiting UK based crew for at least the initial start of cruising again. I think it will appeal to many young people, but the wages must be fair and conditions as per a shore job. The Brits and other must also be prepared to work. If I was a bit younger.