* items include readers letters
2 AUGUST 2021
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This month will see virtually all the cruise lines with a UK programme back sailing from UK ports with a variety of offerings from three nights to eight. The lifting of the international cruising ban, whilst clearly welcome, is unlikely to affect programmes already in place for August and September.
Due to the general mindset and a lack of foreign customers there are still many bargains available which BTN has already taken up with Fred Olsen (see ON TOUR in this week’s BTN) and Celebrity (a report next month). All operators were faced with a dilemma. Do I oversell or undersell? The Department for Transport (DfT) capacity rules change came too late for some. Even now a dilemma remains with capacity left for each company to decide and no common approach.
Rather than attempt to list every cruise line, some in different market sectors, BTN lists here all cruise companies with ex-UK trips over the next period. Please view UK DOMESTC CRUISES August & September.
Virgin Scarlett Lady is next up for BTN. Virgin Voyages requires a lateral flow test at Portsmouth. See BTN 2 March 2020 for a preview.
P&O Cruises has been sailing UK coastal waters since the end of June and new ship Iona will make its maiden voyage next Saturday 7 August. The company’s international cruise holidays are set to start from 25 September.
Cunard’s first UK cruise will sail on 13 August with international cruises beginning in October.
Ships’ crews have returned with great enthusiasm having been laid off for the best part of 18 months. Some cruise lines have been reluctant to have media on board but BTN’s experience is of a high standard of hygiene and the evidence of good crew training. Do post comments on your experience at the end of this report.
The latest survey from cruise retailer Mundy Cruising gives clues to the future of the industry post-pandemic, with 50% of respondents ranking sustainability as an important factor when booking a holiday, compared to just 14% who thought it was not important, and 35% agreeing that the cruise industry needs to do more to appeal to a diverse range of travellers, compared to 24% who disagreed.
While 65% thought that the cruise industry’s image has been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic, a large majority, 79% of respondents, believe that the industry is working hard to operate more sustainably, and 57% said that they trust the industry to do the right thing on green issues, compared to just 12% who don’t. The findings were the latest to be gleaned from Mundy’s Cruise Expert Panel, which was launched in October 2020 to coincide with the company’s 50th anniversary.
Although there has been much talk of ‘building back better’ and a green post-Covid recovery, the survey suggests that cruisers were already engaged with sustainability even before the pandemic; only 16% of respondents said that the events of the last 16 months had changed their attitudes towards sustainability, compared to 31% whose views are unchanged.
There was also recognition of the innovation within Mundy’s small ship niche, with 55% of respondents believing that small ship cruises are more sustainable than bigger ships. Over the last few years Mundy Cruising and expedition-focused sister brand Mundy Adventures have taken the lead in showcasing the green credentials of new ships coming on stream, including Hurtigruten’s hybrid-powered MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, the renaissance in sail power from the likes of Tradewind Voyages, and Ponant’s forthcoming hybrid-powered luxury icebreaker, Le Commandant Charcot.
On the question of diversity, 64% of respondents agreed that most people they had met on cruises were from a similar background to them, though 80% said that they believe there is a cruise holiday to suit everyone, suggesting that there is a significant opportunity for the cruise industry to cast the net a little wider.
The survey did show that some things remain unchanged by the pandemic, with 74% of respondents still preferring a physical brochure or magazine to online alternatives. Mundy clients are also just as fed up of Zoom as the rest of us, with only 23% expressing an interest in speaking to their travel agent via video chat rather than in person or over the phone.
“Once again our survey has shown that cruisers cannot be easily pigeonholed,” commented Mundy Cruising Managing Director, Edwina Lonsdale, “with a far greater interest in sustainability than you might expect if you were to listen to the industry’s detractors in the media. We have seen a growing demand from our clients for concrete technical details of what the cruise lines are doing on board to minimise their impact on the environment, and this is reflected in our survey findings.
“We also agree with our clients that there is a huge opportunity for the industry to attract a broader mix of clientele thanks to the fabulous diversity of product now on offer, whether it’s building a stronger offering for solo travellers, appealing to a younger demographic, or making it clear that a cruise ship is a friendly and welcoming place.”
BTN’s on-board friendly encounter with both Fred Olsen and Celebrity indicates that customers much prefer the ships less than full. Likewise the crew and ability to keep up standards. This would indicate that prices are not sustainable. Not only will 2021 be the year of the pandemic but also the year of cheap cruises.
Make the most of it.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Peter SMART, United Kingdom
For future cruises, we need the UK to look carefully at the traffic light system. For example, many Antarctic cruises start/end with a night in Chile (80% population vaccinated apparently) or Argentina. But who wants another 10 nights incarcerated in a UK hotel on return?
Malcolm Ginsberg, Edgware North London
Celebrity. Great trip, perfect weather. Other than Virgin nothing else planned at this time but would be happy to gain other responses including Disney and the huge Iona.
Malcolm Family Jones, Southport
It will be interesting to hear what the editor has to say about Celebrity. We thought it was terrific with staff really pleased to see you. Is he reporting on Disney? Shall I take the gamble in late August?