Hello and welcome to my August 2023 update!

I do hope that you enjoyed the summer issue of Into the Blue, which is our celebratory 50th edition. It was a little surreal reading about my past journey with the business, looking right back to my first cruise on Canberra and sporting a rather out-of-date moustache, but it also reminded me of how much has changed over the years. Thank you to the Cruise Club Members who wrote to me in response to the feature and to share their own memories; in particular, I enjoyed those looking back to the early days of P&O Cruises – or rather Canberra Cruises as it was then. My team have worked hard to deliver this edition in our first eco-friendly paper wrapping which will continue going forward! I would like to compliment the team in delivering this industry-acclaimed publication, particularly Dan the lead Graphic Designer, Emma the Editor, and Sam who undertakes all the hard work in the background arranging the individual operator features and adverts. Well done to everyone who contributes to this superb project, and they are already working hard on our September/October publication! If you don’t already receive your copy, sign up here and we will add you to our future mailings.

Awards season is fast approaching, and I am proud to say we have once again been nominated for an accolade at The Wave Awards, which recognise excellence across our industry. We have been shortlisted in the Favourite Cruise Travel Agent category and our success at these awards depends on public votes. I hope you will spare a few minutes to show your appreciation for the dedication of our team, which you can do by following this link and selecting Bolsover Cruise Club from the dropdown box. Voting is open until 15 September and I will, of course, keep you updated on the outcome. On behalf of myself and the entire team, I would like to thank everyone who has cast their vote so far, as without your support, our continued recognition at such awards would not be possible.

You may recall I mentioned previously that I have been working with our IT team to deliver a new script system to make the booking process simpler for our Sales Team. This finally went live to a trial group of agents at the end of July, which enabled us to iron out a few minor issues and, more importantly, perfect the process. We will be rolling this out across the entire Sales Team in August to give you, the customer, a seamless booking process, whilst ensuring we include all the details prescribed by ABTA.

Part of our script process involves asking if you have any specific health or mobility needs, and procedures vary considerably from operator to operator. This is a good time to remind you that it is very important to inform us of any such needs when we are running through the script with you, as limits are often placed on passenger numbers with mobility needs or those wishing to take a wheelchair, even for occasional use. Failing to register your needs correctly can result in you being unable to travel as planned, which is why we include this in the booking script. If you are rebooking with us, your needs must be declared with each booking, as it is important the latest details are captured and declared to the relevant cruise operator.

This month, I was hoping to share with you an insight into EXPLORA I, the first ship of Explora Journeys, the new luxury arm of MSC Cruises, having been invited on a two-night shakedown voyage. Sadly, this was cancelled along with the original maiden sailing as final preparations were delayed by technical issues, so my preview did not materialise! I am, however, very optimistic that this new brand will be a major player in the sector – the parent company has rather deep pockets and this represents a major investment for them with a second ship in production and a third and fourth in the early planning stages. This first ship alone represents an investment of over €500m, with a total investment of €2.5 billion for the four ships; that’s a huge commitment and a story that will be very interesting to follow. EXPLORA I set sail on her maiden journey on 1 August. I am delighted (but equally very envious) that both our Into the Blue Editor Emma, and my daughter Katie, Head of Cruise & Stay, have just joined a sailing from Reykjavik to Copenhagen, with visits en route to Isafjordur, Akureyri and Skagen. Look out for their social media posts on our Facebook and Instagram channels – and a future edition of Into the Blue – for their reviews as I am expecting to hear some great things!

I also wanted to mention Disney Cruise Line, a product that is somewhat different to Explora Journeys, but for those of you with children (or just Disney fans!) still looking for a cruise this summer, Disney has a ship sailing from the UK in 2023 – Disney Dream! That’s the full Disney experience sailing from Southampton. Starting with a seven-night Fjords cruise on 19 August, Disney Dream continues with some great short four- and seven-night cruises right through to the middle of September when she returns to New York. There is modest availability, so if you are looking to treat the family, perhaps this is a unique opportunity not to be missed; what’s more, they really look after adults very well too. Here’s a link to a recent blog by Katie – a massive Disney enthusiast herself – who sampled Disney Wish.  It’s a great insight into this fantastic cruise product. Speak to our Cruise Experts on 01246 819819 for the remaining dates and availability.

It was also announced last week that P&O Cruises would be hosting a number of wellbeing and lifestyle-themed cruises on Arvia and Iona in 2024. TV personalities Cherry Healey and Kat Farmer will be on board to run a series of workshops and, if you book a Select Price holiday before 4 September, you will receive double onboard spending money. You can find more information on our website.

Once again thank you for following my updates and I wish everyone travelling over the next month Bon Voyage and have a great holiday.

Yours sincerely

Michael Wilson