Hello and a warm welcome to my August update.

This month’s update comes as I prepare for my first cruise holiday since before the pandemic. Along with my two children and their partners, my wife and I are about to venture along the French Riviera with Seabourn, a part of the world I really enjoy. I’m looking forward to going back to Saint Tropez, along with my first ever visit to the Balearic Island of Menorca. It has been interesting having to complete the pre-cruise checks myself and arrange testing in advance of embarkation which is currently required by Seabourn.

The last month has continued to show signs of encouragement, as our phone lines remain busy with new enquiries. Once again, this has been helped by a growing number of cruise lines removing or relaxing their Covid testing and vaccination requirements. Since my last update, Princess Cruises, Cunard and Azamara are among those who have removed the need to provide official confirmation of a negative Covid test prior to sailing, which I hope signals a further return to normality for our industry. As always, I would urge you to check the specific requirements of the cruise line you are travelling with – and the destinations you are visiting – prior to your holiday.

We continue the drive to rebuild our Sales Team to pre-pandemic levels which remains a gradual process as staff need extensive training before they can work independently in the Call Centre. I have mentioned this subject many times in my monthly updates, and you can be assured this remains my main priority as being short of experienced staff has a significant effect on our ability to handle phone volumes. To the outside world this must be difficult to understand, but finding the right recruits in the current employment market is currently highly challenging. We are making progress and wait times are much better, but still have a long way to go. Sadly, I am afraid that the Cruise Bureau remains closed to visitors as I must continue to prioritise staffing the Call Centre. I urge you not to make the journey to Barlborough until such a time that I can announce the Cruise Bureau has reopened.

Another sign of encouragement is the number of new ships that are starting to enter service. I read recently that 13 new cruise ships were ordered during the pandemic and some of these are now setting sail for the first time. NCL recently celebrated the float-out of its newest ship, Norwegian Viva, and took delivery of Norwegian Prima. Some of our team will be on board for her inaugural voyage later this month, so do take a look at our social media accounts for a first-hand look at this brand-new ship.

It was also announced in the past couple of weeks that Silversea had welcomed Silver Endeavour to its fleet, the fifth expedition ship to join the luxury cruise line where she will join the likes of Silver Origin and Silver Cloud. She has been built specifically for Polar exploration and will replace Silver Explorer for the forthcoming Antarctica season.

The past month has also brought a number of milestones for P&O Cruises, as their newest ship Iona celebrated her first birthday. Many of our key contacts from P&O Cruises visited us at our offices to mark the occasion, where some of our team were lucky enough to win a bottle of Marabelle Gin, which is served on board Iona. I know many of you have enjoyed sailing on Iona during her maiden season in the stunning Norwegian Fjords, where she will be based until October. She will then be heading to Western Europe before embarking on a series of cruises to Spain and Portugal, as well as the Canary Islands. If you haven’t yet experienced Iona for yourself, take a look at the selection of Iona Cruises here.

It’s not long until Arvia also joins the P&O Cruises fleet and we continue to receive updates on what guests can expect to see on board. The most exciting news to emerge over the past few days is that the cruise line has exclusively secured the official Take That musical, Greatest Days, which will be performed by members of the Headliners Theatre company on Arvia. The script has been written by Olivier Award-winning writer Tim Firth and follows the story of a group of friends who reunite after 25 years to fulfil their dream of meeting the boy band. I’m sure this will be a hit with guests sailing on the brand-new P&O Cruises ship.

While we’re on the subject of Arvia, keep an eye on our social media channels as one of our sales team, Millie Cooper, has recently been selected to be an Arvia Insider. She will have an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the ship, visit Tidal Rum at their home in Jersey and meet Local Food Heroes José Pizarro and Olly Smith. This will be a great opportunity for us to share these insights with you ahead of her launch this December.

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