Hello and welcome to my February 2023 update!

I’m delighted to share with you that the travel industry has seen a phenomenal surge in business in January with new bookings above pre-pandemic levels and, what’s more, cruise holidays have seen some of the strongest demand! That is a great endorsement of the product we love and is a testament to the tremendous value and quality of the products we all enjoy. Thanks to you, we have also been exceptionally busy in January with new business, and I am pleased to report that our new Sales Support department has continued to go from strength to strength, helping us keep call queues to an absolute minimum. This is great news, as at long last we are finally getting our workforce levels to a point where we can match demand.

This upswing in business has partly been due to some of the amazing offers we’ve been able to promote throughout the highly popular Wave season. This has made for a very positive start to 2023 and there are still some great deals to be found, so I’d urge you to take a look at our website and see what inspires you.

I revealed last month that we had finally opened the Cruise Bureau to visitors on an appointment-only basis and it’s been fantastic to see familiar faces and new clients alike. Just to remind you that the Bureau will continue to operate for pre-booked appointments to ensure we have the sales staff to meet the demand of both the call centre and visitors. I therefore urge you to book ahead as we cannot guarantee that we will be able to see clients who do not make an advance booking. The Bureau is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm for new bookings only and payments are accepted by credit or debit card. Cheques and cash are not accepted. Over the coming months, as we continue to recruit even more employees, the intention is to position a small number of Cruise Experts in the Bureau on a permanent basis to enable us to open up even more appointments.

I mentioned last month that our Cruise & Stay department had been busy with some exciting cruises to the Caribbean featuring P&O Cruises’ Britannia, and the first few sailings have now successfully come and gone. To ensure these operated as smoothly as possible, Joshua, a specialist from our Cruise & Stay department, flew out to Barbados to work in advance with the taxi operators and hoteliers for the first sailing, and then joined Britannia where he met many of our clients onboard. I am pleased to hear that Joshua met a large number of our clients who made him very welcome. Following this success, throughout January we have been promoting a similar range of fly cruises featuring Azura sailing from Malta and, again, we have secured many hundreds of bookings at some fantastic rates.

Cruise & Stay now represents a significant part of our business. It is an area that we are focused on growing in the future, so in the coming days, we will be releasing our first-ever dedicated brochure featuring a number of packages handpicked by our in-house team. This will be available to view online, and many of you will receive a copy in the post. All our packages are fully customisable from the flights right down to accommodation and excursions, so please get in touch with our Cruise Experts if there’s anything we can assist you with.

I am delighted to announce that our team recently scooped two accolades at the UK Cruise Awards 2023, held at Madame Tussauds in London. We were not only named winners of the ‘Outstanding Customer Care’ Award, but also came highly commended for the ‘Outstanding Contribution’ Award. We are extremely proud to have been recognised in this way, as both awards are a testament to the expertise of our knowledgeable staff and unique approach to customer service. I would also like to extend my personal thanks to our loyal customers, without whom our success at these awards, among others, would not be possible.

Speaking of our customers, we recently took ownership of our Trustpilot platform, which gives you the opportunity to rate us based on the service you have received. Our rating is currently ‘excellent’, and I have been humbled to read the reviews you have left for our team. We pride ourselves on offering a superior level of customer service, and would always encourage feedback that will enable us to improve. I would like to thank everyone who has already left us a Trustpilot review, and we will strive to continue to meet the high levels of service you all rightfully expect and deserve.

The coming months are an exciting time for new ships entering into service. I recently read that the new Celebrity Cruises ship Celebrity Ascent will be co-captained by two brothers, Dimitrios and Tasos Kafetzis. I have also seen more details about the new Sun Princess begin to emerge, which is set to feature a number of never-before-seen spaces in conjunction with some passenger favourites. Having sailed on many Princess Cruises ships myself over the years, it will be fascinating to see the design direction they choose to take with this brand-new vessel.

In the luxury cruise market, Oceania Cruises has announced it will be adding another ship to its fleet in 2025. The 1,200-guest Oceania Allura will be destined for Europe and the Americas during her inaugural season, details of which are due to be announced this spring. This news emerged as the latest Regent Seven Seas ship, Seven Seas Grandeur, was officially floated out for the first time. I’m sure you will agree there is plenty to look forward to in terms of new ships; if you’re interested in becoming one of the first on board, make sure you give one of our Cruise Experts a call who will be more than happy to help you secure your choice of cabin and itinerary.

The newest P&O Cruises ship Arvia is now feeling right at home in the Caribbean, and I know many of you have already been fortunate to sail on her. If you haven’t yet made a booking to sail on board Arvia or sister ship Iona, you might be interested in one of the new sailings to have just been announced. These 2023 cruises are available for booking now and include a seven-night cruise to the Norwegian Fjords on 16 September on board Iona. Among the highlights of the new Arvia itineraries is a Western Mediterranean cruise on 14 October, which stops at ports including the likes of Lisbon, Malaga, Barcelona and Cadiz. If you’re interested and would like more details, please refer to our website.

This follows the announcement that Gary Barlow will also be appearing on selected P&O Cruises holidays over the coming months. You may recall that I saw his incredible show for myself on board Iona, so I can fully recommend purchasing a raffle ticket for these charity concerts if you do find yourself on board. Details of these particular sailings are also available 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