Welcome to my February 2024 update!

I have just returned from Barbados on a long overdue holiday with my wife, having not been away since August 2023. Unfortunately, we had to delay the trip from November as my wife fell and broke her kneecap, so the getaway was even more eagerly awaited and, in the end, very enjoyable.

However, reminders of work were never far away, as Barbados is very much a significant cruise hub – the most memorable being dinner at The Cliff on Saturday night and seeing Arvia sail from Bridgetown. Not only is the restaurant superb, but Arvia looked amazing glittering in the Caribbean night sky as she sailed away, and it made me wonder how many of our clients were on board enjoying their first night at sea. At our hotel, I met a couple drinking sundowners who had just returned from a cruise on board Explora I around the Caribbean, and they could not speak highly enough about this great new brand. You may recall I mentioned Explora Journeys in a previous monthly update; it is the luxury sister brand to MSC and has received significant investment, if the reviews I have heard from colleagues are anything to go by, it is certainly one to consider. 

On a lighter note, having a lunchtime drink at the pool bar with two friends and clients who were staying at the same hotel, we drifted into a conversation about the dress code on board their forthcoming Queen Mary 2 voyage. They then popped out of their beach bag a copy of our latest Into the Blue magazine that they had brought with them for some holiday reading! It really made me proud to see a copy of our magazine in Barbados. 

Last month, I mentioned how strong business has been, and January has proved as busy as expected. Cunard stands out as the brand with the biggest year-on-year growth in January, and the other interesting development has been our own Cruise & Stay department. We have seen a rise in the number of clients choosing to sail with luxury brands to more exotic long-haul destinations, and you can look forward to more opportunities over the year ahead.

Our new website is now in its third month and online bookings continue to grow, with the largest number of bookings in one day recorded on Monday last week. I am delighted to share that the system has been updated to allow you to add your past passenger numbers before booking. This ensures you receive any benefits to which you may be entitled, including for example the 5% Peninsular Discount on selected P&O Cruises. We are in discussions to introduce even more exciting developments, which I hope to share with you in the near future. In the meantime, if you have not already done so, I would encourage you to take a look at the website as regardless of whether you choose to book online or over the phone with us, it is a really great tool to search for your next holiday. Plus, it is packed with content for the new and regular cruiser. 

You may recall in an earlier update I revealed that we are starting to promote cruise holidays with a motorsport theme, in particular Formula 1. Over recent years this concept has gained immense popularity with an increasing number of options available, including cruise ships that plan for overnight stays in iconic ports such as Monaco whilst the Grand Prix takes place. Alternatively, you can combine your cruise with a city stay, attend the F1 event, and then join the cruise of your choice. We are still in the early days of planning, but if you are interested in receiving details of any of our upcoming motorsport cruise events, you can update your preferences by following this link.

We are edging ever closer to the official launch of Queen Anne, which will become the 249th ship to sail under the Cunard brand. She is due to set sail for the first time in May, and it was announced in the past few days that her naming ceremony would be held in Liverpool. This is a city the cruise line has strong connections with, so is a fitting choice for such a monumental occasion. The ceremony will take place on 3 June during Queen Anne’s 14-night British Isles Festival Voyage, on which there is still some limited availability. TV personalities Emma and Matt Willis will oversee the celebrations, so if you want to be a part of this historical occasion, I’d urge you to book sooner rather than later. Full details can be found on our website. 

Whilst I’m on the subject of Cunard, keep an eye on our website over the coming days, as the cruise line will be releasing details of 300 new voyages sailing between September 2025 and January 2027. As always, we will be opening these departures for pre-registration, so make sure you are signed up to receive our email updates so you don’t miss out. 

Even closer still is the launch of Sun Princess, and I am delighted to reveal that some members of our team have been invited on board to experience the brand-new ship. Make sure you follow us on social media for a first-hand look at Sun Princess as she sets sail around the Mediterranean. This is the largest ship ever built by Princess Cruises at an impressive 175,500 tonnes, and a maximum passenger capacity of 4,300, so I expect plenty of new and exciting features on board.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean was recently named an official partner for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest and, as a result, will be hosting four special sailings this May. The cruises on board Anthem, Explorer, Odyssey, and Oasis of the Seas depart between 5 and 11 May; each one will show the live grand final on board, and include some unique food, drink and entertainment experiences for guests to enjoy. No doubt this will be a unique way to enjoy Eurovision and experience these incredible Royal Caribbean ships in the process! If this is something you’d be interested in, full details are available on our website.

If you have sailed with P&O Cruises previously, as I know many of our Cruise Club Members have, then there is still time to make the most of an extra discount on selected 2024 sailings. The 15% saving is available on some cruises on board adults-only ships Arcadia and Aurora, visiting various destinations including Iceland, Canada and the Canaries. The offer runs until 4 March and, as always, you can find out more online.

Lastly, I am delighted to announce that we have once again been successful at the UK Cruise Awards. My daughter Katie, our Chief Operations Officer, and a few other members of staff all attended the event in London, hosted by all the Carnival UK brands: P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn and Carnival. You may recall we won the ‘Outstanding Customer Care Award’ last year, and I am absolutely delighted to announce that we have smashed it again! It is both a massive accolade and recognition from our cruise partners for the exceptional customer service we provide to our mutual clients. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in our team for making this possible, and we look forward to continuing to provide you with an award-winning level of service.

© 2024 Steve Dunlop Photography (SD Photography Ltd)

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

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