Hello and Happy New Year!

In December I left you with an optimistic tone as the early signs of Omicron were upon us, and initial indications were that the new variant was less severe. A month later and the highly infectious nature of Omicron has resulted in a further period of difficulty for the travel industry in general, which we certainly could not have anticipated! Fortunately, cruises on the whole have continued over the past month or so and it has been great to see significant numbers of our clients successfully completing their travel plans. That in itself is a massive step forward compared to the previous period of continued suspensions.

However, on a less positive note, changes in international travel requirements and testing, plus the ongoing mammoth quest of dealing with so many transferred bookings, has again resulted in a massive spike in call volumes. Like many other businesses, we are also suffering from significant staff shortages with many on sick leave with Covid and I find myself once again asking for your patience as we battle to keep up with demand. I fully appreciate that from a client’s perspective it is very frustrating having to queue to reach us by telephone and I sincerely appreciate your understanding. I receive numerous personal notes of thanks on a daily basis about individual members of staff and it is clear from these that you understand the pressure they currently face in these unprecedented times.

Staying on the subject of our team, Omicron has meant that our previous efforts to return to the office have been set back and under government guidance, we have been forced to return to working from home wherever possible. This of course adds to the difficulties of working to an optimum level and we very much look forward to returning to normality again soon. Sadly, this also means that our popular Cruise Bureau remains closed for the foreseeable future.

The current situation with cruises is a little mixed, with some positive developments and others not so! On the positive side, the less severe nature of Omicron and its now global reach has led the government to remove the highly inconvenient requirement to take a PCR test two days prior to coming home. This made travelling particularly difficult with some complex itineraries and is therefore a very welcome step forward indeed. Plus, having returned home, travellers are only now required to take a day two lateral flow test, which means that the overall process is significantly less expensive. These new rules are now in place for all passengers returning to England.

On the less positive side, one or two cruises have been cancelled in the first few weeks of this year as the cruise lines also suffer staffing issues on a global scale. I am confident this is only a minor blip as more and more evidence is pointing to Omicron being a limited issue and as a result, I only foresee the odd cancellation here and there.

The last month has also seen the move from the Carnival Corporation to change Future Cruise Credits (FCCs) to Future Cruise Payments (FCPs). The pandemic and the subsequent large number of FCCs has highlighted how cumbersome and complex they are to manage, and this change is a global response to simplify the way in which cruise credits are provided. Essentially, FCCs reduced the cruise fare, but FCPs act as a payment deducted from the cruise fare. With some 8,000 future bookings with FCCs applied here at Bolsover Cruise Club, I have instructed our staff to change each booking individually within our own system to ensure the update takes place correctly. As you can imagine, the timing of this major change could not have been worse for our business when Omicron has caused such a huge spike in other general queries. This is effectively just an administrative process as the final balance from a customer perspective remains unchanged. As a result, only a small number of clients will receive a new financial summary from us.

Despite ongoing issues, I was interested to read recently that globally there are currently some 77 new ships on the order book, due to be delivered between this year and 2027, at a staggering value of over $50 billion. That represents over 177,000 new berths and shows that the cruise industry’s amazing growth over the past few decades or so is set to continue.

Firmly in our sights is the eagerly awaited debut of the new ship for P&O Cruises, Arvia, now under a year to go until her first sailing. I am delighted to share with you that the 41st edition of our magazine Into the Blue went to print earlier this week, and will be finding its way to your letterbox soon. We have dedicated lots of space to Arvia; there’s a great article on Captain Camby who takes the helm, who like me first experienced cruising on Canberra. Plus, we have included a full update of what we know so far about the existing features of this new Excel class ship, including the new Local Food Hero, Shivi Ramoutar, who brings local Caribbean flavour to Taste 360 and The Beach House. I really hope you enjoy this latest edition of our popular magazine which is full of ideas for 2022 and beyond. If you haven’t signed up for our free Cruise Club and would like to receive future issues, you can do so by clicking here.

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