Hello and a warm welcome to my June update!

Driving through Europe on my yearly Lads and Dads Road trip over the Jubilee week, it was really interesting to see just how absent Covid was as we moved from country to country. The only reminder was the requirement to wear face masks on public transportation in Berchtesgaden, Germany, otherwise I only recall seeing them being worn by choice by a few tourists in Lucerne.

However, what was evident were the extensive staff shortages that are widespread across Europe and the UK, and it is clear from the news that this continues to interrupt air travel and hospitality generally. On my trip, restaurants were frequently short staffed and, at the same time, the news was abundant with stories about the problems for air travellers as both airports and airlines are experiencing the same issue.

I have a lot of sympathy for these sectors, and as you will recall, I have mentioned the problems that we as a business have faced with replacing staff that we lost during the Covid period. The press have not been so tolerant, suggesting the travel industry should have planned more effectively, which really shows how little they appreciate that experienced staff are exceptionally hard to recruit in the first instance, and that it takes time to fully train them.

This brings me nicely onto our own staffing situation that I have mentioned frequently in my earlier monthly messages, as this continues to be our main challenge in this post-Covid period. I am pleased to report that phone volumes have generally been more manageable over the past month, helped by the absence of any of the major changes or large-scale cancellations that we have seen previously. That said, at peak times, call volumes have tested our fragile staffing position and I am sorry if you have found it difficult to reach us in a timely manner.

My training team has again been hard at work over the past month with our new sales staff, working with several groups simultaneously, all at different stages of their training programme. We take service standards very seriously and the process of bringing new sales staff to the sales floor takes many months. The most advanced group of just five trainees have finally moved into a new nursery sales team with their own Team Leader and trainer holding their hands as they start taking calls on their own. Many of you will have already spoken to them and I wish them success in their career with our company. Over the past month, a further three sales and two sales support staff have been recruited and are currently in the early stages of their training. We are currently very actively working towards recruiting a further six sales staff, which should restore our numbers to pre-pandemic levels.

While the wider travel industry might be facing difficulties, the cruise sector continues to make strides towards returning to normality. You only have to look at the number of ships that are now in operation – I recently read there will be an additional 21 ships setting sail this month alone. Royal Caribbean, MSC, Silversea and Seabourn have all now fully returned their fleets to service, and Cunard’s Queen Victoria recently welcomed guests back for the first time after a two-year pause. It’s also an exciting time for new ships, with Holland America Line’s MS Rotterdam being formally christened since my last update.

I am also glad to see that many countries have further eased their Covid restrictions in the past few weeks. Popular destinations such as Greece, Italy and Mexico have all dropped their entry rules, signalling a return to some sort of normality. Barbados also recently announced it will no longer require fully vaccinated travellers to present a negative test on arrival, easing some of the requirements if you’ve got your sights set on a Caribbean cruise.

With such a positive and optimistic feeling in the air this month, I thought I would bring you some great news from P&O Cruises, the most popular brand with our Cruise Club members. This starts with the opportunity to join Gary Barlow on board Iona this autumn. He will be making an appearance on two cruises and tickets to these exclusive concerts are available via a raffle. Guests will be able to buy their raffle tickets for only £10 per person while on board, and all proceeds from the sales will be going to two very worthy causes, Child Bereavement UK and Teenage Cancer Trust. If you’re interested, Gary will be appearing on the following sailings:

Spain and Portugal Iona G236  |  29 October 2022  |  14 nights | Click here for details

Spain, Portugal and Canary Islands Iona G237  |  12 November 2022  |  14 nights  | Click here for details

If, like me, you are looking forward to the introduction of Arvia by P&O Cruises later this year, then I can share the latest announcement about her Grand Atrium. I’ve seen renderings of the space and, like her sister ship Iona, Arvia’s Grand Atrium will offer guests spectacular widescreen views of the ocean. The Atrium will be a real hive of activity day and night, with pop-up entertainment and plenty of drinking and dining options, including the ever-popular Glass House and The Keel & Cow. I can’t wait to see it for myself when Arvia launches this December.

This isn’t the only Arvia update we’ve received over the past few weeks. P&O Cruises have also announced an exciting collaboration with The Tidal Rum, which will see the award-winning distillers create an island-inspired rum for Arvia’s Caribbean itineraries. It will be the first rum distillery at sea, and the maiden production run will take place in Arvia’s custom-made still in Anderson’s Bar, so it will be ready for you to enjoy neat or in an array of cocktails available on board. Don’t worry if you’re setting sail on another P&O Cruises ship as The Tidal Rum will recreate the recipe and bottle on the mainland, so it’s ready to share across the rest of the fleet.

If you haven’t yet booked your Caribbean cruise on board Arvia, a host of seven and 14-night fly cruises are departing from January to April 2023, and again from October 2023 until March 2024. Speak to one of our Cruise Experts if you’re interested in being among the first to board this brand-new ship.

Lastly, I am proud to announce that we have been nominated for two accolades at the 2022 Travel Weekly Agent Achievement Awards, where we’re in the running for the Large Cruise Agency of the Year and Call Centre Agency of the Year categories. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you, our customers, as without your continued support this wouldn’t have been possible. This nomination is also testament to the hard work of everyone here at Bolsover Cruise Club and we eagerly await the results, which are due to be announced in July.

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