Hello and welcome to my November 2023 update!

My latest update comes after some of the wettest weather we have seen in a long time and, living in the Retford area, I witnessed first hand some of the most serious flooding in the country. This included the A1 that closed for several days; it was completely underwater and as you can imagine caused havoc being one of the major north/south arterial roadways!

I was about to fly on a family holiday to Barbados in November, but my wife sustained a fracture to her knee and required emergency surgery, so that put an end to that! However, I have rebooked for early next year so hopefully have some winter sunshine to look forward to. Of course, many of you are travelling over the winter months to various hot destinations; but for those not yet booked, I would remind you that it’s still not too late to find some winter sunshine or indeed join an exploration cruise, with limited availability to most destinations. So, if you are interested, speak to our Sales Team who would be only too pleased to look at your various options.

Last month, I mentioned the importance of travel insurance and this time I want to write about travelling with any special needs, particularly with P&O Cruises and Cunard, as they have just introduced a new layer of requirements and checks. With these operators, it is very important that you confirm any mobility issues right from the outset as we are required to book an ‘Evacuation Chair’ for anyone who cannot manage stairs on their own, or a ‘One to One Assistance Guide’ for anyone who walks with the aid of a stick or requires any level of assistance when using stairs. These both need to be booked even if you are taking a carer as you could easily be parted during the cruise, and availability for such assistance is very limited, so adding this later may not be possible.

Last month, I also mentioned our latest growth plans including a complete reconfiguration of the Cruise Bureau. Anyone visiting here over the last week will have seen this is almost complete, together with the new area of desking for our Cruise & Stay team and a larger employee car park. There remains a small amount of cosmetic work to undertake over the next week or so, but the benefits of these changes are already reaping significant rewards. May I remind you to call ahead to book an appointment if you intend to visit the Bureau, as we cannot always guarantee to have staff or space available for walk-ins. Bureau opening times are Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm, closed Sundays and Bank Holidays.

I’ve previously mentioned that we are working hard in the background to deliver a new website, which will be the biggest web development in our history. We are on track for this to go live in early December and I hope to bring you more exciting announcements on this project in my next update. I am confident this will include improved cruise line and destination information, very user-friendly search functions and, of course, the option to book online.

I can announce that our Cruise & Stay department is also building a Formula 1 team to provide cruise holidays together with F1 land stays and hospitality. We expect to be offering a limited programme for the 2024 season, so watch this space for further updates as we embark on this very exciting project.

You may recall that, a few months ago, I made an appeal for votes in this year’s Wave Awards. I am delighted to announce we were named the winners in the Favourite Travel Agent category at a star-studded ceremony in London on Monday night. As these awards are fully decided by the public, it is extremely humbling to know that so many of our customers took the time to vote for us. This award is a testament to the hard work of our team, and I would like to extend my personal thanks to you all for your ongoing support – we couldn’t have done it without you.

Since my last update, we have seen the successful release of P&O Cruises and Cunard’s 2025/26 programme. Thank you to those of you who have already chosen to book your choice of cruise and accommodation with us, as we have seen considerable demand for this new season of sailings. If you haven’t yet booked and would like to, there is still some availability which includes the new Cunard ship Queen Anne, due to set sail for the first time in May 2024. We are also offering early booking benefits with P&O Cruises, which includes a 10% saving for all guests, and a further 5% if you are a Peninsular Club member on selected cruises. These offers – and our special launch rates – are valid until 4 December 2023 so please contact our Cruise Experts on 01246 819 819 if you would like to take advantage of these additional benefits. You can view the new collections from P&O Cruises and Cunard on our website.

In the wider cruise industry, I noticed that Royal Caribbean recently announced Independence of the Seas would be based out of Southampton in 2025. This really is an incredible ship that is perfect for all the family, and to have her sailing directly from the UK once again shows the cruise line’s commitment to the British market. A number of itineraries are available from short two and three-night breaks, to those lasting seven nights or more. Take a look at our website for the full list.

There have been a couple of major announcements from Celebrity Cruises over the past week or so. Not only has the cruise line taken delivery of its latest ship, Celebrity Ascent, but it has also revealed the name of its next Edge Series ship which is due to set sail in 2025. Celebrity Xcel will be sailing from the Caribbean when she launches, and if my own experience of this class of ship is anything to go by, she will be quite remarkable! As always, keep an eye on our website for all the latest updates as more details are revealed.

Speaking of new ships, two members of our team are currently on board Regent Seven Seas Grandeur, experiencing everything this brand-new luxury product has to offer. There are sure to be many highlights on board, including a 1,600-piece art collection that includes three pieces by Pablo Picasso, and the first Fabergé egg to permanently reside at sea. You can follow Katie and Jade’s first-hand accounts of being on board the 750-guest ship by taking a look at our Facebook and Instagram channels over the next few days.

If you are one of our valued Cruise Club Members then you should now have received the latest edition of Into the Blue, where you will hopefully find some inspiration for that winter sun I mentioned! If you don’t receive a complimentary copy of this award-winning bi-monthly magazine through your letterbox and would like to, you can do so by signing up 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