Wow, how the months go so quickly! In my last update, UK staycation cruises had just launched and the new P&O Cruises Winter 2022/2023 programmes, including the maiden Arvia itineraries, were about to go on sale too. A month on, we are at the end of the winter launch period and demand has been incredible, particularly for world cruises and longer voyages. I would like to thank you, our loyal customers, who have booked your cruise through us; we have smashed all records and booked significantly more passengers than any other agent. Many thousands of passengers were booked by my team over a short period, so it may take a few days for your confirmation to reach you as our administration department check each one individually. This is taking more time than usual because of the complex mix and unusually high number of transfers and Future Cruise Certificates (FCCs) being used as a result of Covid-19 cancellations. Sadly, obtaining correct FCCs from operators for transfers etc can be challenging and time consuming, so I ask that you please bear with us if your confirmation is delayed as we work through the backlog.
I am still unable to provide any firm news with regards the real start of foreign cruises in late summer and autumn, as we wait for news from the Government in terms of what will be allowed following the next easing of restrictions due to be announced on 17 May. There are plenty of signs that numerous cruise lines are making preparations to sail and in the next few weeks I believe we will have a much clearer indication of how things will unfold. Sadly, I don’t have to tell you that some destinations such as India and South America are still in a very worrying predicament and the viability of voyages to such destinations is clearly going to be questionable for some time. Again, we will have a clearer idea of the cruise operators’ intentions when it comes to these more challenging destinations over the next month or so.
Throughout the pandemic we have continued to develop our technology, including a new website introduced last November that we continue to evolve. Other developments include further enhancements to our marketing system, expanding the use of your preferences to help us direct the most tailored offers, news and information to you. A perfect example of how preferences are used is the distribution of our new fortnightly email campaign, the Luxury Edit, dedicated to luxury brands such as Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania, to name but a few. Clients who have registered to receive ‘luxury’ offers amongst their preferences receive this automatically, in addition to clients who have travelled with luxury brands in the past. I am really proud of this new luxury email, which is created by a small, dedicated team, and they are soon to increase the frequency of their communications with the addition of editorial articles designed to bring you news of new ships and help you understand the subtle differences between each of the luxury cruise lines.
We often issue specialist holiday inspiration and offers for some of the more unique brands in this way. Expedition cruising is one such example, but budgets restrict the number of clients we can reach. So again, knowing your future preferences means we know to include you in these more specialist marketing pieces when appropriate.
I have taken this opportunity to offer you the chance to update your preferences today, giving you the option to add new preferences or simply update your entire profile if your future thoughts and plans have changed considerably. Simply follow the link below, select your preferences and click ‘submit’, then leave the rest to us. And if you would like to receive the ‘Luxury Edit’ I mentioned earlier, simply add ‘Luxury’ to your preferences and you will be included immediately in the address book for forthcoming issues.
Whilst on the subject of technology, the last year has seen major moves towards web-based transactions more generally and the management of your cruise booking is no exception. Whilst I appreciate that most people embrace the advantages created by online processes, there are also those that do not. However, as cruise lines continue to press forward with web-based procedures, it has become more and more difficult to offer the traditional option of paper documents for our clients. P&O Cruises, for instance, are shortly launching online tickets uploaded from your Cruise Personaliser. As access to your personaliser is restricted to you for obvious reasons, P&O will be asking you to download your tickets and will no longer issue them to us for general distribution. The advantage of this function is that it includes features such as online check-in, saving time at embarkation. We will, of course, send you a reminder and include the relevant instructions, but I wanted you to be aware that we are being led by advances in digital processes that are beyond our control.
Today more than ever, I encourage you to accept the ‘Go Green’ option when you book with us, which means we will communicate everything by email. Whilst this is a small step in our contribution to help save the planet, it does also mean our digital documents can include hyperlinks to relevant processes and similar. It also means that we can communicate important messages quickly, something that has been vital during the past year. I am delighted that even before the pandemic we were running at an average of more than 70% ‘Go Green’ bookings, with the current figure now standing at almost 100%. Please let me reassure you that this is not about cost savings on our part; digital communication simply now gives you the best flexibility to manage your booking.
Before I close, I’d like to take the opportunity to remind you that, if you are still looking for a break this summer, the options available for staycation cruises has expanded significantly in recent weeks with a choice of operators never usually seen sailing out of the UK! Traditional favourites such as P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Fred Olsen, Saga and Viking Ocean continue to be very popular and there is still some availability on a number of their sailings. However, Disney, Virgin Voyages and Hurtigruten bring something really different to the table and short UK cruises offer a rare opportunity to explore these brands before they reposition to their normal areas of activity. Please call our Sales Department on 01246 819819 for full details and reservations, Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.30pm, Saturday 9.00am to 5.00pm, and Sunday 10.00am to 4.00pm. Alternatively, visit our dedicated webpage here for further details.
For now, that’s all. Do enjoy spring when the warmer days arrive, it’s certainly another very cold day today!