I hope you and your loved ones are keeping well as we go into this second lockdown.
I thought my November update would be the perfect opportunity to share with you our latest changes as we battle with the consequences of Covid-19. November brings several developments to our working arrangements as we welcome back staff who have been furloughed until now and our Call Centre resumes serious activity for the first time since March.
The latest government Job Retention Scheme enables us to bring furloughed staff back for two days a week in November, the main effect being felt by the Sales and Marketing Departments. As part of this, we are creating a new team who will be based in the Call Centre. Their primary function will be to help the huge number of clients who have Future Cruise Credits as a result of their cruise being suspended. Located on the ground floor of our large Call Centre, the team will have more than ample space to socially distance for their own protection, an important factor, particularly during the November lockdown.
The Cruise Bureau, however, will remain closed for the foreseeable future to maintain a Covid-secure environment for our Call Centre workforce. Therefore, I ask you not to make an unnecessary journey to Barlborough, as my staff will not be allowed to let any visitors enter the premises under any circumstances, nor engage with any visitors in the car park. I will make an announcement when the Cruise Bureau reopens, and our website will be updated to reflect this.
Marketing similarly have returned two days a week, working mainly remotely and in the Call Centre from time to time. Whilst we will not be undertaking our usual level of marketing activity, they will initially be focusing on the communication of the new Summer 2022 cruise programmes. By the time you read this message, the new P&O and Cunard programmes will be on sale, with cruise calendars mailed to past passengers and to anyone who has previously indicated a preference for these products. If you have not received details and would like to see them, full details can be found on our website by following the following links:-
We are taking bookings now on both products, so please call Reservations on 01246 819819 to secure the cruise and cabin your choice. These are just the start of the many 2022 sailings set for release in coming weeks and we will of course communicate these as they happen.
Preparations have also commenced to produce a special January edition of our award-winning IntoTheBlue magazine, which has been suspended since the start of this crisis. This special edition will be packed with the latest news and ideas for 2021 and beyond, and I look forward to sharing this with you as we head into the new year.
During the Covid period our Web Team have designed and created an entirely new website and I do hope you like the new fresh design. This has been achieved entirely with everyone working from home, not an easy task, and the result is a compliment to this team. While it is still work in progress, the majority of the main site is now complete. With even easier navigation in production, I am confident that before long we will have an amazing website that will soon include online booking functionality too.
For a bit of fun, we are running a little light-hearted treasure hunt challenge right now, with Captain Bolsover hidden somewhere on the site. He’ll stay there for two days and we’re hoping that finding him will be a great way for you to see the subtle changes we’ve made to the website. If you are successful in finding Captain Bolsover, you could win a £100 Cruise Voucher. We will draw one winner from the participants.
A small number of Sales Consultants have returned to the front line in order to bolster our response to the current 2022 launches. We have seen very strong demand already to the new P&O Cruises and Cunard 2022 itineraries, and the extra staff will help us meet the anticipated increase in activity over the coming days and weeks. Please remember that many clients will be using their Future Cruise Credits from their suspended sailing(s), something which will clearly make the booking process more complicated and therefore a little longer. Please bear with us over the booking period, as this extra burden could lead to some delays in answering your calls.
On the refund front we have made considerable progress in October, with both P&O and Cunard in particular having finally dealt with the most complex cases going back to March and April. This is certainly great news and I can see that our Cancellation Team have been able to close a large number of these files and issue long-awaited refunds in appropriate cases. If you are still awaiting a refund on one of the early 2020 cruises and are not already in discussion with us, please message [email protected] quoting your booking reference and query details.
In terms of looking ahead, over the last few days we have seen huge breakthroughs with the Oxford vaccine. Leaks in the press suggest that the Government is getting ready to vaccinate health workers in December, moving onto the elderly and vulnerable soon after. This is the news the cruise industry needs, but clearly it will take time to roll out into the UK population and longer to reach across the globe. However, I personally remain very optimistic that by spring this will be well underway and that by summer cruising will start returning to some form of normality. Fingers crossed, as I correctly predicted the first lockdown weeks before and the suspension of normal cruising until quarter two next year!
Most cruise lines have now suspended operations until 2021 but we are beginning to see real light at the end of the tunnel. The CDC in the US has now lifted its no cruise order, instead creating a framework developed to enable the return of ships to US ports. Similarly, the European industry body, CLIA, continues to work with the Government to review the current FCO advice on cruises from and around the UK. Even more promising news comes from luxury cruise line, SeaDream, who have now departed Barbados on the first Caribbean cruise itinerary since the pandemic paused the sailings of a whole industry. Interestingly, SeaDream are also offering residencies on board the incredible SeaDream I ship, something that I’m sure you’ll agree is all too tempting as we begin a winter lockdown. With all this in mind, and constant developments in testing, I’m confident that we’re on track towards being at sea again soon.
I realise these remain hard times for everyone, but please do your part to minimise the risk of spreading the virus and keep safe and well!