What a difference a month makes! As I predicted in my last update, we now have the very first 2021 UK cruises on sale with departures commencing as early as June, and it’s great to see so many of you so eager to get on board again. What’s more, you have so much choice with P&O, Cunard, Princess, Fred Olsen, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Viking, Saga, MSC and now even Virgin have joined the mix! So, if you are still looking for the perfect 2021 ‘staycation’ then look no further than our dedicated webpage by following this link. Alternatively, call our Reservations Team on 01246 819819 for further details.
Staycations have been immensely popular and I am delighted that we have secured a majority segment of market share, all thanks to you, our Cruise Club members. However, I must apologise once again if you have found our phone lines busy when trying to book. Unfortunately, not only has demand been huge, but at the same time my staff have faced thousands of new suspended bookings over the summer period, creating additional demand on our call centre. These really continue to be difficult times for my staff, who have dealt with unprecedented volumes of work for over a year, the majority of them still operating from home. Please be aware however, if you ever fail to reach us, our systems do record your missed call and we will always call you back as soon as we are free to do so.
To compound the already tremendous demand, the last week or so has also seen winter season cruises go on sale for 2022/2023, so everything really has come at once. This week sees the new P&O Cruises winter 2022 / 2023 programme go on sale and of course these not only include the 2023 World Cruises, but also the eagerly awaited maiden season on their latest ship, Arvia, which will spend its maiden season in the Caribbean. Early advance registrations were amazing, as clearly so many of you are looking ahead to travel again, and the first itineraries – for sailings aboard Arvia – went on sale from 19 April. Whilst we can never guarantee to get everyone their first choice, our bespoke systems are designed to book cabins at great speed, enabling us to capture the most popular choices ahead of our competitors.
It would be remiss of me not to mention a little bit more about Arvia, the newest ship to join our most popular brand, P&O Cruises. As I mentioned, you can at last now register to book a voyage in her maiden season sailing initially from Southampton to the Canaries for two exciting two-week cruises in December 2022, the later date being a Christmas cruise. Then she is off to the Caribbean, where she’ll sail a range of cruises from Barbados through to March 2023 and of course, there are also two positioning voyages. These Transatlantic sailings are the perfect option if you like the longer, leisurely holidays with plenty of days at sea. We have a great section on our website all about Arvia, her maiden itineraries and what you can expect onboard, so follow this link to find out even more about this next chapter in P&O Cruises remarkable history.
Cruising further afield in 2021 is very much dependent on the success of other countries with their vaccination programme and I was hoping that I would be able to bring you more positive news as we move into spring. I don’t need to tell you that the UK has led the world with regard to vaccinations, but sadly, so many other countries continue to battle with Covid-19. Hopefully the situation will look much better when I reach out next month, but there are already early signs that confidence is growing with a small number of operators already announcing a return to cruising this summer. These include Seabourn, Silversea and NCL, all of whom have announced itineraries around the Greek Isles, though the UK Government needs to lift travel restrictions for UK clients to be able to sail on one of these. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will notify you as and when restrictions are lifted.
With all the distractions caused by Covid-19, it is easy to forget that a huge number of older ships have been retired over the past year – the Carnival group alone has retired some 18 cruise ships. I am sure this has to be a good thing for the industry and represents the biggest reset ever seen. That said, forward progress continues with just short of twenty new ships entering service in 2021 and 2022. These include news vessels for Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Saga and Cunard. Again, our website is a great reference point; follow this link to find out all about the new builds currently in the pipeline.
I am delighted to say the Cruise Centre is starting to feel much busier as we bring staff back for ad- hoc ‘keep in touch’ days and continue the gradual process of getting back to normal. Clearly this is challenging as we observe social distancing rules, increased sanitation and are about to introduce twice-weekly Covid testing, but we certainly keep making baby steps forward. Sadly, we have said goodbye to a number of team members over the past year who have retired or moved on. Recruitment has been impossible whilst working from home, so it will be some time before we can rebuild the team to pre-lockdown levels.
I hope that, like me, you are looking forward to the easing of lockdown measures over the coming months. I am certainly looking forward to a pint of British real beer, my first for at least six months! The subsequent renewed confidence has certainly resulted in a significant increase in business and if you are still waiting to book your next adventure at sea, whether one of the new UK Staycations this summer or even one of the new Arvia maiden cruises, then we look forward to hearing from you. Whilst sales staff largely continue to answer calls from home, our opening hours on the phone remain operational over reduced times: Monday to Friday 9am to 5.30pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm, and Sunday 10am to 4pm. The Cruise Bureau remains closed to visitors.