With a recent change of weather and a touch of spring in the air, this month really does feel much more optimistic and it is great to be bringing you some positive news.
The big story over the past month has to be the fantastic vaccination programme, with more than 40% of the adult population having had their first dose; an amazing testament to all those involved, particularly our superb National Health Service workers. What’s more, the underlying news about the effectiveness of both vaccines and the government’s roadmap to normality means that, for the first time in a year, we have the early proposals of late summer UK cruises being announced. I will talk about this in more detail later.
Unfortunately, the vaccine programme did not come early enough to save existing summer cruises and, as I write this message, I can see our call centre is overwhelmed with clients calling to rebook following the latest suspensions announced over the past few days. I do ask you to bear with us during these testing circumstances; with just a small team and thousands of cruises cancelled simultaneously, my team is under tremendous pressure working through the huge backlog. This will take time and our phones lines will be understandably overstretched for days to come. However, we have been here many times before and I am confident that my team will do their best to service everyone as expediently as possible.
In more positive news against the backdrop of the cancelled summer cruises, several cruise lines have confirmed their intention to launch a selection of introductory cruises based around the UK. Princess Cruises has revealed it will run a series of short UK cruises departing in late summer, with Regal Princess and Sky Princess offering short breaks and week-long holidays sailing from Southampton. P&O Cruises will also offer a series of short break and week-long UK cruises as ‘the ultimate escape staycation’ this summer. Speaking about the new 2021 sailings, P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “Following recent Government announcements and as the vaccine programme is rolled out across the globe, we can all begin to feel a sense of reassurance and hope that this current lockdown period in the UK will come to an end. Life can, we hope, slowly return to some semblance of our previous normality as hospitality opens up and summer holidays can be booked with confidence.
“Whilst holidays here in the UK will be the first to become a reality we will, of course, gradually see the return of international travel but first we want guests to be able to enjoy a proper summer holiday at sea with the best in relaxation, entertainment and dining choice.
“These sailings will leave from our home port in Southampton and sail around UK coastal waters enjoying the summer sunshine. More details of dates, prices and the experience on board will be announced later this month, but they will, of course, all have flexibility so guests can book with confidence.
“We hope that the UK ‘ultimate escape’ staycation option will have wide appeal and we will do our utmost to make it a very special time. There really will be something for everyone and the opportunity to spend precious and much longed for time with family and friends.”
These new cruises from both Princess and P&O Cruises will go on sale later in March and we will be in touch soon with further details. Other cruise lines are very likely to follow the same trend and again, we will be issuing regular updates as and when things unfold!
March is clearly going to be a busy month, with a number of winter 2022/2023 season programs also going on sale. Of course, these will include the extraordinary 2023 World Cruises. We have started sending our teaser marketing about these new additions, but final details are still awaited and expected to be released soon. I believe we are second to none in using our bespoke booking systems to secure accommodation for our clients quickly and effectively during programme launches, as our past achievements clearly demonstrate. We know speed is highly important on launch days as operators operate fluid pricing, and I urge you to contact us and let us handle the important task of securing the cruise and accommodation of your choice. Not forgetting, of course, that you’ll experience exceptional awarding winning service levels from my amazing team. We will let you know when advance registrations are being accepted, so please watch this space for further updates.
March is also set to see the release of the eagerly awaited programme for P&O’s new ship, Arvia. P&O Cruises’ second LNG-powered Excel class ship will join the fleet in December 2022 and will go on sale next month. Arvia, meaning ‘from the seashore’ will be the sister ship to Iona and her design will celebrate the stunning views of the ocean and seashore. We expect to learn more about her inaugural programme soon and we will be in touch with launch dates and full details. So, as I say, lots happening this month to keep our marketing team busy and do remember, they are all still working from home, so a great achievement in keeping everyone informed in these very difficult times.
I want to finish with a warning about passport requirements when travelling to Europe and other Schengen countries now that we have left the EU. For some time, and for many destinations, it has been a requirement for your passport to have at least six months validity and we have had a number of mechanisms in place to help warn you if your passport could potentially prove invalid. However, the EU has now said they will not recognise any free months that may have been added when you last renewed your passport, so these no longer count towards the six months remaining validity. I fear this will catch people out and could result in serious travel issues. Therefore, when travelling to the European Union*, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, there are some new points for you to consider:
- Firstly, you will need at least six months left on your British passport before it expires.
- And secondly, it must have been issued less than nine years and six months ago at the date of entry into each country during your trip.
*European Countries and EEA members include:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Travel to Ireland
These rules do not apply to travel to Ireland. You can continue to use your passport, as long as it’s valid for the length of your stay.
If you intend travelling to Europe in the near future, I urge you to check your passport validity carefully as you are responsible for ensuring that you have the correct documentation for travel.
All that remains is for me to say stay safe and positive, and I look forward to returning with more news of holidays on the horizon soon.