Hello and welcome to my April 2023 update!
With the recent clock change and the lighter evenings upon us, it really is starting to feel like spring. Hopefully, with the last of the cold weather behind us, we can look forward to my favourite part of the year and the summer ahead!
It continues to be very busy here at the Cruise Centre and, at long last, our operation is running very smoothly as we manage the phone volumes and visitors without any issues. This has been a long time coming as Covid decimated our workforce as I have mentioned many times before, but now with more staff than ever and more recruitment underway, I am delighted that we are very well placed for the year ahead. Our Bureau has already welcomed large numbers of visitors since we re-opened, and we are now booking more appointments – but please remember to call ahead to reserve your spot and avoid disappointment.
My time in March has been spent working with our lawyers to introduce new booking conditions for the bespoke packages we put together, as well as the terms of business that apply when you book with us on a retail basis. You can expect no major surprises here, as we have just made minor modifications to meet current legislation which will become live for new bookings later in April. I have also been working for several weeks with our developers to add some enhancements to our bespoke systems. Again, these changes are largely invisible to you, the customer, but help our staff overcome the huge variations in deposits payable when you transfer or change a booking. I expect these to go live soon and I will then focus on additional features to help control flight bookings, which are again made more complex by the differences with each operator.
March included the Cunard launch for their cruises on Queen Elizabeth to Alaska in 2024, plus those from their main programme from October 2024 through to May 2025. This featured some very exotic sailings as Queen Anne and Queen Victoria prepare to undertake their 2025 World Cruises, and Queen Elizabeth which will be setting sail around Australasia. The most popular choice with our clients over launch was the Queen Victoria World Cruise, a superb 78-night voyage around South America. There is some space still available, so is not too late to join what promises to be a very exciting holiday.
We are also preparing for P&O Cruises to launch their summer 2025 collection of sailings, full details of which will be announced on 19 April. This is always a popular time to book, especially if you have your eye on a particular sailing and cabin. We’ll be releasing the dates and itineraries for these cruises as soon as they become available, so if you see a specific cruise you’d like to book, make sure you give our Cruise Experts a call on 01246 819819 to register your interest.
The key dates for your diary for the P&O Cruises launch are as follows:
● On sale to Caribbean, Baltic and Ligurian tier members of the Peninsular Club – Wednesday, 26 April from 08:30 to 18:00
● General sale for holidays departing March to June 2025 – Thursday, 27 April from 08:30 to 21:00
● General sale for holidays departing July to October 2025 – Friday, 28 April from 08:30 to 21:00
P&O Cruises recently announced they would be making a multi-million-pound investment in adult-only ships Arcadia and Aurora, which I know will come as welcome news to many of you. These ships are among the smallest in the P&O Cruises fleet and have sailed to some incredible destinations over the years, so I’m sure this investment will ensure they continue to do so for many more years to come. We can expect the initial round of upgrades to be completed next month, which will include the introduction of the new balcony and cabin furniture, as well as improvements to the open-deck spaces. A more thorough refit is also on the cards, with Arcadia’s set to be completed in November 2024, and Aurora’s in April 2025.
It won’t be long before some of the eagerly anticipated new ships enter into service, and as such, the past few weeks have brought some exciting new announcements about the entertainment options on board. MSC is a popular, family-friendly cruise line and their latest ship MSC Euribia will apparently feature seven theatrical shows when she makes her debut in June. No two evenings will be the same, which is a testament to just how many venues are going to be on board. Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed more about its newest ship Norwegian Viva. Guests can watch a 90-minute adaptation of the Tony Award-nominated Beetlejuice The Musical, which will be staged in the three-storey multi-purpose Viva Theatre & Club and feature incredible special effects and cutting-edge lighting and audio. I think you’ll agree that the entertainment options on board these new ships continue to go from strength to strength and have certainly come a long way since I started cruising!
This year marks a significant milestone for Holland America Line, as they celebrate an impressive 150 years in the business. As you would expect, there are various events planned to mark the occasion, one of which is taking place in just a few days’ time. My daughter Katie will be embarking on a short, celebratory sailing from Dover to Rotterdam which will no doubt include many festivities, which you will be able to find out more about on our social media channels. This is one of a few trips our team have been invited on over the coming weeks, as we also have staff sailing with Fred. Olsen, and attending events on board the new P&O Cruises ship Arvia. Again, I’d urge you to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest updates.
Lastly, you may remember that I announced we would soon be working with Disney Cruise Line, and I’m glad to say we have successfully launched the product. It’s still early days but it’s clear to see there is strong demand for Disney cruises! A series of three, four and five-night sailings are departing from Southampton in August next year – you can find more details on our website. Alternatively, you could embark on a real trip of a lifetime and pair a Caribbean or Bahamian Disney cruise with a stay at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando. This is something our Cruise & Stay team would be more than happy to look into for you, so speak to our Cruise Experts on 01246 819819 if you require more information.
Once again thank you for following my updates and I wish everyone travelling over the next month Bon Voyage and have a great holiday.