Hello and welcome to my February 2022 update!
It only seems like yesterday that I put pen to paper and wrote my January update. How time flies! In fact, the real milestone is that Covid has now been with us for two years, which seems unbelievable. However, the signs now are extremely encouraging with more and more restrictions being removed on a global scale and new countries opening up to travellers on an almost daily basis. I have personally just booked a short trip to Marrakech as British Airways resume flying to Morocco after withdrawing all international restrictions to arriving tourists, and hope to go to Dubai in March. It really feels great to be travelling again!
Here in the UK, there is a real feel of normality following the recent easing of restrictions. We reopened our offices to staff with almost everyone returning to the office for at least three days a week. Our plan is to build this to full-time office working – this really is positive news, as working together in a team has huge benefits across the business.
As I have mentioned in my previous updates, like almost all UK businesses we continue to suffer from significant staff shortages despite a major recruitment drive. I am delighted that we have welcomed 24 new employees across all departments over the last five months or so, all of whom are benefitting from our extensive in-house training programmes. While their training continues, it will be some time before we can rebuild the team to enable us to effectively reopen the Cruise Bureau, as we must focus on trying to meet the demands on our telephone lines. Until such a time that I am able to announce the reopening, I must ask you not to make the journey to our offices as you will only find the Bureau closed. Remember, we also keep our website up to date with opening times, so this is a great point of reference.
Last month, I mentioned the huge demand on our phones with unprecedented call volumes that was causing disappointing queue times and unfortunately, this has continued throughout February. A combination of queries caused by Future Cruise Credits/Payments, changing travel requirements and a massive spike in new enquires is behind this demand, coupled with ongoing staff issues. However, we are at last seeing light at the end of the tunnel with a much greater proportion of calls relating to new business. Booking confidence is certainly here and it is interesting to see that cruises going over the next few months are seeing the greatest demand, so that shows you are ready to cruise as soon as you can!
I want to mention Future Cruise Credits/Payments again as this has been the single largest issue we have faced during the pandemic and these problems are certainly not of our making. Many operators have been less than efficient in issuing these to clients and this has led to widespread delays in issuing client confirmations. What is more exasperating is that some operator systems have been unable to process these correctly and consequently we have many confirmed bookings, but having to wait many weeks to have the correct Future Cruise Credit/Payment value to be applied by the operator. I wanted to assure you that we are working tirelessly to have these applied correctly to our clients’ bookings and apologies if you are one of a number of our clients who are still waiting – our hands are tied by the operators. I have personally been involved in seeking additional resource from our cruise line partners over the past month to clear their backlogs with us, and have a dedicated team here working with them.
On a positive note, Cunard have recently launched their latest programme with new cruises from April 2023 through to January 2024. I have to say the response from our clients was amazing and, yet again, we booked record numbers with our super-efficient system. I am immensely proud of this achievement attributable to the fantastic effort of our Sales Team! The top cruise with our clients was Queen Victoria cruise V327, a 19-night sailing 1 October 2023 from Southampton around the central Mediterranean with fares starting from £2,253pp. There is still availability on this longer sailing on this beautiful Cunard liner if we can tempt you! You can see the details by clicking here.
Staying on the subject of Cunard, we recently received the eagerly awaited news of the name of their latest ship. The wait is now over as the new Queen Anne is set to launch in 2024. I don’t think the name will come as much of a surprise to many, but she will bring the line’s fleet size to four, joining the iconic Queen Mary 2, as well as Queen Elizbeth and Queen Victoria. Sharing the iconic livery and red funnels, their new ship will carry up to 3,000 guests and will continue to offer the unique Cunard White Star service.
In other good news, the new Celebrity Cruises ship, Celebrity Beyond, has successfully completed her sea trials. She is the latest Edge Class ship to join the fleet and will make her debut on 27 April 2022 when she sets sail for the first time from Southampton. She will be one of a number of new ships to launch this year, which is a testament to the recovery of the cruise industry as a whole. Ambassador Cruise Line also recently announced they would be adding a second ship, Ambition, to their fleet in 2023. The first British cruise line to be launched in 12 years will specialise in no-fly cruises departing from regional ports across the UK.
Once again thank you for following my updates and I wish everyone travelling over the next month Bon Voyage and have a great holiday.