Hello and welcome to my May 2022 update!
Following on from the optimistic tone in my April update, I am pleased to say that current trade remains very lively indeed and the number of passengers travelling continues to build towards normal levels. Cunard have just released details of their winter 2023/2024 programme, and I am delighted that pre-registrations are very strong. We invite you to confirm your requirements now by filling in this form if you haven’t already done so, in advance of these going on sale from Tuesday 17 May, as set out below:
· New Ship Queen Anne (Cunard World Club) Launch – 17 May 2022, 1pm
· Queen Anne Full Launch – 18 May 2022, 1pm
· Constant Fleet (Cunard World Club) Launch – 24 May 2022, 1pm
· Constant Fleet Full Launch – 25 May 2022, 1pm
You should by now have received details from us of these new Cunard sailings, with the big story being the maiden season of their latest addition to the fleet, Queen Anne. Beginning with her maiden cruise to Portugal on 4 January 2024, Queen Anne is offering a variety of further sailings including a terrific longer voyage to the USA and Caribbean. These longer sailings are always highly popular with our clients, but for those with less time to spare, you can take shorter options with one-way flights. Other sailings include the Canary Islands, Norway and the Mediterranean, so plenty of choices to sample the fourth addition to Cunard’s iconic fleet!
On another positive note, Celebrity Beyond has now completed her maiden cruise and is currently sailing around Italy as she begins a series of fly-cruises around both Italy and the Greek Islands. You will recall that, just a week or so ago, I had the opportunity to sample Celebrity Beyond at a press and agent event prior to her going into service and I am pleased to report that, as expected, she was outstanding. I was lucky to join a similar event on Celebrity Edge back in 2018 and it was great to see how the Edge Class concept of ship has evolved over the past four years and it does not stop there! Celebrity Ascent will be the fourth ship in this class, sailing in the Caribbean in 2023 and 2024. I urge you to take a look at this great product; it has certainly become a firm favourite with Cruise Club members, offering cutting edge contemporary design with a superior level of luxury and fine dining that rivals anything you’d find on land.
Sadly, from an operational perspective, the last month has remained exceptionally challenging and I find myself offering the same apologies yet again regarding our phone service. I do feel it is best to be frank and honest; it is important to me that you understand what is behind these issues and that my team is doing everything they can to bring phone queues under control. As I have mentioned in my updates before, staff losses during Covid were huge and replacing these with adequately trained staff takes months. Since cruising resumed, we have recruited nearly 40 new staff with another six starting training next week. This represents our biggest recruitment and training drive to date, but we have to move forward carefully as any staff manning the phones need to be fully conversant with the product and booking systems for over 20 operators. It usually takes up to a year before they are fully up to speed with everything, and I feel it appropriate to give a special mention to my training team who, as you can imagine, are exhausted running several training groups at a time and still being pulled into answering day-to-day queries from our newest sales agents. With this in mind, our Cruise Bureau remains closed and I will update you when we are in a position to re-open.
Understandably, clients are frustrated when it takes time to reach us and, again, I thank everyone for their patience and understanding. This recognition is very important, as my call centre team has been under sustained pressure for many months without any break and I know they appreciate the very kind comments they continue to receive from you!
Not wishing to pass on any blame for our queue times, I do feel it is helpful to understand that cruise operators are still creating many of the issues that in turn are causing the current volume of queries that are unlike anything I have witnessed before in my 40-plus years in travel. We are, of course, here to help where we can, but the timing and progress of most issues are completely outside our control. The main current hot topics are refunds on suspended/cancelled cruises taking significantly longer than they should and, similarly, cruise credits awarded to clients are subject to unacceptable delays, making it impossible to update new bookings until they have been issued. Both of these difficulties continue to cause the greatest level of frustration for you and us both; please be assured we continue to make demands at the highest level seeking improvement from our operator partners.
Compounding the above, there is clearly a lot of uncertainty about current travel and vaccination protocols, with a good proportion of current queries about this subject resulting in an unprecedented number of calls. I therefore urge you to visit our webpage bolsovercruiseclub.com/cruise-faqs before calling us, as this contains links to all operators’ latest details. We cannot add anything to what can be found here, but if you do still need help, then please make contact.
Over the past few months, I mentioned that a number of our staff have experienced some really exciting ships and as usual they continue to post some great content on social media, which I hope you enjoy and gain some inspiration for the future. Recent visits have included Celebrity Beyond as mentioned earlier, Royal Caribbean’s new Wonder of the Seas, a unique small ship sailing on Windstar, the Rocky Mountaineer train by our Product Manager Katie (a great add-on to an Alaskan cruise package) and our Marketing Copywriter Emma sailing the Norwegian Fjords on board P&O Cruises Iona, to name but a few. Remember, follow us on both Instagram and Facebook so as not to miss out on regular updates. These visits are extremely valuable to us as a business, as they allow us to gain a first-hand experience of the ships and destinations we know so many of you are interested to learn more about when planning your future holidays.
We have just put the finishing touches to the next and 43rd edition of our highly popular Into the Blue magazine that will be hitting doorsteps soon. This publication spotlights multigenerational cruising and is packed with lots of features and some great offers and inspiration from our cruise line partners. In this edition, we also take a closer look at some of the lesser-known cruise ports you might have spotted on your European itineraries and, further afield, we offer our advice on how to spend 36 hours in Singapore. We are very proud of this publication and hope you enjoy reading it! If you haven’t signed up to receive your free copy of this bi-monthly magazine, you can do so by clicking here.
Finally, I can share that we have just completed a refit of the first floor of our Cruise Centre, an area dedicated to administration and marketing. Introducing the latest bench-style desks, we have been able to fit an additional 18 positions into the same footprint to enable us to accommodate further staff into these existing departments, but also provide space for a new finance team. The new area not only looks great but gives us the required room for further expansion in the coming years. At the same time, we have also carried out a major upgrade to LED lighting throughout the entire building, completing our conversion programme to the latest energy-saving technology. This complements our existing solar roof that generates a large part of the electricity we consume, as well as our energy-efficient air source heat pump heating and cooling system.
Once again thank you for following my updates and I wish everyone travelling over the next month Bon Voyage and have a great holiday.