Book Your Cruise with Confidence - Book with a Travel Agent, says Celebrity Cruises MD Jo Rzymowska as she chats to Northern Ireland Travel News’ Andrea McVeigh

TRAVEL agents will be crucial in building confidence amongst consumers in the post-lockdown cruise industry, says Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity Cruises Vice President and MD, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

NITN was speaking to Jo in the luxurious surrounding of The Retreat Lounge – the exclusive lounge for suite passengers - onboard Celebrity APEX’s 7-night cruise around the Greek islands and Dubrovnik, Croatia in early August.

And she had this to say about the importance of being on top of the

various protocols and requirements when booking a cruise in this new normal: “Book with a travel agent who holds your hand through it. “We’re now in a world of living with Covid and we want to make sure everybody is as safe as possible, so they can get on and enjoy their holiday,” Jo told NITN.

“Celebrity and our travel partners are completely up-to-date with the protocols in the country in which you live but also in the country which you’re going to, and the ports of call you’ll be visiting during your cruise. We’re also constantly updating this information, which is shared with travel agents.

“We make this the safest holiday possible,” says Jo. Jo is in the business of making people’s dreams come true. Having previously held various senior roles at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and Universal Studios, in 2005 she joined the Royal Caribbean Group, owner of both Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. Since 2015, she has been dedicated to the Celebrity Cruises brand. “Every day is different,” she says about her role. “But every day I put the

guest at the core of everything and always genuinely try to think about things from their point of view.

“But not just from a cruiser’s point of view, I’m also very focused on people who have never cruised before. Because when people come onboard for the first time we don’t want them to feel like it’s a clique or a club.”

Under her helm, Celebrity Cruises has won numerous awards, including Ocean Cruise Line of the Year for the past three years and Travel Company of the Year in 2017 and 2019 at the TTG Travel Awards, as well as Best Premium Cruise Line for the last 10 years at the Travel Weekly Globe Awards. But the cruise industry in 2021 is very different from what it was in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic spread throughout the world. Adults must be double vaccinated to get onboard Celebrity cruises, for example, and have had a negative PCR test three days before the cruise begins. Passengers on the Greek islands cruse were also required to take an additional, free, antigen test before boarding in Athens. Masks must be worn going between A and B on deck. Jo understands these changes first hand, not just professionally, but personally too. Her first passenger cruise since November 2019 (apart from a brief crew-only visit to Apex in June) was onboard Celebrity Silhouette in July, on a UK cruise which took in Belfast, which she was thrilled to visit. “We had the most wonderful time. The countryside in Northern Ireland is just beautiful. I took the Titanic Museum tour which I just loved. I think it’s one of the best museum exhibitions I’ve ever been to. It’s so well done. We were all in our travelling bubbles and we ended up in McHugh’s, where we saw some of the most incredible Irish dancing and singing.”

The Greek islands are quite a change from Belfast, but Jo’s delighted at being onboard Apex after such a long time – Celebrity took delivery of the ship in April 2020 but had to remain passenger-less during the pandemic, only inviting guests onboard again earlier this summer. In fact, the cruise we shared with Jo was only Apex’s sixth week of cruising since its 2020 ‘launch’.

So how does it feel for someone holding such a senior position within the industry to be back onboard and at sea again?

“I think ‘connections’ would be the word I would use,” says Jo. “It’s that feeling of connecting with the crew again, who are just amazing. And remember it was really tough for them, bringing them all home and then bringing them all back to the ship again.

“So connection with the crew is important, but also connection with colleagues, who I’ve only seen over Zoom for the past 18 months, and also that connection with guests, and seeing people enjoying themselves.” Overall, Celebrity guests have been very understanding about the new safety protocols onboard.

“I think they genuinely know that we are doing everything that we can to keep them up-to-date and to make sure they have a safe but great holiday.

“Things can change and that’s a risk that we all take at the moment when travelling overseas. But right now we’re seeing great future demand as people have missed out on 18 months of vacations and are keen to make up for lost time.”

Seabourn Unveils Venture’s New UK Itineraries

SEABOURN has unveiled new inaugural itineraries for Seabourn Venture including the Wild & Ancient British Isles Voyage and Scottish and Norse Legends Expedition.

Both set sail in April 2022 can be booked now. Seabourn Venture is the first of the cruise line’s purpose-built expedition ships.

Sept/Oct 2021 Travel News


URTIGRUTEN Expeditions marks 125 years of exploring by naming battery hybrid powered MS Fridtjof Nansen on Svalbard. In 1896, Hurtigruten Expeditions founded expedition cruising. 125 years later, what has grown to become the world’s leading and largest expedition cruise line is naming its battery- hybrid powered MS Fridtjof Nansen in the birthplace of expedition cruising – on the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard. Battery hybrid powered MS Fridtjof Nansen is the latest addition to Hurtigruten Expeditions’ fleet of smaller, more sustainable ships. Packed with groundbreaking green technology, the next generation expedition cruise ship is designed for exploring some of the most spectacular destinations of our planet, building on Hurtigruten.

Expeditions’ more than 125 years of experience

Past and present exploration heritage is set to come alive, as Hurtigruten Expeditions’ will host MS Fridtjof Nansen’s naming ceremony in Longyearbyen on Svalbard September 14 – in the northernmost naming ceremony ever to be held for a passenger ship.

“When looking for a location for the naming of MS Fridtjof Nansen, we couldn’t think of a better place than Svalbard. For expedition cruising, this is where it all began”, said Hurtigruten Expeditions CEO Asta Lassesen.

The birth of expedition cruising

In the late 1800s, exploration of remote corners of the world was largely done by scientific expeditions, or was a luxury reserved for the few. As yachts and ocean liners made their way north, Hurtigruten Group founder Richard With saw a niche for combining local knowledge with smaller passenger ships. In 1896, what today is Hurtigruten Expeditions started a series of small-ship cruises from mainland Norway to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Aimed at international guests, the cruises included small- boat landings in places like North Cape and the remote Bear Island. As the first small-ship company to offer a series of cruises to the Arctic Islands, Captain With not only embarked on the adventure that lead to Hurtigruten Expeditions. He effectively founded modern-day expedition cruising.

Much more than a destination

PIONEERS: Captain Richard With pioneered expedition cruising in with first voyages to Svalbard in 1896. This is SS Andenæs and her guests exploring Svalbard glacier in the early 1900s. “For us, Svalbard and Spitsbergen is much

CELESTYAL Cruises will sell cruise ship the Experience. In a statement, Celestial Cruises said: “Due to current market conditions resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Celestyal Cruises has reviewed its forward-looking capacity requirements. After careful thought and consideration, the company has sold the Experience and will

Hurtigruten Expeditions is marking 125 years of exploring by naming its new battery operated hybrid-powered ship, MS Fridtjof Nansen on Svalbard

more than just a destination; it’s a part of our history. As history has told us, we need to work closely with local communities when we develop sustainable tourism for future generations of explorers. When we embark on our Svalbard expeditions, we combine our 125 years of experience with our year-round land-based presence, creating jobs and value for the local community that lasts way beyond our cruise calls”, said Lassesen. To further mark commitments and long- lasting relationship with the Svalbard community, Hurtigruten Expeditions has chosen Longyearbyen to be MS Fridtjof Nansen’s port of registry – making her the first cruise ship to proudly call the spectacular archipelago of Svalbard her home.

In the wake of exploration

Hurtigruten Expeditions’ newest vessel is named after one of greatest polar heroes and humanitarians of all times, Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930). Norwegian-born Nansen led the first expedition to ski across Greenland in 1888 and ventured further north than anyone else in history of exploration during his Fram expedition in 1893- 1896. Nansen later devoted his life to international

humanitarian work and diplomacy, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for refugees following World War 1 and related conflicts.

“By naming this groundbreaking expedition ship after Fridtjof Nansen, on Svalbard, we wish to pay tribute to him by virtue of his achievements both as an explorer and a humanitarian. At the same time, we aim to honor the importance of Svalbard in Arctic exploration and tourism, not only in the past, but today”, said Lassesen. “MS Fridtjof Nansen is the epitome of more than 125 years of exploration heritage. Her small size combined with strengthened hull and green technology, makes her able to explore waters where few other ships can go. Hosting scientists on every

cruise, and featuring the on board

Nansen Science Center as the beating heart of the ship, guests, scientists and crew will together create a deeper understanding of the areas we explore”, said Lassesen.

MS Fridtjof Nansen will be named by breaking

a chunk of ice rather than the traditional bottle of Champagne, just as sister ship MS Roald Amundsen was when she in 2019 was the first ship ever to be named in Antarctica.

Celestyal Cruises to Sell the Experience Citing “Current Market Conditions”

continue to operate the same sized fleet that has served it well prior to the pandemic.

“The decision to sell

the Experience will also provide the company with enhanced liquidity, which in combination with zero third party debt forms the continued solid financial foundation to ensure a successful restart in March 2022. “Celestyal will continue

CARNIVAL Cruise Line has outlined plans for additional ship restarts beginning November. Carnival Valor will kick of the next restarts, joining

Carnival Glory in New Orleans with four and five night sailings from November 1.

Carnival Legend will restart on November 14 out of Baltimore.

Carnival Pride, which restarts guest operations from Baltimore on September 12, will then move to homeport in Tampa.

PRINCESS Cruises has announced updated restart timings for Island Princess and Diamond Princess.

Island Princess will now return to service with a series of cruises to the Caribbean in spring 2022, prior to its 14-day Panama Canal Ocean to Ocean voyage on April 27, 2022. Diamond Princess will also return to service in spring 2022 with a season of Japan sailings. Details of both new programs will be announced shortly.

Island Princess and Diamond

operating the Celestyal Crystal and the Celestyal Olympia. Both vessels have seen significant investments in recent years, which have not only improved the guest experience but have aligned the vessels with Celestyal’s brand vision. The move to defer the company’s capacity growth allows the business to focus on regaining its momentum in the aftermath of the COVID-19

Carnival Cruise Line Outline Next Round of Ship Restarts

Lastly, Carnival Radiance will begin sailing out of Long Beach on December 13. Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line said: “We are very pleased with the progress of our restart which will grow to 15 ships sailing from seven US homeports by mid-November. “We are making slight adjustments to our timeline to take into account supply chain realities and ensure that our destination and shore excursion offerings can meet the strong demand we are seeing.”

Princess join eight MedallionClass ships – Majestic Princess, Grand Princess, Ruby Princess, Enchanted Princess, Sky Princess, Regal Princess, Caribbean Princess and Emerald Princess—which have returned to service or are scheduled to restart by November 28, 2021, taking guests to Alaska, the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mexico, Hawaii, and the California Coast. “Following our successful restart in Alaska and the UK, we look forward to welcoming our guests back on board as we continue our

return to cruise operations, keeping the health and safety of our guests and teammates our top priority, said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president.”

As a result of these changes, Princess Cruises is cancelling its 2021-2022 South America & Antarctica Program, and its 2022 World Cruise along with two December 2021 Island Princess cruises. For guests booked on a cancelled

cruise, Princess will offer to move them to an equivalent future cruise

pandemic, while continuing to explore opportunities for its fleet rejuvenation ambitions when the time is right.

“Guests currently holding bookings on the Experience will be contacted by Celestyal and re-accommodated on sailings on the Celestyal Crystal.”

Viking Responds to Strong Demand with World Cruise

VIKING have announced its new 2023-2024 Viking World Cruise, which will span 138 days, 28 countries and 57 ports, with overnight stays in 11 cities. For the first time, Viking will offer a choice of two departure dates

for voyage. Princess Announces Return to Operations with Series of Caribbean Itineraries

with the added benefit of protecting their 2021/2022 fare on their future cruise.

Alternatively, guests can choose a future cruise credit (FCC) equivalent to 100% of the cruise fare paid or a full refund to the original form of payment.


Requests must be received this

online be form by

September 30, 2021, or guests will automatically

moved to the

default alternate. FCCs can be used on any cruises booked by and sailing by December 31, 2022.

this popular extended

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