Cruise will form part of Travel Taskforce remit

Travel Weekly reporters

The government confirmed the return of cruise would form part of the remit of its Global Travel Taskforce, as the resumption of US sailings moved a step closer. Speaking before the four-week

England-wide lockdown was announced, maritime minister Robert Courts told Clia’s Virtual Cruise Forum he was “acutely aware” of the pandemic’s impact on the

sector, and vowed to support the lifting of blanket advice against ocean cruising “as soon as it is safe”. On Friday, the US Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention issued a ‘Framework for Conditional Sailing Order’, allowing lines to sail in American waters from November 1 as long as they comply with Covid-19 guidance. This lifted the previous ‘No Sail Order’ restricting all cruises, but did not give a date for when paying passengers would return. Clia cautiously welcomed the

move, while Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line and Clia member lines extended US sailing suspensions until December 31. Royal Caribbean Group chairman

Richard Fain noted a “light at the end of the tunnel” with the trial cruises allowing lines to “refine things”, but admitted “every single day [of the No Sail Order] has been frustrating”. In Europe, Tui suspended Marella

Cruises sailings until December 16 and postponed the launch of its three

river cruise vessels until March 2021, while Saga Cruises pushed back Spirit of Discovery’s return to April and Spirit of Adventure’s launch to May. P&O Cruises, which announced

its 2022 programme this week, is not due to resume sailings until the end of January. Meanwhile, Viking installed

a PCR laboratory on Viking Star, but Ponant ship Le Jacques Cartier returned to Marseille after reporting

13 Covid cases on board. i Clia Cruise Forum, page 10

P&O praises trade amid 2022 launch Lucy Huxley

P&O Cruises’ trade sales team restructure during the pandemic is “no reflection of the importance of agents to our business”, according to the line’s sales chief. On the contrary, sales and

marketing vice-president Alex Delamere-White said he expected agents to become even more important as consumers looked to the trade for “reassurance and independence”. Launching the line’s summer

2022 programme on Tuesday, he said the crisis had forced P&O to adapt how it communicates and works with agents and to accelerate strategies it had started to employ. “Even pre-Covid, the way we were engaging with the trade had

started to change, in terms of fewer retail visits following the collapse of Thomas Cook and store closures,” said Delamere-White, who noted the line was running more ‘one-to-many’ webinars that had attracted more than 500 agents, compared to about 100 pre-Covid. “We now have fewer people on

the road, but we have strengthened the team looking after our Shine Rewards Club, and our webinars, social media and emails,” he added. President Paul Ludlow said

P&O had “learnt our lessons” on refunds, having paid back “99.5%” of customers who had asked for their money back for cruises cancelled due to Covid. He said a “minority” of refunds

had been delayed due to “complexity”

P&O Cruises’ Britannia

and assured agents: “We’re now in a place for people to get their refund in a timely manner.” Ludlow said he was “really

encouraged” by demand for summer

2022. P&O’s programme includes early-booking discounts, low deposits and the chance for agents to earn double Shine Reward Club points for the opening fortnight of sales. He said demand was “akin to

previous years”, adding: “People have gone crazy for it and that’s something we can all take pleasure from. Consumers know there will be better times ahead and today has proved a point about how they feel about cruising.” Delamere-White said the 2022

launch – featuring new tagline ‘At last…a ray of holiday sunshine’ – was “perfectly timed” as it “gives something positive for agents to support” and allowed customers to use future cruise credits offered in return for cancelled 2020 itineraries.

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