Tui-owned Marella Cruises aims to add a fifth ship to its fleet by 2023, according to the cruise line’s managing director Chris Hackney.
Currently the cruise line operates Marella Explorer and Marella Explorer 2 – which will sail UK coastal itineraries this summer – plus Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2, which are scheduled to offer cruises from Palma and Corfu from August.
Last year, it announced the retirement of Marella Celebration, after 15 years’ service, and of Marella Dream, after a decade with the fleet.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Hackney said: “From an ocean perspective, we’ve taken the decision to operate just four ships for the time being.
“By 2023 we’re expecting that to increase to five ships. We will probably share some more details later on this year on that.”
He said the retirements of Celebration and Dream had already been planned but they were “probably accelerated with the pandemic”.
“But clearly, we’d grown up to a six-ship fleet, and were successfully operating that pre-pandemic, and we feel there’s options to grow in the future,” he added.
Hackney also hopes that, by 2023, the cruise line also could be offering different home ports beyond Europe to offer customers a wider range of destinations.
However, he said there was no update about the news that Marella is seeking a new joint venture partner.
In December, Tui said it had not struck a deal with its previous cruise joint-venture partner Royal Caribbean Group.
“The industry has gone through a challenging 12 months, so there’s nothing to announce from that perspective,” he said.
“The good thing from Marella is we are looking to the future. The cruise industry is very resilient, and our customers still raring to go back on their cruise holidays.
“The cruise industry will come back in the coming years and we’re still looking at opportunities to grow in the foreseeable future, to capitalise on what will be a growing industry.”
Commenting on the plans to offer Mediterranean cruise with Discovery and Discovery 2, he said the company needs about three months’ notice of changes to government travel restrictions in order to prepare for a resumption of sailing.
However, he said he is still “confident and optimistic” that international cruises will happen in the second half of the year.
Tui is also waiting for news about the government’s traffic light categories for overseas destinations before making decisions about its three river cruise ships.
Last month, it said had to push back the start of river cruises to the end of June.
They had originally been scheduled to launch last summer.
“Clearly that was taken out of our hands with the pandemic,” said Hackney.
“Those ships do look fantastic.
“We’re hopeful that those river cruise ships will be up and running this summer season.”
He said about 55% of customers whose bookings had been affected by the cancellations had been retained.
“It is fantastic in terms of how loyal our customers are really,” he said.
“They’re still raring to actually go and see a ship and experience a cruise holiday.”
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