Marella Cruises has reported buoyant demand for its domestic voyages just days after they went on sale on April 16.

On April 15, it confirmed that Marella Explorer will depart from Southampton from June 25. Its programme will offer new ports of call such as Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool.

Adults-only ship Marella Explorer 2 will offer Newcastle departures, from July 10. The Newcastle sailings will go on sale by the end of April.

Chris Hackney, managing director of Marella Cruises, told a Travel Weekly webcast: “It’s great to see these sales coming in really fast. Even on the first day, we had hundreds of bookings.

“We did some customer insight beforehand and it was something that our customers were telling us that they would like to do this summer.”

He said the ports of Southampton and Newcastle will enable the cruise line to attract customers from across the UK.

“It’s a real positive step that we can actually restart our operations now. And clearly, we’re excited about that,” he added.

Hackney said the domestic sailings also offer Marella the opportunity to showcase its ships to new-to-cruise customers who may want to holiday closer to home this year.

“You’ve seen publicity about the staycation market and how busy the UK is going to be this summer,” he commented.

“Cruise holidays are great value for money.

“We have West End theatre shows, a la carte dining, tips and surcharges – the value for money is fantastic.

“We’ll get some customers that want to try cruise for the first time because it complements the fact that they want to stay close to home this year.”

The cruises range from three to 12 nights in duration and call at a variety of ports around the UK.

Passengers over 18 must be fully vaccinated seven days before boarding and children are allowed with proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

Hackney said Marella Explorer is taking bookings from families, particularly for the school holiday period.

The Newcastle departures will be with Marella Explorer 2, which has always an adults-only ship.

He said the initial capacity on board will be about half the normal number, and passengers will need to wear masks and practise social distancing.

There will be changes in the restaurants and bars too, to comply with health and safety protocols, but Hackney commented: “I don’t think it will damage the customer experience on board.

“We will still have the same things that customers typically expect in terms of their cruise on board, such as West End theatre shows.”

He said the fleet’s two other ships – Marella Discover and Marella Discovery 2 – are scheduled to start Mediterranean cruises from August.

The cruise line also hopes to launch its delayed river cruise programme at the end of June.