Tradewind Voyages’ Caribbean axe ‘led by customer feedback’

The prospect of passengers being “confined” in ‘bubbles’ during shore excursions led to Tradewind Voyages’ decision to cancel its Caribbean season this coming winter, the line’s boss said.

The tall-ship operator had 17 sailings scheduled in the region between December and April, but last week announced that it would offer a Caribbean season next year instead.

Many of the Caribbean islands – including St Lucia, Grenada and Tobago – that featured in the cancelled programme are only just emerging from temporary Covid-19 restrictions.

In Grenada, social distancing measures are still in place, face masks are mandatory, and a state of emergency period has been extended until next month.

Passenger feedback last summer from UK sailings on the line’s Golden Horizon ship indicated that customers “didn’t like the option of being confined”.

Speaking during a Travel Weekly webcast, chief executive Alan McGrory explained that it would have been “a shame” not to experience Caribbean ports of call and sailings “in full operational mode”.

He said: “The one thing that was very clear from the guests when we were required to operate shore excursions within bubbles was that people didn’t like the option of being confined.

“They felt they didn’t get the experience from the islands, or the ports of call that they went to.”

Tradewind now plans to resume sailings in the Mediterranean in May and McGrory believes the extra time that the line now has over the winter means it will be “easier” when the line returns next spring.

Asked how the trade had reacted to Tradewind’s decision this week, McGrory said agents had become more confident in the line.

He said: “Look, there’s disappointment. There always is, especially when dealing with vacations for people, but I think the trade really have seen that we’ll step up to the mark.

“We didn’t use the alternative which is to try and make it happen and then come out with a bad product. That’s not what we’re about. We really want to deliver what we sell.”

Passengers who booked a cancelled Caribbean cruise have been offered a full refund and a choice of “complimentary products” such as included gratuities or a free drinks package, McGrory said.

They were also given the option of transferring their booking to one of the line’s Mediterranean cruises next summer. According to McGrory, around 60% of passengers have opted for the rebooking option.

McGrory added: “People have been very happy with what we’ve been able to offer. We’re here to take care of the customer and sometimes when a problem arises, it really does shine [when you look after the customer].”

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