Cruise lines will plan simple itineraries for the restart of international cruising to make sales more straightforward for travel agents.
That was the message from bosses at cruise trade body Clia UK and Ireland in the wake of the government’s announcement that it will lift the ban on international cruises from August 2.
Domestic cruises have been operating successfully since mid-May but now the sector can start to sell overseas cruises with more confidence – while having to navigate the complex range of travel restrictions for each country that a ship will visit.
Ben Bouldin, vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa for Royal Caribbean and new chair of Clia in the UK and Ireland, said: “All the cruise lines – I can assure everybody – are working night and day to make sure they come up with the safest and the easiest programmes for agents to sell.
“We don’t want to be in the position where we’re selling more things, and then changing itineraries when people are on board.
“We need to continue to be patient and thoughtful and pragmatic about how we come back.
“You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. We need these agents to explain and help people to have the confidence to take some of these trips.
“The simpler they are, the better it will be.”
Edwina Lonsdale, owner and managing director of Mundy Cruising, agreed that simpler cruises would “definitely be helpful” and she expects “tiny steps forward”.
“The ideal is to pick a cruise that has only ports of call that you can safely go to,” she said.
She explained that a passenger whose ship visits France – which is currently amber-plus – will have to self-isolate on their return for 10 days, even if they do not disembark.
“It’s quite nerve-racking, in terms of advising your customers, and certainly we don’t like to just step back and say ‘well, you have to check that out yourself’. That’s really not acceptable,” she commented.
“It makes it very, very, very apparent why you would go to an agent rather than try it yourself.”
Andy Harmer, managing director of Clia UK and Ireland, expects there could be “a couple of itineraries” offered in the next month but said the international restart will really “pick up pace” in September onwards.
“Itineraries take a while to plan and an international restart takes a while to plan,” he added.