Demand ‘soars’ for ex-UK cruise departures

Cruise agents have reported a surge in demand for ex-UK itineraries as interest in 2022 fly-cruises cools due to rising air prices, low flight availability and ongoing delays at airports.

With European aviation bodies warning of disruption this summer, agents said near-term bookings for cruises from UK ports were “strong” and prices “really keen”.

Phil Evans, owner of Cruise Nation, said about 50% of all current bookings were for ex-UK sailings.

“We’re seeing huge demand for ex-UK cruises,” he said, adding that booking volumes for Med fly-cruises were “not where they need to be”.

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He highlighted the difficulties Holland America Line (HAL) was having with its flights deal for selected European departures.

The line is offering £350 credit towards European flights, but Evans said a lack of availability on services from UK regional airports meant some customers were facing the prospect of having to travel for 10 hours to get to Barcelona.

A HAL spokeswoman said: “We’re doing the best we can to fit our guests with the best air connections that are available.”

Kirkham Travel managing director Carol Kirkham said there was “quite a lot of availability” on UK-based ships at “really keen” prices.

“Commissions are going down,” she added. “But it’s better to have the customers going [on a sailing] than sitting at home. Hopefully they will book another cruise.”

Amanda Matthews, managing director of Designer Travel, said: “We’re booming in cruise. Last week, cruise sales were 13% of our business, normally they would be 4%.” But she said customers were reporting “hit or miss” experiences at UK airports.

Cruise Circle managing director Jason Daniels said: “We’re seeing strong demand for ex-UK [cruises], although we’re seeing strong demand for everything at the moment.”

However, he added: “Flight availability is not the only issue, the prices of those flights are also having an impact.”

Cruise365 director Anthony Blackmore said booking levels were good and that ex-Southampton cruises were less problematic.

“If you go on a cruise in Southampton you know that you’re going to get on that ship,” he said. “Our customers are more concerned about flight cancellations.”

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