Agents and customers should not be concerned that there will be too many ships sailing around the UK this summer, according to the UK boss of MSC Cruises.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, the line’s UK & Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso urged the trade to get behind the domestic restart.

He said: “I want to address some of the comments I’ve seen; people saying ‘Oh my god, there’s so many cruise lines coming to the UK this summer’.

“I just want everybody to think that before the pandemic we had something like 400 cruise ships sailing around the world. Today, following the latest announcements from all the cruise lines, we’ll have barely 18.

“There is demand, there is space,” he added. “It’s a big opportunity for all of us now to bounce back; to start creating some new memories, which I’m sure we will treasure even more following the really, really tough times we’ve had.”

Paradiso said every cruise line offering UK domestic sailings this summer had something different to offer and urged agents to really get behind the season.

“It’s really, really important that we all support this new season of cruises around the UK, regardless of whether customers or agents will be booking MSC or any other brand.

“It’s important that we restart and that we bring this enthusiasm back to the UK and back to our customers,” he said.

“Every cruise line has something different to offer. We will be focusing more on families and couples and people of all ages, from grandparents to grandchildren. We will welcome everybody on board with a smile, and I’ll be there to welcome those people on the first sailing.”

Paradiso added: “I need a need to see people smiling again, it’s important and that’s going to be our mission. We want to provide everyone with the best possible experience and I think with the itineraries we’ve been announcing so far, and the announcement of the ship [Virtuosa] today, I think we’ve started the on the right foot.

“We can now start writing some beautiful pages of a completely different story from now onwards.”

Paradiso said he was “overwhelmed” and “emotional” at the prospect of the restart.

“You can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “These 12 months have been really, really hard; repatriating people, repatriating crew, changing ships, changing itineraries, cancelling and refunding people.

“It’s been hard. It’s brought resilience to a completely different level. Every time you were trying to be positive and bounce back, there was always some negative news or something bad happening. It’s like you’ve been stabbed several times. But now I feel like I can start breathing again.”

He added: “We’ve been working like crazy around the clock in the past four to five weeks in the ports to get this ready; to do things in the right way at the right time. And I genuinely feel relieved and the feedback has been overwhelming.

“Finally, we’re starting a new chapter. It’s time that we start cruising again.”