Royal Caribbean EMEA vice-president Ben Bouldin has hailed the work of cruise industry body Clia for its efforts to safely restart the sector after the Covid-19-enforced shutdown.
Speaking at an event for top trade partners, Bouldin said the association and director Andy Harmer had been “incredible” in liaising with government on return to sailing protocols.
He said: “With my Clia hat on, we met with maritime minister Roberts Courts recently and he waxed lyrical about how, as an industry, cruise has been so collaborative, patient and transparent.
“If you’ve ever been slightly cynical about the value that Clia gives to the industry, it’s been worth your membership for the last 18 months alone as Clia has been incredible and Andy Harmer has been outstanding.”
Bouldin admitted the sector faced ongoing challenges, including the number of future cruise credits in the market, uncertainty over requirements for UK passengers on ex-US sailings and the inevitability that there would be Covid-19 cases onboard ships in the future.
But he said the sector and Royal were well set to cope, having demonstrated excellent customer care and commitment to safe operations.
He said: “We think we handled the crisis well and had a good record on refunds. We introduced RCL Cares and we will continue to support our guests and agents.
“All these debates and challenges are live. Covid is going to be on cruise ships occasionally and you’ve just got to handle it well.”
Bouldin said the trade would continue to play a key role in Royal’s recovery as it looks to invest record amounts to drive sales in the fourth quarter of 2021 and into 2022.
He added: “We appreciate everything that you’ve had to do. You’ve been a massive part of helping us get through this.”