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Travel agents report strong sales for domestic cruises

Travel agents have reported positive sales of domestic cruise bookings for this summer as lines have begun to put ‘seacation’ itineraries on sale.

Barrhead Travel said it had increases its UK Breaks portfolio by 50% due to continued demand since last summer. President Jacqueline Dobson said: “Now, with staycations at sea on the market too, summer holidays at home are looking more exciting than ever for our customers.

She said she, and customers had been “impressed” with lines’ UK sailings, which were “very accessible” and offered “good value for a product that’s a little bit different”.

“We had customers registering their interest with us last week before some itineraries even went on sale and our teams logged on early to help clients get first access to sailings this summer,” said Dobson. “Feedback so far has been positive and we expect demand to continue rising over the coming weeks as more itineraries are revealed.

Dobson said demand was “not just [from] regular cruisers” but new-to-cruise clients to, and reported “interest from young families who are excited to be able to plan a trip for the summer”.

“Part of the attraction of cruising are the ships themselves,” she said. “They are a destination in their own right and the onboard experience plays a major role in the holiday which is one of the reasons why we expect these sailings to be in high demand this summer.”

Speaking at Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel Spring Forum, Hays Travel chief operating officer Jonathon Woodall said the UK’s largest travel retailer had set up extra helplines and online registration to meet demand for domestic cruises. Woodall said the sailings were a “huge opportunity” and advised agents to focus on ships’ onboard facilities to “bring that to life”.

Miniples also reported strong sales for domestic sailings.

Premier Travel reported an increase in bookings on Monday. Director Paul Waters said: “This was mainly around the launch of UK cruises departures for this summer.”

Paul Hardwick, head of commercial at Fred Olsen Travel, said: “We already had a big marketing push going out this morning on the new UK cruises on sale with P&O which I think have benefited from the negative news of overseas trips as we have been very busy with these and the other cruise lines on sale for UK cruising in summer 2021.”

Online agency Iglu Cruise, which reported its highest volumes of traffic and bookings since the beginning of the Covid crisis on Monday, said traffic remained 50% up on Tuesday morning.

The initial spike followed P&O Cruises putting the maiden voyage of Iona on sale at 8:30am Monday. The line’s website temporarily crashed due to the “unprecedented demand” but was up and running again by lunchtime.

Some agents reported they were able to get through to P&O where direct customers could not.

Other lines planning ex-UK cruises in British waters this summer include Princess Cruises, Fred Olsen, Cunard, Saga, Riviera Travel, Hurtigruten, MSC Cruises, Viking and Tradewind Voyages.

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