No one knows how cruise will fare once the Covid-19 pandemic has been contained and free movement begins again. Evidence from 9/11 and the Costa Concordia tragedy (and comments by cruisers caught up on ships stuck at sea when ports closed during the latest crisis) suggests regular cruisers – the folk who book onto their favourite line’s new ship before they even know where it is going – can’t wait to get back on board. The big unknown is first-timers, and specifically those who were close to booking a cruise before the virus struck, and the millennials that in pre-Covid-19 days cruise lines were confident could be lured into spending their holidays at sea. Memories are short and few people can resist a good deal, but while cutting prices will help, it is not a long-term solution for sustainable growth. We look at how agents can get regular, maybe and millennial cruisers on board again, focusing on 2021 as there is still much uncertainty about when cruising will restart.
No one can be complacent about future cruise bookings, but evidence from previous disasters shows that seasoned cruisers will be back on ships once lockdowns and travel restrictions are lifted. The question is what kind of cruise they’ll want. After such a deadly pandemic, it is likely that people will want ease of travel, the comfort of familiar surroundings and to stay close to home, which all suggests a good starting point is to offer a cruise from the UK.
Who? Oceania Cruises
Where? Round Britain
When? May 22, 2021
How long? 12 days
How much? From £2,969pp cruise-only
Round Britain cruises are a great way to stay close to home. This cruise, round-trip from Southampton on the 684-passenger Sirena, visits England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and also pops into Tórshavn in Denmark. Prices include six excursions and $600 onboard credit per couple.
Who? Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
Where? Norwegian fjords
When? April 1, 2021
How long? Eight nights
How much? From £1,149pp cruise-only
Whether clients hope to glimpse the northern lights, see the fjords spring into bloom or witness the midnight sun, Fred Olsen has an ex-UK cruise to Norway to suit. This is a springtime special aboard Braemar round-trip from Southampton that pairs scenic fjord cruising with calls into Bergen, Eidfjord, Olden and Stavanger.
Who? Saga Cruises
When? March 7, 2021
How long? 15 nights
How much? From £3,199pp cruise-only
This in-depth exploration of Spain is on board Saga’s new 999-passenger ship, Spirit of Adventure. It sails round-trip from Southampton, calls into seven ports in Spain and offers cruisers (who must be aged 50 and over) optional trips to watch flamenco, visit Moorish palaces and learn to cook paella. Prices include UK transfers, drinks, tips, wifi and travel insurance.
Back in the good old days, poll after poll showed thousands of holidaymakers attracted to the idea of a cruise but nervous about making the commitment. Once this crisis is over, they are the ones cruise lines desperately need and agents are going to have to work hard to win back. Focusing on small ships, unusual lines and inspiring destinations that have not been at the forefront of the news will be just the tonic to get these people thinking about cruise once again.
Who? Variety Cruises
Where? Spain and Portugal
When? August 14, 2021
How long? Eight days
How much? From €1,950pp including flights
With room for an average of just 50 passengers, Variety’s ships are great for first-timers who can be persuaded back to the idea of a cruise provided it’s a great itinerary and small ship. This cruise, from Portimao to Malaga, includes calls into Motril, Puerto Banus and Seville. Prices include pre- and post-cruise transfers.
Where? South Pacific
When? March 4, 2021
How long? 13 days
How much? From €4,581pp cruise-only
Aranui’s half-cargo, half-passenger vessel, Aranui 5, has the advantage of being based in a remote area away from the Covid-19 headlines. The island-hopping cruise is from Papeete in Tahiti to the Marquesas, with a chance to learn about local life, swim, snorkel, hike and more on voyages almost every day. Prices include wine with meals and selected excursions.
Who? Lindblad Expeditions
Where? Baja California
When? April 12, 2021
How long? Eight days
How much? From $6,690pp cruise-only
This is a wildlife expedition that just happens to be on a ship, which is the only way to get to many of the uninhabited islands visited and where passengers can hike, snorkel with sea lions and spot dolphins, pelicans and lizards. The cruise is round-trip from Loreto on the 100-passenger National Geographic Venture. Prices include soft drinks and use of snorkels and kayaks.
Much cruise talk last year focused on millennials being likely cruise converts. With their penchant for experiences over possessions and love of travel, they seemed a perfect fit. The catch has been convincing them of that, and that is probably even more the case after Covid-19. Promotions focusing on brands they know and ships that provide Instagrammable moments combined with enticing destinations and irresistible deals is a good place to start.
Who? Virgin Voyages
When? February 28, 2021
How long? Five nights
How much? From £955pp cruise-only
The Virgin name and the new line’s aim to distance itself from the traditional cruise concept (think food court diners and drag brunches) will appeal to many. This cruise, on Virgin’s debut ship Scarlet Lady, is round-trip from Miami to the Dominican Republic. Prices include all dining, soft drinks, water, wifi and tips.
Who? Celebrity Cruises
When? February 20, 2021
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £799pp cruise-only
A ship that was delivered virtually from the shipyard, sports a Magic Carpet that transforms into a swanky restaurant, and has two-storey villas and designer cabins is a dream fit for millennials – especially if you throw in a Caribbean backdrop. The ship is Celebrity Apex, the cruise is round-trip from Fort Lauderdale with calls into Puerto Rico, St Thomas and St Kitts.
Where? Caribbean/Central America
When? October 4, 2021
How long? 14 days
How much? From £8,793pp including flights
From diving in a submarine to floating on a bamboo raft, this is the ultimate Caribbean cruise. The voyage, from Nassau in the Bahamas to Cartagena in Colombia on the 228-passenger yacht Scenic Eclipse is not cheap, but if millennials can be persuaded to splash out they’ll have a spectacular experience and find all bar that sub, helicopter rides and the spa included.