Since we launched in 2014, the pages of Cruise Adviser have been filled with superlatives: the biggest and best new ships, the longest seasons, the most exciting itineraries, the most innovative features. From shipyard visits to christenings and shakedowns, conferences, roadshows and our own events, we’ve watched and reported on the cruise industry as it has surpassed all expectations: a record-number of guests sailed, a record-number of ships were built, and a record-breaking amount of money was invested. By 2018, the number of Britons taking cruises had eclipsed two million, while, through the hard work of travel agents, TV shows such as Cruising with Jane McDonald, and new and exciting products, the perception and conversations around cruise shifted. To invoke a football analogy, the cruise industry went from being noisy neighbours to title contenders.
Even with the challenges presented by Brexit, the weakness of sterling, Trump in the White House and other geopolitical issues, cruise’s continued rise seemed assured. But, as one line after another suspended operations, and Clia, the industry body, advised the cancellations of cruises for 30 days, the unthinkable happened: cruise ships stopped sailing.
It’s been four months since Covid-19 (coronavirus) was detected in Wuhan, China, yet the devastation it has left in its wake has still taken us all by surprise. Very few people predicted that when Diamond Princess was quarantined off the port of Yokohama in early February, a global pandemic was beginning to take hold and would result in the Foreign Office taking measures unprecedented in peacetime, telling Britons not to travel, while the rest of the world would shut its borders.
We’re in uncharted waters; none of us know what comes next or how the travel industry, as a whole, recovers from this. Sadly, cruise ships have become very visible representations of the pandemic, with Westerdam, Grand Princess, Silver Shadow and, most recently, Braemar being caught up in the story. This means that rebuilding confidence in cruise holidays is going to be a considerable task. There is no easy way of out this, no readymade solutions or even past examples to follow. But if there is any industry that can come together and work as one to overcome this, it’s the cruise industry.
At what is no doubt the darkest hour for cruise, we’d like to take this opportunity to say that working in this industry is always an honour – in fact, from the boozy mid-week events with travel agents to the, well, boozy cruises with travel agents and incredible adventures all over the world, it often doesn’t feel like work at all. We’re sure many of you will agree. We feel blessed to call many people in this industry our friends – and we can’t wait to see you all again soon.
It’s also important during this time to remember what makes cruise such a great holiday choice, and to remind others of that, too. The reasons we love cruise are too numerous to list, but here are a few. The chance to explore a diverse range of destinations, including those such as Alaska, Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands and the Norwegian fjords that are otherwise difficult or impossible to enjoy in the same depth; the unfailingly excellent and diverse range of food on board; the fact you only unpack once; the joys of ex-UK, which, with, no airport security and no luggage limits, is among the most relaxing of all getaways; the intimacy of small-ship and river cruise; and, perhaps best of all, the camaraderie on board, unmatched by any other holiday type.
The future, of course, is uncertain, and difficult times lie ahead, but together we can get through this. We’ll leave you with a note from Princess Cruises, lit up on Sky Princess while off Great Isaac Cay in the Bahamas on Monday night, something the whole industry must now shout: we will be back.
How we are helping you during the Coronavirus pandemic
Across our titles, our aim is to report, reassure and rebuild. That is: report news as it happens, reassure the trade, and help to rebuild confidence in the industry.
To facilitate that we have:
- Launched a new weekly email for Cruise Adviser, The Cruise Digest. Out Wednesdays.
- Launched a live blog on Cruise Adviser covering the latest development
- Produced a guide to cruise line cancellation policies
We will be inviting industry leaders to share their thoughts on what the future of tourism looks like, to pressure the government to take urgent measures to protect the travel industry, and to educate and reassure agents. We will also be creating a data-driven and visual approach reporting the effects of the pandemic.
We’ll also be taking this opportunity to celebrate this wonderful industry, its people and its opportunities. We believe it is crucial during these troubling times to remember what it means to travel and why we do it.
As the government now advises those who can to work remotely, we will be producing a special digital-only version of the April Cruise Adviser to ensure it is not landing in empty shops.