Earlier this year and following a long hiatus, the UK cruise industry restarted with domestic voyages designed to showcase of the best of cruising closer to home.
Demand has been there for all to see, with eager travellers quickly snapping up the itineraries on offer from a range of lines such as Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Viking, Virgin Voyages, Disney Cruise Line, and more.
At leading independent travel company Travel Counsellors, the relief – and happiness – has been palpable.
“After months of limited travel, we are seeing that many people are simply looking for a break from everyday life and a chance to get away and to enjoy some escapism,” says Travel Counsellor Emma Otter. “With a UK cruise this summer, guests can look forward to experiencing everything they love about a holiday, all in one place.
“As a Travel Counsellor, my business has pivoted during the pandemic, with the majority of my business now being cruise related. The sheer excitement and emotion of being back on board was tangible as my first cruisers stepped on board MSC Virtuosa on 20 May.”
Selling cruise on social media platforms
Otter says that social media has become more important during the pandemic, with content focused on “inspirational, positive posts, and delivering reassuring messages about future cruise plans”.
She adds: “As I result, I have developed relationships with cruise influencers and bloggers, who had previously booked their own cruises online, and have now sought reassurance and a one-to-one relationship with me as their personal Travel Counsellor.
“Word spread among the cruise bloggers that others were using me as an impartial cruise expert, who was always on hand to answer their call, email, or tweet at any time. By asking for referrals from my customers, they in turn have recommended me to their friends, family and followers.”
UK cruises opening doors
It has been a similar experience for Clare Hyatt, also a Travel Counsellor, who says that because of cancellations and changes to holiday plans “my pivot has been to always recommend a plan B – and in some cases even a plan C – with a UK-based cruise providing the perfect option”.
“I have also encouraged people to remain calm and open minded,” she continues. “In the early days of the pandemic, some people felt they never wanted to cruise again, but with the confidence and peace of mind which are all part and parcel of a UK cruise, guests feel safe.
“The flexibility from the cruise lines has also helped me rebook trips. It’s fantastic that once people have travelled and have the feeling of being on board a ship again, they are telling friends and family all about it, and passing on recommendations, so the demand really amplifies.
“Some of these customers would never usually choose to cruise, so it really has opened them up to a whole new way to travel.”
Travel Counsellors head of cruise Janet Whittingham adds: “The UK cruise industry is flourishing. This year we have seen a 15 per cent increase on cruise bookings, when compared to 2019, and we are delighted to be able to offer our customers many exciting new products such as Disney Magic, not to mention other newcomers like Virgin Voyages.
“The health and safety of our customers is paramount, so it’s great to see cruise lines working hard to put the right measures in place to keep customers safe.
“Our relationship with all our cruise partners has never been closer, as we navigate together out of the tunnel and back to sea.”