Over the past year, cruise operators have suffered devastation along with other travel companies. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused chaos for cruise travel specialists, with cruise liners sitting dormant for over a year.
Operators are gearing up to start offering cruises again after 17th May, when lockdown rules are due to ease once again. Some have a range of summer excursions planned with a phased restart that will begin with cruises around the British Isles. One operator, Fred Olsen, revealed that demand has been extremely high, and tickets have been selling fast for its earlier trips.
A different type of cruise experience
The restart of cruising around the UK will see operators offering a different kind of cruise experience to travellers, also providing them with an alternative to a UK staycation. The first cruises will be scenic trips around the British Isles, allowing travellers to enjoy the many facilities onboard rather than docking at different ports every day.
Thomas Rennesland, a senior official with Fred Olsen, told the BBC that while it had been a very stressful year, demand for its up-and-coming British Isles cruises was high.
He said, "Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to some really fantastic colleagues as the ships were not moving. Then of course we had to start planning the re-entry into service. No one has ever done anything like this before."
Fred Olsen announced its British Isles cruises for the summer some weeks ago, and since that time, two-thirds of tickets for the earlier cruises have been sold. This reflects the eagerness of Brits to escape the chains of lockdowns and restrictions and to finally enjoy a change of scenery.
It is thought the return of cruising could also attract new customers, with operators such as Virgin Voyages offering experiences such as three or four-day cruises to introduce this type of travel to new customers.
Becky Ward from The Owlet told Age Times: “ Cruises are one of the most adaptable holiday experiences on the market. Whether you prefer to relax by the pool, try out some new activities or sightsee in far flung destinations there’s a cruise line that will cater to exactly your style of travel.
"This is no more true than with the return to service - both crew and guests are still adjusting to the new environment but cruises remain an incredible experience with the service of a 5-star hotel. For anyone that’s concerned about their health, cruises offer reassurance through testing everyone who boards the ship and continuously screening any passengers that show symptoms.
"Despite the past two years of challenges, cruises have continued to be one of the best and most luxurious ways to spend your holiday!”
New protocols in place
Many people will remember the chaos with cruise ships last year when passengers and crew members were stranded worldwide following the initial outbreak of the pandemic. Following the disruption, new protocols and increased measures have been put into place to protect all on board.
Bob Sanguinetti, boss of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said that cruise operators had put a lot of time and effort into introducing new measures to ensure the safety of crew and passengers. He added that, because of this, it should not be such a challenge to get passengers back on board this summer.