If the past 10 days are anything to go by, then ex-UK cruise ships are a little like buses: you wait ages for a new one to come along, and then two turn up.
Last week, we learnt from NCL that it is to send Norwegian Jade back to the UK in 2017, marking a return to sailing ex-UK after a seven-year gap, while this week, MSC Cruises announced it is also to base a ship here once more.
That two major cruise lines are recommitting to the UK demonstrates their faith in the strength of the market here.
We’ve seen before how UK departures play a vital role in introducing holidaymakers to cruise for the first time, and there is a considerable market of those that do not wish to fly. So greater ex-UK capacity will be music to the ears of UK retailers – although some have told us this week that they wonder whether the market can really sustain it.
Yet chatting to cruise agents at Carnival UK’s second annual awards night last week, I heard that it’s the situation being played out in the Mediterranean for 2016 that’s currently giving cruise retailers a reason to smile.
With the more cautious American market holding off Med cruises this year because of generalised security concerns, cruise lines with significant US customers are already bracing themselves to have capacity left to fill – and expect to look to the British market to fill it.
This could well mean attractive deals for UK cruisers, which agents will no doubt jump upon.
Having to slash prices to fill ships would be far from ideal for the cruise lines themselves, however, especially since they have – according to Carnival UK’s six brands at least – managed to avoid discounting thus far this year.
Carnival sales chiefs told us during an exclusive TTG round-table ahead of the awards that they’re already putting plans in place to avoid this eventuality.
They won’t be alone in hoping a Mediterranean price war is a bus that never turns up this summer.