Cruise lines will use the restart of domestic sailings this summer to “demonstrate the value" of holidays at sea, according to the chair of Clia UK and Ireland.
Tony Roberts said while there was “lots of pent-up demand” from seasoned cruisers for recently announced round-UK voyages, he believed the phased return within UK waters from 17 May, confirmed by the Department for Transport this week, would be a “highly attractive proposition” to the new-to-cruise market.
“You’ve got amazing food and drink, entertainment included and luxury resorts which will be out at sea off the coast of the UK this summer,” he told a Clia media call on Thursday (11 March).
Lines such as P&O and Princess are set to reveal more details around itineraries and pricing of new UK-based holidays later this month.
Discussing onboard capacity for sailings this summer, Roberts said the reduced guest numbers under Covid protocols would be “a bit of a constraint” to lines, although an issue he believed could be counteracted by offering shorter, more frequent sailings.
“I think it’s going to be a matter of supply will constrain it somewhat because of the challenges of bringing ships back and the speed at which you can do that but that is countered by the fact we’ll be operating shorter itineraries so there will be opportunities for more guests to get inboard over a similar period of time."
Also on the call, Bud Darr, MSC Group’s executive vice-president of maritime policy and government affairs, said he believed lines would be operating at “significantly below” full capacity this summer.
Speaking about MSC’s experiences of operating in Italy during the pandemic, Darr said: “We haven’t hung a firm percentage on it [capacity] fleet-wide but rather it’s been on a ship-by-ship basis.
“Our ships are very uncrowded at the moment and I think that’s the experience of other operators. In this particular environment, if you’re in the 50-70% range, you’re probably operating with a lot of guests.”
Roberts predicted that once greater clarity around how lines would be returning was announced, the “strong demand” for 2022 being reported by brands would “switch back to 2021”.