Clia UK and Ireland chair Tony Roberts and association director Andy Harmer look ahead to the restart of domestic cruising, discuss the work being done to resume voyages overseas and reflect on how the sector has united during the pandemic in order to set sail once again.
It’s been a long time coming – but the wait will soon be over.
In just over a week the first ship to set sail from the UK since the Covid pandemic – MSC Cruises’ Virtuosa – will depart Southampton.
It’s a hugely significant milestone for such a mobile industry brought to a halt by Covid and one that has worked its way back with collaboration and innovation.
There is a real excitement and sense of pride from Clia UK and Ireland’s chair Tony Roberts and director Andy Harmer when they speak to TTG over Zoom on Monday (10 May).
“It’s incredible to think UK cruising resumes next week. In what’s been a really challenging year there’s lots to be proud of and positives to take. Not just in what we’ve achieved but the relationships that have been built,” says Roberts, who is also UK and Europe vice-president of Princess Cruises.
The industry has faced “a rollercoaster ride of changes” over the past 14 months he describes – with his biggest learning, fittingly, “to expect further changes”.
“This is still an evolution situation. From a personal perspective I’ve had to become very resilient in the last year and as an industry we’ve had to be too, to get through the changes.”
An ex-UK season unlike any other lies ahead, with 18 ships set to sail the British Isles – including some of the sector’s newest vessels. And, against an uncertain backdrop for overseas travel this summer, the opportunities waiting onboard are clear.
“What’s nice for the cruise industry is we do have certainty in our ability to operate UK cruises this summer and I think it’s going to be appealing to guests and to travel agents,” says Roberts.
“If you’re considering a staycation, which I think many people will be this summer, given there’s a bit of uncertainty, then a cruise is a great opportunity within that.
“We all want to get back to international travel and the cruise industry is no different and it’s important we continue to move that forward but for people who are looking for some certainty, there is an opportunity for the UK cruises that are on sale.
“If you want certainty about your summer holiday, then it may appear like a good opportunity at the moment.”
Although there is still some work to be done, as Clia works with government bodies to secure “a four nations approach” to domestic cruising between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.