UK-based cruise lines could begin making plans to restart international sailings “from the second half of the summer”, the boss of Marella Cruises has predicted.
Chris Hackney said his line’s recently announced season of domestic cruises would call within the UK through to the end of August – by which time he hoped there would be more clarity on overseas sailings.
“I think as the summer progresses and we get towards the end of this year, we’re still hopeful that international cruises will be possible,” he told TTG.
The government’s Global Travel Taskforce report, published earlier this month, confirmed the restart of international cruising would be aligned with the wider travel sector.
The Department for Transport and the cruise industry had previously agreed a “phased” return to service – starting with domestic sailings, before ex-UK voyages to Europe and eventually further afield.
Hackney said there were “still some questions to be answered” following the taskforce’s report publication, and that dialogue between government and the cruise sector was continuing.
“From our perspective it’s given us enough confidence to do domestic cruises and we feel that’s the right thing to do and that there’s a market there for this summer.
“Clearly, once we’re getting into the latter parts of the year there is probably a limited shelf life in terms of how domestic cruise could operate out of the summer season, so we need to be moving over to international cruises at that stage.
“We do need a three-month period to allow ourselves to mobilise our operations, and at this stage there isn’t 100% clarity on when we can get international cruises started up – but we feel from the second half of this summer there is likely to be some movement in that territory.”
Marella has cancelled international cruises until the end of July, which Hackney said would be kept in review based on UK government guidance.
He said reaction and demand for the line’s UK programme – which sees Marella Explorer sailing from Southampton and Marella Explorer 2 operating from Newcastle – had shown there was “definitely a market” for closer to home voyages.
“In terms of booking, so far its been past customers – I think there will be some opportunities to attract people who haven’t cruised before and who are staying closer to home because the all-inclusive offering is very good value.”
Marella will require all adult guests to be fully vaccinated in order to sail and – in a differing policy to a number of other lines asking under-18s to take PCR tests – it will require its under-18 passengers to take a lateral flow test.
“We’ve always been a cruise line that attracts families and we were keen that we would be able to do that,” Hackney said, adding that all guests would also be tested free of charge before boarding, “ensuring safety for guests and crew is paramount”.