Cruise leaders have offered an insight into how UK sailings will return post-Covid but say there are still seeking clarity from government over when voyages will be able to resume.
Saga Travel chief executive Nick Stace told a panel at Clia’s virtual showcase on 10 December the sector had agreed with the Department for Transport on a return with “multiple phases”.
“The first phase is demonstrating we can stay within British waters and travel safely,” he said. “Then you can move into phase two, which is leaving from UK ports and returning to UK ports but staying within Europe, and then phases three and four continue beyond there.”
Stace said the intention of the gradual return was to “slowly but surely give confidence that cruising can return in a manageable way”, adding: “We are utterly confident that we can.”
However, despite the steps currently being worked on, Stace and Marella Cruises managing director Chris Hackney called for a clearer timeframe on when the restart would begin.
Hackney said a recent report by the government’s Global Travel Taskforce “did not go far enough” to answering the industry’s questions.
“We’re hopeful there will be further clarification around the timelines [for restarting] which are very vague in the report,” he said.
Hackney also urged the need for the Foreign Office (FCDO) advice against ocean cruising to be changed or dropped to imbue customers with greater certainty.
“The challenge is we need more concrete action from government – while we welcome the conversations and collaboration, we need the advice to change so we get the consumer confidence back.
“We’re coming into a key sales period and consumers want some certainty to make that decision about booking for 2021.”
Stace said despite the challenges posed by the advice, Saga’s 2022 brochure launch in September had prompted “the best selling week in our 24 years of cruising”, believing it was evidence of "so much pent-up demand".
The line also recently became the first cruise company to be awarded a Shield+ accreditation by maritime safety expert Lloyd’s Register. He said other brands would need to achieve similar third-party accreditations as part of the UK Chamber of Shipping’s cruise restart framework.