The cruise sector has had plenty of time to prepare for weighing anchor and agents have a vital role to play as it counts down to its long-awaited restart.

Why sell it

Agents who get on top of selling ocean cruise holidays cannot go wrong. Cruisers are a loyal bunch, taking two or more holidays at sea a year, and most book through the trade, which means lucrative earnings for all.

After almost a year since fears for the spread of Covid-19 forced ships to stop sailing, there is an additional incentive for getting on board with cruise – namely huge demand from seasoned cruisers. 

Peter Shanks, Silversea UK and Ireland Managing Director, says: “We know two million people in the UK take a cruise each year and one million are addicted.”

The industry has agreed strict protocols to protect against the virus once ships can sail again, including testing passengers before boarding and regularly during the cruise, reducing capacity to allow for physical distancing and dropping self-service buffets. 

Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International’s President and CEO, says: “The vaccine will be a game-changer; people had to sacrifice summer 2020 so summer 2021 will be a big holiday.”

Who to sell to

There really is a cruise out there for everyone. Floating resorts from the likes of Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line have everything a family could wish for, from specially-designed accommodations and fast-food outlets to fine-dining emporiums and laser tag, water slides, go-karts and many more fun activities.

Not to your client’s’ taste? They might prefer Star Clippers’ sailing ships or an adventure on the high seas on one of the stylish ships being built to take on the ice-strewn waters of the Arctic and Antarctica. Sybarites will be in seventh heaven on the ultra-luxury lines’ small ships, where Champagne is on tap. 

Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises Vice-President UK and Europe, says the line’s ex-Southampton cruises are in big demand. “Close to home is most popular at the moment,” he reveals.

What to sell

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has bolstered its fleet with the addition of two ex-Holland America Line ships. They start sailing as Borealis and Bolette in May on new cruises around the British isles, including the lochs and isles of Scotland, plus the waterways of Belgium and France. In 2022, Bolette will sail an 18-night voyage around the Balkans.

Celestyal Cruises plans on restarting operations in March with the seven-night Three Continents cruises visiting Greece, Egypt, Israel and Turkey on Celestyal Experience, the former Costa neoRomantica. The ship, which has an adult-only outdoor area and suite concierge for top-paying passengers, will revert to the island-hopping cruises around Greece it built its reputation on, hopefully as early as April. 

Celebrity Cruises now includes all drinks, wifi and tips in the fare. Celebrity Silhouette is due to start cruising from Southampton in May. Come autumn, Celebrity Infinity should set out on new voyages around Spain and Portugal from Lisbon.

Luxury line Silversea is going even more inclusive, starting 2022-23, by adding flights and at least one free shore excursion per port to the drinks, wifi and tips already included in its cruise packages. An epic voyage in March 2022  will take in 72 destinations on a journey from Piraeus (Athens) to Stockholm.

When to sell

Summer hopefully still belongs to Europe – the Mediterranean for sun-seekers; the Baltic for history; the Norwegian fjords and Iceland for majestic scenery; round-Britain cruises for top-value staycations. It’s also when expeditions head into Arctic waters.

The South Pacific and Caribbean are great year-round for sun, sand and sea, although itineraries in the West Indies can be disrupted by hurricanes, which blow in between June and November. 

Come winter, ships head to the southern hemisphere - South America and Antarctica as well as Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

How to sell

Agents are now even more critical when it comes to selling cruises, says Alex Delamere-White, P&O Cruises’ Vice-President of Sales and Marketing. Clients will be more cautious when choosing a cruise line, he warns. 

“Talk about the future of cruising, not what is happening now,” advises Silversea’s Peter Shanks. MSC Cruises’ UK Managing Director, Antonio Paradiso, notices clients are looking for value. “Cruise lines are offering the best value possible – and also being as flexible as possible – to support agents,” he says.

Don’t neglect the new-to-cruise market, counsels Stephen Winter, Ponant’s International Sales Director, after seeing the line’s summer sailings attract first-timers. “We created a lot of fans,” he says.

Saga Travel CEO Nick Stace says part of the messaging has to be about safety, about giving people peace of mind. 

“A cruise will be the safest place from which to see the world,” he promises.  

What's new

Adventurers can get their chills on a voyage to the geographic North Pole next July and August on Ponant’s new icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot.

Hurtigruten plans to launch expedition cruises from Dover in April on Maud, the former Midnatsol, with itineraries visiting villages and islands around the British coast that are rich in flora and fauna.

Come December, Seabourn’s first expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, sails from London on an inaugural ultra-luxury cruise to Norway in search of the Northern Lights.

Silversea is launching SALT, a culinary/cultural experience that makes its debut in the Mediterranean in April on Silver Moon, a new ship specially designed with a SALT restaurant, bar and kitchen.

New cruise line Tradewind Voyages sets sail from the UK in May on the Golden Horizon, a replica historic tall ship, before following the tradewinds to India and Asia

Book it with...

Fred Ocean Cruise Lines

An eight-night Spectacular Fjordland Adventure is priced from £1,299pp for July. Passengers will pass glaciers and waterfalls as they sail into the heart of Norway.

fredolsencruises.com