Michele Bosco, manager, shore excursions and operations Europe, Africa, Middle East, Princess Cruises, said, ‘Poor venue maintenance post-pandemic has led to reduced capacity at certain venues in smaller destinations, which in turn leads to higher cost for guests, meaning that some of the challenges we are facing now have their roots in Covid.’
Less reliance on cruise tourism
Bosco went on to explain that ‘Certain venues have also closed down for business and others no longer want to collaborate with cruise companies, as the global tourism rebound means that they are receiving stronger flows of independent tourists, reducing their reliance on groups coming from our ships.’
Lack of venue availability is a concern shared by Agnes Brochet, director, destination research, development & planning, Silversea, ‘In small islands we will have lack of space for all our guests to secure a spot, when we are at full capacity, because we offer one free excursion at each of the destinations we are visiting. Therefore, demand for onshore excursions is strong, and that is one of our main land-side challenges.’
Berthing policy in Greece
Berthing policy in Greece is also a cause of concern for some luxury cruise brands, such as Explora Journeys. The brand’s head of itinerary planning and destination experiences, Sacha Rougier, said that ‘Relooking at the berthing policy in Greece would help us solve a major challenge we are facing, as in some cases, we fail to secure a slot even when we have had initial confirmation.
‘This causes all sorts of issues for the company, which we’d rather had avoided. Lack of transportation guides also causes problems in certain destinations.’
Sustainable experiences top list of must-haves
In terms of what luxury cruise guests seek out of secret gem destinations, unique and sustainable experiences top the list, ‘Going to homes of local people or spending time with a local chef are just a couple of examples,’ shared Constantine Venetopoulos, director, communications & PR, Variety Cruises.
He said it was important to bear in mind the demographic of passengers before tailoring certain experience-enhancing shore excursions.
The line’s ‘Unexplored Greece’ itinerary visiting Ikaria and Amorgos is now its best seller.
Bosco remarked that for Princess, ‘Smaller group tours are becoming more popular, tours off-the-beaten-path, such as food and drink walking tours in local non-touristy venues.’ He said culinary tours where the ship chef takes passengers to the local market to select fresh produce for their dinner or cooks with passengers are desirable. ‘Meet the family of the farm is also becoming trendy when it comes down to luxury cruising products,’ he added.