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Cruise Britain welcomes cruise lines for London spring gathering

L-R: James Langley, Kai Algar, Nick Hughes at Cruise Britain's spring meeting on March 12
Cruise Britain’s spring meeting took place on March 12 in London, attended by over 40 association members from ports, destinations and service providers far and wide, plus three cruise line executives.

The event in Blackfriars saw the association exchange information and ideas, while representatives of Ambassador Cruise Line, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and Saga Cruises delivered presentations and participated in a fireside chat with Mary Bond, Seatrade Cruise group director. 

Cruise Britain Chair and Commercial GM at Portland Port, Ian McQuade, and the association’s director, Kay Greenway, hinted that 2023 was the most successful year on record for British ports. Further details will be shared next week. 

The gathering took place as anticipation builds for Seatrade Cruise Global next month, where Cruise Britain will be exhibiting. 

Ambassador Cruise Line

Ambassador COO Nick Hughes said the line plans, eventually, to increase the size of its fleet – ‘Fly cruising is not Ambassador Cruise Line’s core business model, but options to provide shorter fly cruise sectors on longer itineraries are being considered.’ 

The line will begin retrofitting its two ships starting in 2025/26 to enable them to receive shorepower.

Hughes revealed that the cost of living crisis is affecting how much people are willing to pay for their holidays and that Ambassador is seeing demand for shorter cruises. 

He called for more berths at British ports, enhancement of baggage handling operations, more buses, and urged ports to work closely with tour agents to put together unique and affordable experiences in destinations. 

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Kai Algar, marine & port planning manager, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines shared Hughes’ view on the need for more buses  and capacity on tours. He described the launch of the line’s 2025/26 itineraries, including its new 2025 fly-cruise voyages in the Mediterranean, the coming together of Fred. Olsen’s fleet in Madeira, and Braemar’s departure from the fleet. 

‘Berth availability now is harder than it’s ever been,’ Algar said.  

Voyages less than 14 nights are proving most popular for Fred. Olsen, he added. 

Saga Cruises

James Langley, operations director at Saga Cruises, thanked Cruise Britain members for looking after the line’s greatest asset: its crew. He called for more buses and tour guides, ‘exclusivity with shore excursions’ and unique, differentiated shorex products. 

The line would like to see more berths in Scotland, he added. 

Saga has started converting its ships so that they can accept shore power. 

And when it comes to trends, ‘We’re seeing more dietary requests, including more vegan meals… and we’re seeing more younger guests.’ Like Hughes, he described growing demand for shorter voyages.

Belfast Harbour 

Belfast’s D1 berth – currently used for cruise ships – will go back to offshore wind in 2027, but the port has permission to develop a berth at D3 suitable for cruise ships, according to Gary Hall, commercial executive at Belfast Harbour. The destination is working on developing ‘an iconic waterfront,’ while work on Belfast’s City Quays Gardens will get underway later this year. 

Belfast received 2m passengers and 59 cruise calls last year. 

UK Chamber of Shipping 

Also during the spring gathering, Katrina Ross, policy director - commercial and governance, UK Chamber of Shipping gave an overview of European Union regulations that could impact cruise operations. 

Scotland’s Visitor Levy Bill – applicable to overnight stays in some types of accommodation – is set to pass in June. While there are calls in Scotland for a levy on cruise ships specifically, a bill is unlikely to pass this summer, she said.