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Cruise Britain’s annual winter event - an uplifting experience in more ways than one

L-R: Gary Anslow, senior director sales for UK & Ireland, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings; Kate O'Hara, chair, Cruise Britain; Deirdre Wells, CEO, GoToPlaces
Almost 100 ports, destinations and service providers from the length and breadth of the UK attended Cruise Britain’s annual ‘Cruise into Winter’ event in London’s Trinity House on Thursday.

Joined by cruise line executives from UK and Europe-based brands, Cruise Britain chair Kate O’Hara welcomed participants to the fifth annual gathering saying its draw, ‘is testament to Britain’s maturity as a cruise destination and source market, as well as underscoring the industry’s desire to get together and re-engage post pandemic.’

Cruise Britain continues to go from strength to strength welcoming two new members this year: Great Yarmouth and Royal Haskoning and has expanded its collaboration across multiple industry associations and institutions representing its members with seats at many key tables of discussion, noted O’Hara. She cited expanded collaboration with the Dept of Digital, Media and Sport, Cruise Scotland, CLIA, and ESPO (European Sea Ports Organisation), amongst others.

Ship calls at ports around Britain in 2022 are ‘almost back to pre pandemic levels’, cited O’Hara. In 2019, 2,500 calls were clocked representing a 9.1% increase in five years and that number is likely to be surpassed next year with many ports reporting record advanced bookings.

Britain is a growing destination for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings noted Gary Anslow, senior director sales for UK & Ireland in his keynote speech. In 2023, it will rack up 170 days in UK ports across the three brands: NCL, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, he shared. With sustainability sharply in focus, Onslow said that by 2025, 70% of NCHL’s fleet will have shore power capabilities and he added, ‘whilst go green and small tour options are only a small part of the 600 tours we currently offer worldwide they are growing in popularity and interest.’

In her keynote, Deirdre Wells OBE, CEO of GoToPlaces, a DMO representing Kent and Hertfordshire, highlighted tourism, ‘as the fastest growing service sector in the UK, both pre pandemic and post, and cruise is a vital part of the picture’.  She urged destinations to work closely with local suppliers to create new sustainable products and experiences, ‘where you can reward the customer for sustainable behaviour’.

Each Cruise Britain member then had the opportunity to present a 90 second pitch to the audience on: What they would like the cruise lines to remember about their port, destination or service when forward planning.

This informative and quick paced session has become a highlight of the event with many pitches performed to music, poetry, in fancy dress and quizzes. It provided an informative but light-hearted tour of what Britain can offer the cruise lines and showed the depth of the offer.

First time attendee Sander Groothuis, VP port and shore ops Carnival UK commented he learnt a lot from the session and said ‘I picked up a sense of family spirit within Cruise Britain that everyone is pulling together and working hard to make things happen and ensure cruise calls are successful whilst also having fun along the way!’

The evening saw participants walk across the beautifully lit Tower Bridge for an after party in the bridge’s Engine Rooms. Here below ground are the original Victorian steam engines, drivetrains and hydraulic technology that were first powered by steam and could lift the bascules in 60 seconds. In 1976, Tower Bridge switched from steam power to electricity and today opens on average two to three times a day - taking 3-5 minutes - compared with 20-30 times when first completed in 1894. The iconic bridge lifted just before the Cruise Britain party arrived for a vessel to pass through – a spectacle that still draws crowds.