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Safe and sound messaging key to European sales recovery

European-based cruise line execs discuss recovering sales during Madrid ICS 2021
Messaging on safety, continuous engagement via multimedia outlets and training support for the travel agent community will continue to be key focusses for European-based cruise brands as they hone in on a full fleet resumption.

‘Our campaigns have been focussing on just how safe cruising is – journey safe, journey wonderful,’ commented Jo Rzymowska, VP and MD EMEA at Celebrity Cruises during a panel discussion at this year’s International Cruise Summit.

More than 1m passengers will have sailed across the Royal Caribbean Group fleet by year end, she noted: ‘All the restaurants, the entertainment and meeting people aspects that people loved before the pandemic are all still there but in an even safer environment and both returning and new guests have been impressed.’

Safety protocols

Re-enforcing the strict safety protocols on board is helping said Roberto Alberti, CCO, Costa Cruises. ‘Safety has not jeopardised guest satisfaction: in fact it has driven us to deliver an even more outstanding experience to compensate for some of the restrictions we have in place.’

The executives did throw in a note of caution related to the complexities of international travel especially moving from country to country . ‘The Passenger Locator Forms are complex and not always intuitive forcing some to quickly learn interactive communications that they did not need to worry about before – let’s hope [all the form filling etc] does not become a barrier to cruising, especially for the older generation,’ commented Bob Dixon, director EMEA and Asia sales, Cunard Line.

TV campaigns

Talking about investing for the future, Eamonn Ferrin, VP international business, Norwegian Cruise Line told how the line is about to launch its third TV ad campaign in a year for the UK, ‘and we are finding far out bookings going very well.’

Referencing the wider Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings fleet, Ferrin said 12 of the company’s 28 ships are now sailing and it hopes to have all back in the water by end of Q1, 2022 moving to greater occupancy by Q2- end Q3, 2022.

Rzymowska is also positive about the long term. ‘People have spent 18 months at home, they have missed anniversary, birthday, graduation celebrations in that time. We are seeing lots of multi-generational bookings and bucket list destinations selling fast.’

Travel partners

Travel agents will continue to be a key provider of sales but there have been closures during the pandemic. Alberti put the number of agencies that have had to shut down between 10-15%. ‘Some will come back but many have moved to other sectors, jobs.’

All agreed it’s been a tough time for travel partners  - ‘re-training is key’, noted Rzymowska.