Royal Caribbean Cruises can start marketing summer 2021 sailings from Cyprus to British customers, thanks to the lifting of a ban on international cruises.
Jewel of the Seas (pictured) has been based in Limassol and sailing around the Greek islands since early July, with vaccinated passengers from countries such as Cyprus, Israel and the US.
Ben Bouldin, vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa for Royal Caribbean Cruises and new chair of Clia UK and Ireland, told a Travel Weekly webcast: “We haven’t really been pushing it in the UK up until this point.
“But now it’s permitted to sell internationally. We’ve got chartered air, we’ve got special transfers, we’ve got everything in place for that to be a fantastic holiday for a UK guest.
“We’re going to turn the lights on that and we’re going to go hell for leather now because it’s a really great option for people wanting to go overseas.
“We can now start to take the Brits to that programme without really changing anything.”
The cruise line’s Anthem of the Seas has been sailing domestically from Southampton since mid-July but international cruises look set to start from September onwards.
Bouldin said the domestic cruises have been going well, producing the company’s highest Net Promoter Scores from passengers.
Now the challenge will be to study the complexities of cruising to destinations such as Portugal and Spain, and how aspects such as Covid testing will affect the experience onboard, he added.
Edwina Lonsdale, owner and managing director of Mundy Cruising, said her agency received calls from clients immediately after hearing about the lifting of the ban and she expects the news will continue to boost enquiries in the coming days.
“They still have to jump through all the hoops that they have to do for international travel but it just gives that confidence and an opportunity for us to pick up some last business for 2021 – so this year isn’t a complete loss,” she said.
There will be challenges for international cruise ships that have different nationalities on board but she added: “We’ve done challenges for 16 months, now we can do some more.
“We have to just do what we do best, which is be very adaptable, be very calm, be the voice of authority for our clients, give them the confidence.”
Andy Harmer, managing director of Clia UK and Ireland, said there may be a “couple of itineraries” offered in the next month or so but expects international cruises for Brits will really pick up pace from September.
“We’re used to lots of nationalities onboard our ships, with lots of different entry and exit requirements, lots of crew from different nationalities, itineraries that take in multiple countries in one voyage – so, as an industry, we’re certainly already plugged into some of those challenges, because of course, local rules will vary from port to port and from country to country,” he explained.
He said agents have shared their positive experiences of the domestic cruises that have set sail since mid-May for sailings around the British Isles.
“Our travel agents do that really well…become real ambassadors for our industry,” he said.
“The fact that they’ve enjoyed it, they felt safe and secure but they’ve had a great time is a message that we want to share with customers.”