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Cruise holidays 2021: "We are seeing lots of signs of pent-up demand from our customers." Credit: Shutterstock

Cruises 2021: Experts reveal where to go, what to do and who to go with

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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One simple thing has united the cruise industry and its passengers during the Covid crisis – an overwhelming desire to see our favourite ships sailing again so we can all get back on board.

While there are still a lot of travel restrictions in place around the world, the launch of so many UK-only cruises this summer has given the cruise industry back its mojo.

For the latest issue of World of Cruising magazine, Editor Vicky Mayer caught up with the bosses of many of the leading cruise lines, both ocean and river, to find out how they see the year ahead, and what sort of trips their customers are booking.

After such an incredibly difficult year, their optimism is truly inspiring...

Ready and waiting

Some feared that Covid might continue to deter the cruising public, even post-pandemic. In fact, the opposite is true.

"We are seeing lots of signs of pent-up demand from our customers," says Steve Smotrys, Seabourn’s vice president of global sales. "We’re getting some great bookings in 2022 and even into 2023 because travellers are longing to sail again."

Jamie Loizou, managing director of AmaWaterways, agrees: "There is a huge demand for international travel as more and more people receive their vaccines and yearn to reconnect with the world."

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A shot in the arm

Thanks to the success of Britain’s vaccination rollout, it seems this country is also leading the global return to cruise.

"The UK vaccination programme is giving everyone the confidence to start planning their cruise holidays for later this year and into 2022," says Lucia Rowe, managing director of A-Rosa River Cruises UK & Ireland.

"Many people have disposable income and are ready to spend it on a cruise holiday. They are yearning to make new memories with their loved ones, and river cruises are perfect for this, offering the chance to do something a little different and experience several new places all on one holiday."

That view is echoed by Jim Forward, chief commercial officer at Riviera Travel. "The vaccination programme has given us real cause for optimism," he says.

"We’ve seen increased demand for our river cruises, and what’s been particularly striking is the interest in the small-ship sailings we’ve scheduled for the Scottish islands in July."

The human touch

Scenic destinations are not the only thing we’ve missed about cruising, according to Wendy Atkin-Smith, managing director of Viking UK.

"I don’t think any of us will ever take travel for granted again,’ she says. ‘But one of the things we’ve missed most during this difficult time of isolation and lockdown is meeting and interacting with other people.

"This is one of the main reasons we love to travel – we all want to see different places but building human connections is equally important."

Cruise holidays 2021: The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath in Budapest is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Credit: Shutterstock

Far and away

The Covid crisis has given us all plenty of time to work on our cruising wish lists, and it seems many of us are booking bigger and longer cruise trips to make up for the time we’ve been stuck at home. So where are this year’s hot destinations?

"When they’re allowed to travel again, our clients have been telling us they want to make their journeys more meaningful and memorable than ever before,’ says Edwina Lonsdale, managing director of Mundy Cruising.

"So we’re seeing a big appetite for longer trips, further afield, and iconic once-in-a-lifetime destinations. We’ve had high levels of interest in Antarctica and the Galapagos, and huge optimism for the re-opening of travel to Australia and New Zealand."

Viking’s Wendy Atkin-Smith reports a similar pattern: "From our forward bookings we can see that our guests are planning to travel more frequently, with more demand for long-haul destinations and extended trips like our Grand European Tour, which covers four countries in 15 days."

Cruise holidays 2021: "We’re seeing a big appetite for longer trips, further afield." Credit: Shutterstock
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A whole world of difference

If you’ve got the time and the budget, a world cruise has to be top of your travel bucket list – so it comes as no surprise that Silversea’s 2023 World Cruise sold out on the first day of booking.

Lucky guests on this 139-day voyage will sail from the South Seas to the Amazon rainforest and beyond, calling at 66 destinations in 34 countries across five continents.

"This is the most successful World Cruise launch in our history," says Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s CEO. "That’s a testament to the strong demand we are seeing in the market, particularly from affluent, sophisticated travellers."

Demand for Viking’s longer voyages has also been exceptional. "Our 2021- 2022 world cruise sold out within weeks last year," reveals Wendy Atkin-Smith.

"Our 2022-2023 cruise, visiting 28 countries in 138 days, is already fully booked, almost two years in advance, and we’re planning to announce additional world cruises very soon."

The remarkable popularity of world cruising looks set to stay.

"Bucket-list experiences have moved up our customers’ list of priorities," says Seabourn’s Steve Smotrys.

"Demand for our 2023 world cruise is already exceeding what we saw for 2020, 2021 and 2022."

Cruise holidays 2021: Christmas markets and festive cruises are always in demand." Credit: Shutterstock
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Winter wonderlands

With Christmas 2020 being such a sad affair, it’s no wonder festive cruises for 2021 are also proving hugely popular, as families plan a memorable get-together.

"Our European river cruise bookings for the end of this year are very strong," says AmaWaterways’ Jamie Loizou.

"We are seeing more than usual demand from extended families looking to reunite after a long period of separation, and our Christmas market cruises are especially popular."

"Our Christmas markets and festive cruises are always in demand and I expect them to be even more so this year," adds A-Rosa’s Lucia Rowe.

"Many people missed out on celebrations last year and are keen to make up for it by doing something extra-special with their loved ones this winter."

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