Our Man On The Ground takes a look at the future of cruising in a Q & A with Planet Cruise
An increased interest in cruises from the UK and holidays on rivers are among the travel trend predictions from Planet Cruise. As ocean ships and river lines begin to reintroduce sailings, and announce their programmes for 2021 and beyond, Jeannine Williamson spoke to Simone Clark, Vice President of Global Supply at the independent cruise travel agency, to talk about the current situation and find out what the future holds in store – including tips for seasoned cruisers and first-timers alike.
How has Planet Cruise been helping customers in recent months?
Planet Cruise has a dedicated support team that is working on cancelling and rebooking cruises. When the pandemic first hit, we set up a COVID-19 hub page on our website featuring regular updates on cancellations, future cruise deposits, cruise line policies and the latest information from the FCO and this is regularly updated to ensure that customers are kept up to date with any changes as they’re announced. We have also developed systems to advise our customers on their future cruise credit entitlement and have made this online where possible for ease, helping thousands of customers defer their cruise or cancel their booking if there aren’t any future options that suit them. We are also working hard to help our remaining customers who have yet to move their cruise or be refunded.
What are the benefits of booking through Planet Cruise?
We are passionate about travel and want to ensure that every element of our holidays are bespoke to suit all travellers, which is why each customer is able to choose their flights, add a hotel stay or indulge in an extra tour before they join the ship. With every one of our trips both ATOL and ABTA protected, customers can have complete peace of mind that they are financially protected when booking their dream holiday. This is particularly important in the time of COVID-19. Planet has an unbiased approach and works with all of the mainstream lines as well as other boutique cruise lines to ensure there’s a cruise to suit all of our customers’ needs. Additionally, should customers need to cancel their holiday Planet Cruise is the only company customers need to contact, instead of having to liaise with numerous airlines, hotels or attractions.
How do you help first-time cruisers pick their ideal sailing?
Planet Cruise has sent thousands of people on cruises for over 20 years and for many of these customers, it was their first time on a cruise ship. Customers can call up and speak to an agent over the phone who will gather information on what they’re looking for, in order to tailor pick a cruise that will work for them. I know it sounds simple, but we really listen to what our customers want in terms of the places they want to see and experiences they want to enjoy. With each cruise line offering a different type of experience, our destination experts use this information to carefully pick itineraries that suit either first-timers or regular cruise enthusiasts who have booked time and time again.
What would you say to people who say they would never go on a cruise?
There will be a cruise to suit you. Whether you’re a luxury lover, an adventure seeker or looking for something to suit the whole family, Planet Cruise will be able to find your perfect getaway. Additionally, cruises offer a host of benefits that you wouldn’t normally get from a traditional holiday, for example, it’s a great way to visit multiple destinations in a short period of time. Each ship provides everything that can be found on land, from alfresco dining options to entertainment venues including theatres and cinemas to luxurious ensuites. The journey and experience is equally important and with cruises, your holiday starts as soon as you step on board the ship.
What are the main ways cruises will change following the pandemic?
Cruise lines have always had extremely high levels of hygiene and health and safety procedures in place as a standard to ensure cruises are as safe as possible. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, each cruise line we work with has spent time introducing even more stringent measures in accordance with government guidelines and advice from the World Health Organisation. Some of the additional measures include updated filtration systems, the testing of guests and crew as well as more regular cleaning procedures on board, to name just a few. As each cruise line has enforced different initiatives, we have set up a dedicated page on our website highlighting new changes from each cruise line as they are announced. We are constantly speaking with the cruise lines to ensure their hygiene standards are in line with our own.
What are your predictions for up and coming destinations and why?
There are a couple of upcoming cruise trends that we have noticed. As travel options have been seriously limited this year, people are looking to make sure they visit their dream destinations in 2021 and really immerse themselves in local experiences. With this in mind, we are seeing a greater interest in cruises to destinations such as Japan to enjoy the cherry blossom season. Cruising from the UK has always been extremely popular amongst our customers, but we expect this to grow further as some travellers have become cautious about boarding a plane. Additionally, interest in river cruising has increased significantly in the last year but again this will continue, with smaller ships and cruising closer to home trending in the industry.
For more information on Planet Cruise, please visit www.planetcruise.com or call them on 0808 278 8504.
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of Planet Cruise