Cruise firm reports ‘incredible’ demand for sailings

P&O Cruises has reported “incredible” demand after launching its summer 2022 holidays.

The UK’s largest cruise line said travellers have responded with “positivity” to its new safety and hygiene regime, and are “ready and waiting to sail with us”.

New rules include mandatory Covid-19 testing for guests, only allowing visits to ports on organised excursions, and more restaurants requiring pre-booking.

The firm has suspended its operations until at least March 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said demand for summer 2022 “looks very, very strong” after sales opened on Tuesday morning.

He told reporters: “It’s incredible. We’re only four-and-a-half hours into that process… but what we’ve seen is levels of pre-registration that are akin to previous years.

“I think that’s something that we all can take real pleasure from in a difficult period for this industry. People want a holiday, people want to go on cruise holidays and people believe that there will be better times ahead.”

Mr Ludlow insisted the resumption of operations will be conducted in a “very safe manner”.

There will be coronavirus testing facilities on board, and occupancy levels during initial sailings are likely to be “significantly less” than capacity.

Limits on the number of travellers allowed on board will partly depend on the design of each ship and the destinations they are visiting.

“We’re open-minded to get the industry back up and running again for a period of time, and would probably do very well as a business by operating at a lower level,” Mr Ludlow explained.

He said “a few hundred thousand guests haven’t been able to travel” since P&O Cruises cancelled new sailings on March 16 following the outbreak of the virus.

Mr Ludlow said “dialogue remains very positive” between the cruise industry and the Government in terms of when operations can restart.

He believed the new lockdown could encourage the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office to lift its advisory against cruise ship travel.

“If it works and the prevalence of the virus in the UK does recede, I think it will help,” he said.

“I think that it will feel as if the virus is under more control in the UK and I think there is a greater chance of travel advice more generally evolving.”