Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises UK and Europe vice president, explains why he feels an overwhelming sense of pride
Two years ago, on 20 January 2020, Diamond Princess departed Yokohama for a 14-night cruise due to visit China, Vietnam and Taiwan before returning to Japan.
What was to happen next, no one could have predicted. Soon after, Princess Cruises would become one of the first major cruise lines to voluntarily pause operations. Then, before we knew it, the entire world ground to a halt.
Reflecting on what has since happened over the last two years, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride.
I’m proud to be part of a sector that is so strong and resilient in the face of adversity, an industry that is transparent and at the forefront of health and safety; and I’m proud to be part of a team which continuously puts guests first.
As the pandemic started, 24 months ago, and Diamond Princess was informed by Japanese authorities that it was to be put into quarantine in the port of Yokohama, I flew to Miami to lead a team helping other vessels in our fleet manage the situation.
Seeing how our crew handled the subsequent challenges, I felt humbled. Their outstanding work, dedication and resilience is a true testament to Princess
When the world as we knew it was turned on its head, our crew stepped up to look after our guests. Their hard work never went unappreciated. Guests on board, who experienced first-hand the effort our shipmates put in, came out in their droves with messages of support. They put signs up on their stateroom doors while in quarantine to thank crew, and numerous guests have expressed their gratitude publicly.
This appreciation continued when we began our gradual return to service last year. We received overwhelming feedback from guests on the incredible service. Guests and crew alike have been delighted to reunite on board and this has been reflected in our global guest satisfaction scores. These have increased since our return, particularly for ‘crew friendliness’, which has been off the scale.
While crew are the heart and soul of our business, we also would not be where we are today without the incredible support of our travel agent partners. Princess has always valued its relationship with the trade, more so than ever in the past two years. Thanks to the support and hard work from the trade, our Summer Seacations on board Regal Princess and Sky Princess were a huge success. In 2021, tens of thousands of guests sailed with Princess, and for more than half of them it was their first time with the brand.
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As an industry, one of the most significant hurdles we’ve overcome since Covid is restoring guests’ confidence to cruise again. Cruising is one of the safest ways to take a holiday, and our health and safety protocols go way beyond any other travel or hospitality setting.
Agents have played an essential role in helping rebuild guest confidence by communicating these solid and robust protocols to their customers and showing that cruise lines continuously put the health and safety of guests, crew and the communities we visit first.
As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and research from a recent Clia survey shows that about 80% of cruise passengers say they will cruise again. Furthermore, around 60% of people who have never cruised before say they are still interested in taking a cruise.
We’re seeing this confidence reflected in bookings during the wave period. After a rocky start for the travel sector due to uncertainties around Omicron, wave bookings are on the up and summer 2022 is looking particularly strong. Guests need a cruise holiday to look forward to, and the strength of bookings for 2022 and 2023 is testament to that.
The cruise industry is robust and together we can overcome this challenge and future challenges
From dealing with a pandemic to supporting our return, I will forever be grateful for our crew and travel agent partners who continue to do their job with excellence, integrity and a smile on their face.