Fred Olsen chief appeals to government to support cruise lines

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines also known as 'Fred. Olsen', 'Fred. Olsen ...

The boss of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has called on the government to provide more support for the cruise industry.

With cruise operations suspended until May 23 during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK-based cruise line has been forced to dock its four ships.

Peter Deer, Fred Olsen’s managing director, praised the government for the schemes it had introduced to ease cash flow constraints on companies across the country but appealed for further help to be extended to the cruise sector.

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government was prepared to enter negotiations with individual airlines to discuss “bespoke support as a last resort” last week.

Speaking to Travel Weekly, Deer said: “As a cruise line you hear quite a lot about the airline industry receiving funding from the government. We’re quite a passive bunch. I suspect our margins are better but lining up ships is not a cheap thing to do.

“The government needs to recognise that cruise is a big part of travel in the UK and find ways to support it.”

He called for lobbying from “every angle”, adding: “This is a hairy time for every cruise line, particularly the ones that have brought in new tonnage. It makes your life a bit tougher.”

In Fred Olsen’s 2021-22 brochure, the line offers departures from five UK ports – Southampton, Newcastle, Dover, Liverpool and Edinburgh.

Fred Olsen Cruises Ocean cruises cruise line review - Which?

Deer outlined how food, fuel and other services are bought by Fred Olsen from UK businesses.

Deer added: “We are worth a huge amount to the UK market. When we talk about a holiday environment, money is spent on that destination but with a cruise line that money is spent on a ship.

“It would be great to see some positive spin from the government.”

Asked if Fred Olsen was preparing for a “bounce back” in terms of consumer demand later this year, Deer said: “I think at some point we will see it, but it is all about consumer confidence. People do not have the will to think about their holiday in the short-term.

“They do not know when this event is going to subside. Everyone wants to go on holiday but they need some confidence that the virus is going to disappear.”

Deer said that it was “too early” for targeted marketing but added that the business was still trying to remain at the forefront of customers’ minds.

“We are just talking about our company and what we are doing,” he said. “It is a broader approach.

“People will see if cruises go-ahead before they commit their money.

“People may not do long-haul fly-cruises. They may look to the Mediterranean or the Canaries. I think people just do not know.”

P&O Cruises Details Fleet Status

P&O Aurora (Photo: Antonio Simas)

P&O Cruises UK has detailed the status of its cruise fleet in a recent update.

  • The Arcadia is en route to Southampton, due to arrive April 12. She will then berth in Southampton before relocating to Dover.
  • The Aurora arrived in Southampton on March 16 and is now en route to Dover where she will berth at Cruise Terminal 2.
  • The Azura is in the Caribbean heading to Barbados. All guests will fly home on Friday or Saturday. The ship will then sail home to the UK with no guests. She will then berth in Southampton prior to relocating to Portland.
  • The Britannia is en route to Southampton, due to arrive March 25 and will berth at the Mayflower Terminal.
  • The Oceana arrived in Southampton on March 18 and is now berthed in Dover at Cruise Terminal 1.
  • The Ventura arrived in Southampton on March 17 and remains at the Ocean Terminal.

A ‘Confident’ Carnival Cruise Line plans more European deployment

Carnival Legends signature Funnel. Photo credit Dave Jones

Carnival Cruise Line’s chief operating officer has suggested more ships will be deployed in Europe after the line gained “confidence” in the US market.

The US-based line has 18 homeports around North America and has never consistently based ships in Europe.

There were no Carnival ships based in Europe last summer.

However, Carnival Legend and Carnival Radiance will both operate in the Mediterranean next summer while yet-to-launch 5,200-passenger Mardi Gras will visit the UK as it repositions to the US.

Carnival will offer nine departures out of Dover on 2,124-passenger vessel Carnival Legend in 2021.

Speaking on the maiden voyage of the line’s new ship Carnival Panorama in the Mexican Riviera, Gus Antorcha said: “With Europe, we focused and then pulled back a little bit and then focused. You will see Europe becoming more important.

Dover seafront photo credit Dave Jones

“We have grown in the US so that gives us more confidence that we can fill a ship at good yields and there is still demand. When we design the right deployment in Europe, it is very popular.”

Antorcha said it was vital that when Carnival tries a market “we should try and stay there for a number of years” as agents were able to build their knowledge and learn from customer feedback.

“It is easier to sell if you’re selling the same product,” he added. “It gives consistency. Some of our sister lines and competitors are moving ships all over the world and they are adding new itineraries every week. That is harder to sell if you are sell.

“If you are selling a consistent product you build the feedback on the product.”

Iain Baillie, the line’s vice president of international sales, called on agents to encourage the line to base ships in Europe by ensuring passengers were “profitable”.

“It is up to us,” he said. “It is how we educate our guests. We want to make sure our guests are profitable – we want them to choose the bars, the casino and the excursions. If we can get those metrics correct we can keep the ships coming.

“For us to have nine ex-Dover departures [in 2021] – we are going to jump all over that. It is going to be a race though because that [European] deployment is very popular with the US market.”

Christine Duffy, the line’s president, told Travel Weekly: “We feel with Carnival Legend – a Spirit-class ship – we can have some consistent European summer deployment.

“We will put the capacity where we feel we can generate the demand.”

Antorcha said the line’s net promoter scores given by passengers had risen by “25% to 30%” since he first took over as chief operating officer in November 2017. Antorcha briefly left Carnival earlier this year to become the chief executive of SeaWorld Entertainment before returning in October to his former role.

“Now we are north of 50ish, which is very high,” he said.