The future is looking very promising for Saga Holidays and Cruises. After an understandably challenging year, the over-50 specialist is well placed to be one of the first to return to service, with the vast majority of its target demographic already vaccinated.
We caught up with Account Manager Hayley Morris to find out about its new ocean and river cruises and how they’ve gone down with the trade and the public.
Which of Saga’s products is selling best for 2021?
Sales of our ocean cruises have held up well throughout the pandemic, but they really ramped up when we launched our 2022 cruises last September. It was our best launch in five years!
Our first season on Spirit of Discovery was cut short last summer, but now she’s in Tilbury with her new sister ship Spirit of Adventure getting ready for summer sailings around the UK.
Bookings for the UK cruises, which start with a six-night sailing on 27 June, have been phenomenal. One of our top sellers is a 14-night cruise on Spirit of Discovery. The inaugural cruise on Spirit of Adventure on 26 July is another best-seller.
Has cruising recovered from the bad publicity at the start of the pandemic?
Cruising was arguably the worst hit travel sector at the beginning of the pandemic as it dominated the countless negative media reports. The industry has adapted incredibly well and is now ready to return to service as one of the safest forms of travel, thanks to the new measures and protocols implemented by cruise lines. Saga’s own Covid protocols are industry leading as demonstrated when we received the highest award from Lloyds Register.
Our smaller, luxury boutique ships offer excellent space per passenger ratios, with lots of quiet spaces for guests to relax.
Also, the fact that we were the first cruise line to announce that every passenger must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 has also helped boost confidence. This mandatory vaccine policy has been overwhelmingly welcomed by our guests, who are all over-50 and amongst the first to be vaccinated; we saw bookings increased as a result of this policy.
When will you return to European cruises?
Our first cruise will be to Greenland in August and we fully expect that to run as planned. Of course, we continue to review the government guidance on international travel and will adapt our plans if required.
What about your river cruises?
We’re entering a new era, launching our first purpose-built river cruise ships which will mirror our success on the oceans. Spirit of the Rhine is due to launch on 27 May.
Our second ship Spirit of the Danube will launch in March 2022 and bookings have been strong since that went on sale in early March this year.
Our Christmas, New Year and Christmas Markets cruises on the Rhine are selling particularly well, so its clear guests are thinking about travelling later this year.
When will travel agents get to see your river cruise ships?
Yes, it’s bizarre that we have two new ships that agents haven’t seen yet! When we launched Spirit of Discovery and hosted around 700 agents onboard, we got hugely positive feedback and saw bookings increase as a result. We understand agencies need to get themselves back up and running; but we’ll be looking to show off our new ships as soon as we can.
In the meantime, we’re continuing to support agents with joint marketing, webinar training sessions and virtual consumer events.
We’ve held multiple events with travel agents throughout the pandemic and we’re keen to continue supporting them as much as we can.