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Cruise Lines optimistic on regaining India numbers

Towards the end of 2020, the cruising industry had started gearing up to welcome travellers with all stringent health and safety protocols in place. The cruise players started building confidence amongst their patrons to restart sailing. Destinations across the globe began to ease their travel restrictions and borders started to reopen. The hopes crashed once again with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic putting a total halt to the tourism industry early this year. However, cruise Liners are now positive about the accelerated vaccination drive globally, that the industry will soon be back on track.

Ben Angell, Vice President and Managing Director APAC, Norwegian Cruise Line, said, “The second wave has been extremely tough for agents and travellers alike, but with the acceleration of the global vaccination drive and our international return to cruise, we’ve seen renewed optimism, interest and demand. As more people complete their vaccinations and borders begin to open up, there’s a sense in the community that we are slowly getting closer to reaching our ‘new normal’.”

India has been one of the top fly-cruise destinations for majority of the cruise liners. With borders shutting due to rise in covid-19 cases in India, cruise liners have to further wait to tap the Indian outbound cruisers.

Naresh Rawal, Vice President – Sales (India & South Asia), Genting Cruise Line, added, “The second wave of the pandemic in India has indeed led to a suspension and delay in opportunities for the new travel bubbles within region to ignite the travel and cruise industry. However, we are closely monitoring both the local and international situation to identify new and safe opportunities, especially for the Fly-Cruise segment in the near future.”

Despite these challenges, India still remains one of the top potential source markets for cruise liners. Now with newer travel bubbles coming up in the region, opportunities will once again arise for cruise liners.

Rawal said, “India is an important market with immense potential as a cruise hub in the region, including the Fly-Cruise market to neighbouring countries. For Genting Cruise Lines, India has always been close to us, as we had previously homeport and call on the various local ports in the past and also build a healthy Fly-Cruise market. We are optimistic as we continue to monitor the situation and with the rolling out of vaccination, coupled with preventive measures locally, new opportunities for travel bubble will arise in the future that will lead to new viable travel options, including for the cruise sector.”

Norwegian Cruise Line has already started witnessing strong demand for the upcoming years. The cruise line also witnesses guests looking at longer trips. Angell, said, “Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, with the acceleration of the vaccine rollout and our global return to service, we’ve seen a very positive upward trend in the number of bookings and enquiries from India over the past few weeks, which tells us there is significant interest and pent-up demand. We are seeing a good volume of interest from Indian cruisers in the last quarter of 2021, and particularly strong demand for 2022 and 2023. In 2022 and 2023, we are seeing guests plan longer trips, further afield.”

Majority of the businesses across the globe stalled their further expansion plans. On the flipside, cruise lines have re-strategiesed their expansion plans and most of the players have further invested during the lull period.

“In general, our cruise itineraries are depending on the local requirements and evolving pandemic situation. For instance, in Singapore, at present we only offer Super Seacation cruises on the open ocean. In Taiwan previously, we were only offering domestic cruises and soon in Hong Kong, we will similarly be starting off with the Summer Super Seacation cruises. Our fleet deployment will also be fluid as we adapt to the evolving landscape and situation,” Rawal said.

Norwegian Cruise Line has further invested to refurbish its older fleet apart from constructing new class vessels. “On the contrary, we have invested during this pause in operations to both upgrade our existing ships, as well as construct an entirely new class of vessels. Norwegian Prima is the first of our highly anticipated new Prima Class. We’ll be delivering six new ships in six consecutive years, from 2022 until 2027. Shortly after announcing Norwegian Prima, she became our most in-demand ship ever – the single-best booking day and best initial booking week for any of our newbuild sales in our 54-year history. Meanwhile, Norwegian Epic went through an upgrade of The Haven by Norwegian – our exclusive ship-in-ship concept –at the end of 2020 and now boasts 75 reimagined suites combined with redesigned experiences like the all-new ‘The Haven’ Restaurant and ‘The Haven Courtyard Pool and Sundeck’”, Angell informed.

Rebuilding the consumer confidence will be the priority for the cruise industry. To further tap the India market, cruise liners are unveiling new itineraries and various offers in India market.

Angell said, “We want to grow brand awareness amongst travellers, while working closely with travel agents to optimise their selling potential. Our brand-new ship Norwegian Prima will take centre-stage as we announce more details about her onboard experiences, but we’ll also be showcasing our ships and itineraries in The Mediterranean, Hawaii and Alaska for Indian guests. We’ve launched our most popular promotion in India – known as BOGOHO or Buy One Get One Half Off. For every cruise fare purchased, the second guest in the same stateroom will receive a 50% discount. The offer is available for a limited time only and allows travelers to choose from more than 250 sailings.”

Genting Cruise Line has also been promoting unique products such as thematic cruises in India. “Rebuilding consumers’ confidence on the safety of cruising and providing peace of mind for vacationers will be crucial. As such, we will continue to inform and educate consumers on the enhanced safety and preventive measures that I had previously mentioned, complemented by a series of unique offerings including special and exciting thematic cruises - bringing the world aboard the ship. For instance, we introduced various thematic cruises like Amazing Thailand, Rhythm of Korea and at present Wonders of Japan. Also, for the Singapore deployment, World Dream is the first cruise ship to receive the Vegetarian certification from the GVCS-Global Vegetarian Certification Services,” Rawal added.

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