At a media lunch late May… New Zealand Cruise chair Debbie Summers (third from left) the Regent of the Seven Seas, Oceania contingent Jason Worth, Lisa Pile and Steve Odell At a media lunch late May… New Zealand Cruise chair Debbie Summers (third from left) the Regent of the Seven Seas, Oceania contingent Jason Worth, Lisa Pile and Steve Odell

Big cruise opportunities

One of the region’s leading cruise personalities is reminding New Zealand travel agents to stay positive and keep pushing the luxury, small ship category.

The comments by Steve Odell, senior vice president and managing director Asia Pacific of Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, come at a time when the lines are announcing a progressive return to sailing and pent up demand is filling the ships fast.

However, it coincides with the announcement that Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer will not be carrying out its 2021-22 Australasian programme. Odell says this is because of continuing  uncertainty in this part of the world and in wider Asia. Instead, the ship will cruise in the Mediterranean and then the Caribbean.

Odell and other Australian-based representatives from the cruise lines hosted an agents’ cocktail function at Park Hyatt Auckland last night.

‘Agents are harder to reach these days, especially with so many being home based so the function is a way to connect,’ says Odell. ‘We also think it is important to have a reassuring message – cruising is alive and well and their clients should be booking for 2022 and 2023.’

He says the cruise lines, along with Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), have instituted a policy that all crew and passengers on board need to be vaccinated beforehand. Other protocols, including pre-testing remain, in what Odell describes as a double layer of protection.

‘This is what our clients want and it has shown in forward bookings.

‘Vaccination is the key to return to sailing and getting things moving faster. The United States is almost 40% fully vaccinated, UK something like 35%. This part of the world is a bit behind the curve but the roll out is happening faster every day.’

He says destinations like the United States, Greece, Italy, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong have either been welcoming cruise for a while or are opening up now.

‘Of course a lot of these are locals-only cruises or cruise to nowhere, but things are changing fast. We hope these developments provide a template for local discussions. We have had positive and respectful discussions with Australia and New  Zealand but there is a long way to go.’

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