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Vaccine news heralds swift return to the seas in 2021

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It seems that Covid-19 vaccines are rather like London buses, with not one, but three candidates reporting up to 95% effectiveness in recent weeks.

And with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine now approved for use in the UK, there finally appears to be light at the end of the tunnel after this most challenging of years. So what does this mean for the cruise industry?

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic we've been keeping our clients abreast of the latest developments, as well as carrying out research into attitudes towards cruising and coronavirus. In October we put together our new Cruise Expert Panel, comprised of Mundy clients and regular cruisers, and our most recent survey, carried out towards the end of November, revealed that luxury cruisers are optimistic about a return to the seas in 2021. Just over 80% of respondents are planning to cruise next year, though the majority will wait until they have been vaccinated first.

Clearly hopes are high that vaccines will provide the silver bullet that the travel industry needs, although the survey results painted a slightly more nuanced picture. Just under half of our survey respondents said that they would only cruise once they had been vaccinated and the majority of the population had been vaccinated, while a further 39% said they would cruise once they had been vaccinated, even if the majority of the population had not. A bullish 9% said that a vaccine made no difference and they would get on a cruise ship tomorrow if they could, while 3% said they would cruise without being vaccinated, provided that the majority of the population had already had the jab.

Silver Whisper in Guadeloupe

In terms of timescales, 30% of our clients expect to cruise again in the second quarter of 2021, while 22% have their sights set on the third quarter and 18% expect to be back on board between October and December 2021. An April restart matches up with what most cruise lines are currently planning for, though 11% of the panel believe they will be back on board even sooner than that.

We have also been measuring the change in sentiments towards cruising and Covid-19 over the course of the pandemic. Our most recent survey showed that 19% of respondents don't expect to cruise again until 2022 or later, a percentage that is unchanged from a previous survey carried out in June 2020. The research also found that 74% of respondents are planning an ocean cruise for their next trip and 14% have a river cruise in mind. This is a significant shift since the summer, when 55% expected their first post-pandemic cruise to be an ocean voyage and 30% were planning a river cruise.

The June 2020 survey showed a significant shift amongst luxury cruisers towards smaller ships after the pandemic, and this was born out once more in the most recent survey - 51% would now prefer to travel on a ship carrying between 50 - 500 guests, compared to 37% before the pandemic, and the percentage favouring a ship carrying 1,000 guests or more has dropped from 15% to just 7%.

Crystal Esprit in the Seychelles

Our most recent survey has given us a lot of food for thought, but the overriding sentiment is one of cautious optimism regarding the resumption of cruising in 2021. Mundy clients are a well-travelled, well-informed and pragmatic bunch, so it's no surprise to us that the responses are grounded in a realistic appraisal of where things stand.

Even with today's news, we know that a vaccine will take time to roll out, which is why the cruise lines are pressing ahead with their detailed and exhaustive plans to ensure that cruising post-Covid is safer than ever. Nevertheless, this recent flurry of good news is a welcome boost that brings us one step closer to setting foot on our favourite ships again in 2021.

Edwina Lonsdale
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

More about Edwina
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