Cruise sector hopes good prices will counter bad press

Cruise sector hopes good prices will counter bad press

The cruise industry is hoping British stoicism and keen prices will prevent a bookings backlash from would-be cruisers put off by the recent spate of headline-grabbing incidents.

Last week, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ Balmoral was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. A crew member told tabloid newspapers how pirates were circling the ship, shots were fired and everyone was in tears.

According to Fred Olsen, suspicious unidentified craft were spotted on the radar, passengers were assembled inside and the captain started zig-zagging – known as aggressive manoeuvring – just in case.

More recently there was a “mutiny” on Costa Europa by passengers fed up when the ship missed four out of seven ports due to engine trouble, and a passenger was injured in Palma when MSC Fantasia’s gangway collapsed, ditching him 15 metres into the sea.

Oceania Cruises sales and marketing director Bernie Carter said the incidents are disturbing, but agents should emphasise to clients that they are rare.

“Events like this cause a bit of adverse publicity but there are a multitude of cruise choices out there and clients should not be put off by headlines.”

Oceania’s Nautica was attacked by Somali pirates last November, but had its best booking week for three years last week. Carter said: “A combination of the British mentality and good value prices mean customers will still travel.”

The Cruise Village managing director Phil Nuttall said the spate of incidents wouldn’t put people off cruising.

“We have never had any calls from worried clients, but if we did we would reassure them that cruising is the safest way to travel; that passenger safety is paramount for cruiselines.

Nuttall added: “The British never seem to worry. They are going on holiday and assume everything will be OK.”

Passenger Shipping Association director Bill Gibbons said: “From time to time, as within all travel industries, there will be isolated incidents but cruise companies work exceptionally hard at dealing effectively with these issues. Security and safety are the industry's highest priorities and these are guided by a network of internationally approved standards.”

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