Thomson Cruises will resume cruising from the UK when it gets another ship, TUI director of cruising UK and Ireland David Selby has vowed.
The cruiseline launched cruises from Liverpool and Harwich in 2005 but is pulling out of the UK in 2010, when it will have just three ships, to offer flycruises from Marmaris, Corfu and Palma.
Calypso, which Thomson has operated as an adult-only ship for the past two years, is leaving the fleet at the end of this summer. This summer it is sailing eastern Mediterranean cruises from Halkidiki to destinations including Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.
Selby said the ex-UK cruises have always sold well, but added: “We are a tour operator with our own airline. Our strength is flycruising. It makes sense for use to use our aircraft to fill our ships.”
For 2010, Thomson Celebration will be replacing Calypso in the eastern Med, sailing seven-night cruises from Marmaris, a new port for Thomson Cruises.
Selby said: “We have flights from 12 UK airports to Dalaman, which is just an hour and a half from Marmaris. Turkey has the advantage of being outside the eurozone and is a great cruise-and-stay destination.”
He confirmed TUI is in talks with Louis Cruise Lines and other companies about chartering a ship to replace Calypso. “We’re not in any hurry. I wouldn’t rule out getting something in 2010, but 2011 is more likely.”
Selby also refused to rule out adding a second ship to Island Cruises, to operate alongside Island Escape.
Island was merged with Thomson Cruises last October as part of TUI’s acquisition of First Choice. Originally, Island Escape was going to become a Thomson ship, but Selby has decided to retain the Island brand for the time being.
He said: “Island has a strong following with its customers so we are keeping the brand until we see how it works and it could be we add a second ship there. Island also has a strong following of third-party agents, which Thomson Cruises doesn’t, so we can maximise on that.”
Separate Thomson Cruises and Island Cruises brochures for 2010 have just been launched to help increase the cruiselines’ visibility on agents’ shelves. “You will see more Thomson and Island brochures,” Selby said.
Thomson has also retained Island’s five-strong on-the-road sales team, which is now tasked with promoting the Thomson brand.
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