Pent-up consumer demand and collaboration among cruise lines means that the sector is ready to bounce back strongly, say industry bosses.

Executives from Celebrity Cruises, Avalon Waterways UK and Oceania Cruises were united in their confidence while speaking at a Clia forum with Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley on Thursday (October 29).

Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity Cruises’ EMEA vice president and managing director, said: “It is important for the agency community to know how well we’re working across as an industry and as Clia.

“There are still lots of ships on order. There might be some delays…but there is great confidence across the industry, so we make sure that when we come back, the comeback is stronger than the setback.

“There is so much pent-up demand out there.”

Bernard Carter, senior vice-president and managing director at Oceania Cruises, added: “The cruise family, as a community, has started to rally now collectively against the vilification of cruise industry over the past 10 months.

“The demand that we’re seeing and the appreciation that we’re seeing from our travel partners and from our guests is going to come to the fore.

“Cruise is going to be the strongest bounce back of all the sectors in the industry.”

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Giles Hawke, chief executive at Cosmos Tours and Cruises and Avalon Waterways UK, commented: “The work that the cruise lines have done, both on the oceans and on the rivers, to make sure it is so extraordinarily safe for people to travel is way over and above what anybody else in the travel industry is doing, whether it be hotels, airlines, or other types of transport.

“The demand is definitely there. The future for all of us, agents and operators, is really exciting.”

He said consumers’ experience of lockdown and quarantine means that they want to reconnect with experiences and people who are important to them.

“They want to extend that into their holidays and have more joy, have more deep experiences, do things more rather than seeing things,” he said.

“Cruise is going to really win when this comes back, because the depth of experience and the closeness to the places you go, you can’t match it on any other holiday type.

“Once people are coming back to holidays that they have forgotten for over a year, the excitement levels, the anticipation, the expectation is going to be right up there.”

Rzymowska agreed, saying cruises offer great opportunities for multi-generational holidays, with families and friends reuniting.

She also said Celebrity Cruises is planning to change its brand positioning in light of customer feedback.

The cruise line has been working with Piers Schmidt, founder of Luxury Branding, about how the brand can change.

“The old world has gone; we will be coming into a new world, and longer term, a better world as well,” she said.

“We need to take some risks and use this opportunity to see how we can do things differently. That’s what we’ve been working on and I will reveal more in due course.”