Here, we interview Tony Roberts, Chairman of CLIA UK and Princess Cruises’ Vice President UK & Europe, about the roadmap to cruise restart, Princess Cruises’ innovative new features and much more.
Hi Tony! Are you able to tell us a bit about your unique position as Chairman of CLIA UK & Ireland, the world’s largest cruise industry association?
As Chairman, my role entails representing and speaking on behalf of the cruise industry at events and with media and journalists, as well as working with the Executive Committee. In the last several months, since the voluntary pause of cruise operations, much of that focus has shifted to working closely with Government, operational and medical experts and port authorities to develop health protocols and outline a roadmap to cruise restart.
You are also Vice President UK & Europe for Princess Cruises. What can guests look forward to when cruising with Princess?
A cruise with Princess is like no other. We have always prided ourselves on being destination experts and providing our guests with extraordinary service and fantastic on board experiences, from fine dining to West-End style entertainment. On top of that, our entire fleet is now MedallionClass, meaning we can offer guests the ultimate in effortless, connected and personalised cruising, with the award-winning OceanMedallion wearable device, which replaces the traditional cruise card and our fast and reliable MedallionNet Wi-Fi.
The Princess MedallionClass, TrulyTouchless and Dine My Way experiences are just some of the innovations from Princess Cruises. Are you able to tell us a bit more about how these work and what guests can expect?
Guests sailing with Princess Cruises can enjoy TrulyTouchless experiences and personalised services through our MedallionClass Experience, such as touchless check-in and disembarkation, keyless stateroom entry and completely contactless payments, all of which support new health protocols. And, instead of restricting dining choices during the pandemic, we’ve been able to expand dining options for our guests, reducing wait times and eliminating the need to stand in line through our on-demand service OceanNow, which enables guests to order food and drink to anywhere on board and Dine My Way, a new MedallionClass enhancement that makes it easy for guests to pre-plan and tailor their dining experiences.
Representing the global cruise community during such an unprecedented time can’t have been easy. What do you think you have learnt about the travel industry over the last year?
Our industry has always been a strong, close-knit community and it has been incredible to see how we have supported one another over these last several months. While it has been quite some time since we’ve been able to welcome guests on board our ships, people will always love to cruise and it is because of our collaborative culture that makes the cruise industry so resilient in the face of adversity.
With ships set to return to the water later this year, including Princess’ very own Seacations, how do you feel this positive step forwards will affect the industry?
While international travel remains uncertain, these new cruises mean that UK residents can take a well-deserved holiday around the UK and can once again enjoy all the experiences only a cruise can offer. In addition, the gradual and phased-in manner of restart will help to restore confidence in our industry. We have already seen a successful restart of cruise in Europe and other parts of the world and these UK voyages will build on that confidence as we work towards eventually bringing all our ships back to service.
What are you most excited about for the future of travel for Princess and the cruise industry?
It is fantastic to see that cruise lines are continuing to invest in new ships, illustrating the confidence in our industry. Pre-pandemic, the UK and Ireland cruise market saw over two million guests choose to take a cruise and I believe we will reach those numbers again in the future. For Princess Cruises, we welcomed Enchanted Princess to the fleet last year and she is yet to sail with guests, so we are looking forward to welcoming guests on board for the first time. We are also very excited about the arrival of our newest ship - Discovery Princess - due to launch next year.
You have a huge amount of travel expertise under your belt, including 16 years with Carnival UK before your positions with Princess and CLIA. Do you have any top tips for our readers on how to make the most out of their cruise holidays?
Make sure to find the cruise itinerary and ship that is right for you. With so much choice out there, using a professional travel advisor can be extremely useful. And don’t be afraid to ask crew if you have any questions or need assistance on board - they are always happy to help and are there to make sure you have the best holiday possible.
Do you have any personal highlights from cruise holidays you’ve been on?
For me, it is the warm and friendly service received across the cruise industry that is truly unique. I have visited many resorts and hotels around the world but can honestly say that the warm and conscientious service received on board really sets the cruise industry apart.
Which destinations appear on your bucket list and why?
I would love to go to Alaska, a firm favourite for UK guests cruising with Princess. Alaska offers epic scenery and a huge array of wildlife that you can only really appreciate from the sea. And on top of that, there are many incredible and unique shore excursions to choose from.
What do you think the benefits are of booking with a cruise travel agent such as ROL Cruise?
Travel agents have always been incredibly important to Princess Cruises and the cruise industry as a whole. Even more so now we navigate through this new climate. The travel sector is very different to what we knew before and the knowledge, expertise and personalised service from travel agents like ROL Cruise that truly work in partnership with Princess are invaluable. As professional travellers, their first-hand experiences enable them to make recommendations on which ships and itineraries are right for their customers and they can provide support throughout the whole journey, from researching and booking through to travel and returning home.