There’s been a conference in Madrid, the “International Cruise Summit”, and apparently they discussed the issues facing the future of cruising in Europe. A number of issues seem to have been raised – a ‘fear factor’ is one issue, according to the director of Celestyal Cruises (they used to be the Cyprus-based Louis Cruises). He was worried about the general drop in calls to the Eastern Med (and presumably business for his company) in the last 18 months.
Other issues raised were the need for lines and ports to reach agreements on operating together; and the Port of Rome representative spoke of the mistrust between ports and local authorities. Berth availability and congestion was also raised.
However, the report that especially interested me was a discussion on the issues apparently being caused by the rise in independent tour operators versus cruise line shore excursion sales. Apparently, there is a general decline in the latter, especially for Brits. Shirley Henderson, described as shore excursions manager for Carnival UK is quoted as saying “Brits are very independent and are happy to go off in search of an adventure”. Hmm – not sure I’ve seen many adventurous Brits on cruises, but maybe I was looking the wrong way. Ms Henderson must know – she presumably has the figures to hand. Another delegate’s comment to the effect that poor guides, incorrect descriptions of what’s being offered and operations that go wrong are the main issues with cruise line excursions certainly resonated with me. (That was Claire Ward of Fred Olsen.)
Val has just reminded me that we haven’t actually done any real third party excursions. We’ve done DiY trips ashore, using public transport to get around and then paying our own admission into attractions, but we’ve never really picked a third-party excursion for ourselves. In general, that must mean that either we’ve found the official excursions OK, or it’s been a port where we could DiY.
What has been my readers’ experiences with 3rd party excursions? Or, indeed, with official ones?