Thomson Cruises, which is part of TUI Travel group, is looking to modernise its fleet both with potential new ships and upgrades to existing ships, the company’s Managing Director tells Travel Weekly.
Managing director Fraser Ellacott disclosed that there would be news about “exciting plans” for the UK’s third largest cruise company in three to four months time. The company operates four ships under the Thomson Cruises brand name - Thomson Dream, Thomson Spirit, Thomson Destiny and Thomson Celebration - plus one ship branded as Island Escape on the UK market. The vessels are second generation cruise ships, all built between 1982 and 1986 and range in size from 34,000 to 56,000 gross tons. All ships are operated on time charter from their respective owners.
“For the longer term, clearly we have a need to modernise,” he told Travel Weekly. When asked if this would involve work to the existing fleet and new tonnage, he replied that both were under consideration. The development flowed from a strategic review of the company he undertook when taking the helm nine months ago.
Ellacott is also looking to the Middle East and North Africa as possible new destinations from summer 2013, identifying Libya, Lebanon, Algeria and the Dead Sea as offering history and culture that would appeal to British passengers in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Ellacott said it was too early to gauge the impact of the Costa Concordia tragedy on business, saying the industry would learn any lessons to emerge from what he described as a “significant event”. In the meantime, he is anxious to highlight the key USP’s of the Tui UK & Ireland cruise brand, such as fly-cruises from 22 regional airports, tips and service charges included in the up-front price, destination-rich itineraries and more flexible cruise and stay options.
He described feedback from customer service questionnaires in 2011 as the best ever and continuing to improve, with around half of passengers on repeat cruises with the company. “Once people have tried cruising with us, very few don’t go back,” he said. A return to ex-UK sailings this summer with Thomson Spirit offering departures from Newcastle and Harwich was proving popular with customers in the north of England, added Ellacott according to the report.