Many turn their eyes to the open sea as the United Kingdom recovers from a less-than-ideal summer season. The UK cruise sector is reporting a significant uptick in autumn cruise bookings, with a notable increase in occupancy rates and prices compared to last year.
This surge in interest and costs directly results from disappointing British summer weather, pushing more people to seek solace aboard luxurious cruise liners, sailing to sunny destinations such as the Canary Islands, Spain, and the Mediterranean.
Cruise Bookings Surge Amid Dismal Weather
Travel giant TUI, which operates UK-based cruise line Marella Cruises and German cruise lines Mein Schiff and Hapag Lloyd, revealed in its Q3-2023 business statement that the lackluster summer had led to a 9% increase in autumn occupancy levels onboard its cruise ships.
It’s not entirely surprising that cruises are becoming more popular. Besides the fact that summer in the UK did not materialize, UK-based cruise ships typically operate around the British Isles in summer, while in winter, they head to more tropical destinations.
With its fleet of five ships, Marella operates itineraries to the Canary Islands and the Caribbean and reintroduces Asia for the upcoming Winter season. Another UK-based cruise line, Saga Cruises, will operate in the Canary Islands and the Caribbean this winter with its two cruise ships, Spirit of Adventure and Spirit of Discovery.
The increase in available warm-weather itineraries and the poorer summer weather in the UK has boosted bookings and demand. Unfortunately, for those looking to book a cruise for the upcoming autumn and winter, prices for cruises are also seeing a noticeable bump.
Research shows that on TUI’s UK cruise brand, Marella, a mid-October week in the eastern Mediterranean now costs around £1,500 for a balcony cabin, although these include flights.
Even the cheapest October cruise will set you back just over 700 pounds, significantly higher than a year ago when cruise lines tried filling up ships with more affordable pricing. The demand for cruises remains strong through Christmas, which is becoming an increasingly popular time to cruise for Brits.
Future Outlook for the UK Cruise Sector
It’s not just the bad weather in the UK that is making people turn to cruising in increasing numbers in the United Kingdom. The country has long been the fastest-growing cruise industry in Europe. And, despite the setbacks during the pandemic, the UK cruise industry is on track to reach 2 million passengers in 2023, while 1.66 million cruised in 2022.
Ian McQuade, Chair of Cruise Britain, remarked, “What we are seeing now are the rewards for an industry that has consistently worked together to recover, regenerate and develop.“
And the growth is not just in passenger numbers; many ports around the UK have opened up their doors to cruise ships, which cruise lines are taking advantage of with a record number of calls this year, according to Cruise Britain’s data.
“For 2023, we see a very robust projected growth of 8% in terms of port calls across the UK. Some regions, such as the South West, North West, and Scotland, are reporting likely figures in excess of this national growth rate.”
However, that growth also brings problems. Over the last couple of weeks, several ports and locals have voiced their discontent with cruise ships visiting their cities.
In the Orkney Islands, the local council has been forced to close down streets to handle the vast number of cruise ship passengers that flood the town. And in Fowey, in Cornwall, the arrival of a Saga Cruises ship blocked the view of the harbor due to its colossal size.