Which? publishes annual cruise line report

UK-based consumer group, Which?, has published its annual cruise line report.

The report, which is based on cruise passengers’ experiences on board, assessed 13 different cruise companies and rated them out of five stars across eight different categories. These included customer service, cabin space, on-board facilities, entertainment and value for money. Oceania achieved five stars in several categories and came out as the overall leader in customer satisfaction with a score of 89 percent. At the other end of the scale, Norwegian came bottom with an overall satisfaction score of 60 percent.

The figures revealed a trend towards customers favouring smaller ships with fewer passengers. Cabin space also proved a major issue with consumers and Oceania scored well in both of these categories, including five out of five stars for passenger to space ratio. Although the company’s food quality and on-board facilities also scored highly, it only managed three stars for its entertainment.

Saga, a cruise line exclusively for the over 50’s, came second on the list. 85 percent of its passengers were Very Satisfied with their cruise experience. P&O was named best of the large cruise line companies. It scored well for on-board facilities, cabin quality and passenger to space ratio, and at an average per night cost of £152, it figured well against Saga’s £252 per night and Oceania’s £294 per night. Its main complaint was the hard sell of add-ons and excursions.

Norwegian’s less impressive rating came despite a competitive £175 average cost per night. Not surprisingly for a company that has three ships that are capable of accommodating 4,000 passengers, it fared badly on the passenger to space ratio, with frequent queues for restaurants, bars and entertainment. However, Which? stated that Norwegian’s overall 60 percent score was by no means a disaster.

Saga Cruises to launch new all-balcony cruise ship

British cruise line Saga Cruises has announced plans to introduce a new all-balcony ship, which will be available to holidaymakers from 2019, The Telegraph has reported.

The new vessel will carry nearly 1,000 passengers in around 540 suites and cabins, each with a balcony. Around 15 per cent of cabins will be designed for single occupancy, and leisure facilities will include outdoor and indoor swimming pools, a spa, saunas, treatment rooms and beauty salon.

Saga Cruises currently only operates two ships, the 446-passenger Saga Pearl II and the 706-passenger Saga Sapphire, both of which will be eventually phased out. The plan for a new vessel comes as demand for sailings on the current ships are mounting: they carried around 25,000 passengers last year, with a 75 per cent repeat passenger rate. Sailings on the two existing vessels sell out far in advance, the report noted.

Additionally, according to research by Saga on the travel/holiday patterns of the 50-plus age group, spending on cruising is expected to increase by 43 per cent to £2.2bn by 2020. This compares with £1.65bn in 2014 of £41bn on travel and tourism as a whole. Nearly a third (32 per cent) of the over-50s in employment said they were planning to increase their spending on cruises post retirement.

Built by Meyer Werft in Germany, the new vessel will come into service in 2019. A second new vessel may also enter service by 2021.

Robin Shaw, chief executive of the cruising division, said that ‘There is no expectation that customers will pay more’ as a result of the new ships.

The Saga Pearl II and the Saga Sapphire will visit 14 new ports in 2016, including Holy Loch, Scotland; Boulogne-sur-Mer in France; Pyramiden in the Svalbard archipelago; San Remo in Italy and Southwold in Suffolk.

Over 50’s Brits to hit the road on September 8

This year, September 8, is regarded as the most popular day of the year for UK travellers over 50 years of age to set off on vacation.

Saga Travel Insurance, a UK-based insurance company catering to the insurance requirements of the population in the age group of 50 years and above, has recently released research results that say that elderly travellers prefer to take a vacation when the children are back to school, with the most popular travel date being the first weekend after the schools reopen.

While Spain has traditionally been the most popular destination with travellers over 50, this year, their favourite destination is Italy, followed by Spain and Greece.

Roger Ramsden, the chief executive officer of Saga Services, said, ‘With the weather we’ve seen this summer it’s no wonder the over 50s want to get away to find some sun and sand as the school holidays end. It’s great to see so many people searching for adventure and making the most out of their time away.

Of course it’s also important that even when on a tight budget people don’t cut corners on travel insurance. Not only do people take expensive gadgets away with them but a simple slip or trip overseas can prove expensive and would take the shine off even the sunniest holidays.’

According to the research, travellers over 50 have a healthy love of technology, with around 23 percent of them booking their own vacation on the Internet, without involving travel agents, while 28 percent of them will also be carrying their laptops with them, 24 percent will carry smartphones, and 14 percent will carry kindle reading devices.