CEC in Edinburgh: fourth time lucky

Monday, June 6, 2022 - 14:22 by ce-press

It may have been the fourth attempt to hold the in-person Cruise Europe Conference in UNESCO Edinburgh but, perseverance paid off and the wait was worth it.

Heralded the largest ever cruise event to be held in Scotland by Stuart Wallace, coo Forth Ports Ltd, member ports and associates, cruiseline executives and the press came together in numbers to discuss the new world order: post the Covid pandemic.

Jens Skrede, managing director CE, commented: “We have a record 200 member delegates attending from 20 countries as well as 20 cruiseline executives from across the cruise spectrum.”

Resilience was the word highlighted by host Rob Mason, head of cruise Forth Ports Capital Cruising, as best describing how we have come through the last two years, and it was a theme returned to again and again.

This is an industry that has weathered many a storm but this one is the biggest to date. Despite a giant full stop as the entire fleet came to a standstill in March 2020 - and still not 100% back on the water - new brands were started, including Ambassador Line, which was represented by a trio of executives.

Scotland itself is due to welcome over 100 cruiseships to its ports and anchorages this season, an encouraging start as passengers become more confident about returning to holidays away from home.

While many of the conference topics have been around for some time, there seemed to be a renewed and heightened desire to collaborate. The two-year hiatus has highlighted the need for the industry collectively to work together more than ever before.

Sacha Rougier, head of itinerary planning & shore excursions, Explora Journeys, commented: “Covid has brought us closer than ever before, we have to extend and deepen our collaboration.”

I would like to make an observation, which I heard echoed during the three-day event. It feels as though the ports and destinations have gained a more even footing with the lines. Recognising that for many of the ports, cruise is a very small part of their business, one executive noted: “We need them, more than they need us.”

Sustainability was another hot topic and, here again, Rougier highlighted the importance of collaboration: “Sustainability is key. We have to do this hand in hand and we rely on you, our partners on the ground, to overcome obstacles, for example health and safety and sustainability.”

During the pandemic, ports were heavily involved in repatriating crew, accommodating ships on layup, working out health and safety protocols, turning on a sixpence as itinerary changes had to be made, bringing communities onside.

The outcome has been increased flexibility on both sides which has already been put to keen use in the Baltic as cruiselines rejig itineraries due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The one-day conference took place in Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel, with a series of networking events taking place in such august and stunning venues as The Royal Yacht Britannia and the National Museum of Scotland.

It is certainly true that the hospitality sector is struggling to get back, not least when it comes to cruise, but the staff of the hotel excelled themselves from the moment we entered to the moment we left, both as a hotel and as a conference venue. Congratulations.

Mason, and his stellar team of Marianne Beggs and Nicola Millar, also showed just how events should be run. A better accolade for visiting cruiselines would be hard to find.

As always CE ensures there is plenty of time for networking, providing many a platform for real-life conversations to be had - an overdue and welcome break from Zoom/Teams - faces to be put to names, introductions, connections and a sense of renewed and joyous energy that the industry is back together again.

Cruise Europe has long been a favourite on the annual calendar and this one was no exception.

Sandra Bratland, Carnival Group Norway, commented: “I would like to thank you all for a brilliant conference and pre-programme in Edinburgh last week. It was educational, entertaining and very professional. It was a good opportunity to connect with the cruise family and not the least; to get to know Edinburgh - what a lovely city!”

Whilst Chris Coates, director Ambassador Cruise Line (ACL), said: “[It was] A really great conference and one of the best I have attended in nearly 40 years in the passenger shipping business … The right balance of serious business blended with a lot of fun and such great company. It did actually feel like a family had come together again … After the long pause, Edinburgh was the perfect venue with all the stops being pulled out.”

From a CE member point of view, Melanie Henderson, Port of Lerwick, commented: “Seeing the CE network enjoying Edinburgh has been a joy. We’ve come away armed with more knowledge and great connections.”
CEC in Edinburgh: fourth time lucky
LtoR: Michael McCarthy chairman Cruise Europe, Stuart Wallace, Rob Mason and Jens Skrede (c) Forth Ports Ltd/Devlin Photo Ltd

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