Will all of us ever cruise again? That’s just one of the questions I posed to Mary Jean Tully, founder and CEO of Tully Luxury Travel, one of the most respected travel agencies in North America, with annual sales of more than $100 million in cruise sales alone. Her travel agency, located in Toronto, has a global clientele and is the Number One revenue-producer worldwide in the luxury cruise market. Ms. Tully granted me an exclusive interview as to the status of luxury travel right now, in light of the pandemic.
What is going on for you right now at your travel agency?
Currently we are getting people home, whether they live in the Stares, the UK, Canada or elsewhere. With all of the continual changing of itineraries it has been daunting with all the closings. We are also helping new clients — who were not our original clients — who booked online and they have had no one help them or to be their advocate. That is where we step in.
Are you getting a lot of cancellations?
Of course – people were cancelling as they were afraid of being quarantined in another country. But, if you stop and think of how many cruise ships were out there, all without incident, that says a lot as well. People were nervous, the media wasn’t helping and things were changing by the hour. On Crystal Cruise Lines World Cruise, that was to say, a cruise of over 100 days, we had just 98 passengers onboard alone that were our clients and not one of them was affected by the virus.
Some chose to leave the ship early as they were nervous about ports of call and if they were going to wind up being quarantined in a particular place or if they had health issues and they just wanted to get home. Crystal was absolutely perfect and worked with us to make sure everything was executed just beautifully
What happened on Princess was handled wrong by both the cruise line and the Port Authority in Japan. They should have gotten all those people off the ship and should have handled it differently. They should not have been quarantined without the proper procedures. There were only 10 cases on board and because they kept them in quarantine without proper procedures in place and medical supplies, that number rose to 700. The quarantine was not justified and caused way more problems that could have been stopped. This mistake was a huge cost to many.
This was something new and foreign for everyone. It was a tragic error.
Is anyone booking cruises with you right now?
Yes, many are booking later in the year and in 2021. The cruise lines have been outstanding in giving future cruise credits and working with us. I feel very sorry for what everyone — especially the cruise lines — have to endure because of all of this. But they could not have handled it any better as things were changing on a daily basis. Not one of my clients who came off any of the cruise ships — whether it was Crystal, Regent, Seabourn or Silversea — all of them said that they would not hesitate to cruise again. All would have also stayed on the ships had it not been for the uncertainty of being quarantined as so many ports were closing as they were worried that their infrastructures would not be able to handle passengers if they were sick. So for the sake of having tourists come into their city for just one day, they decided at the last minute to turn the ships away. This created a complete nightmare and a ricochet affect everywhere.