Oceania Cruises UK boss targets Southampton base from 2024

Oceania Cruises’ UK boss is “lobbying” for one of the line’s ships to be based in Southampton for a mini-season from 2024.

Bernie Carter, Oceania Cruises’ senior vice-president and managing director, EMEA, told Travel Weekly the line had “found its feet again” in terms of UK sales and bolstering its ship deployment in Southampton was “in the playbook”.

He said: “Back in 2019 we reached that critical mass point where we could fill an O-class ship [Marina and Riviera]. I was looking at offering a series of sailings [from Southampton].

“We’re now finding our feet again and I am certainly lobbying increasingly our Southampton round-trip opportunities.

“By the time we reach 2024 I would like to see us selling at least a modest summer season out of the UK.”

When asked if incoming vessel Vista or its unnamed sister vessel could potentially operate from Southampton, he said one of the line’s R-class vessels, such as Nautica, was his preferred choice.

Carter also confirmed Oceania would be giving away three places to UK agents to join a pre-inaugural four-night sailing on Vista in Europe in spring 2023.

The winning agents would stay in one of the 174 Veranda staterooms on the 1,200-passenger ship, due to launch in April 2023.

He said the line would run a competition next month where agents can enter a prize draw by making an Oceania booking.

In late March, Oceania hosted a presidential forum on a river cruise boat in Germany to allow 50 top agents to meet Howard Sherman, who became president and chief executive in January.

Meetings, speeches and breakout sessions were held with agents during the round-trip sailing from Dusseldorf.

“There was a real feeling of togetherness,” commented Carter.

He added there had been “an uptick” in UK sales since the three-day sailing. “We had a fairly quite period, keeping our powder dry when other lines were filling space, but since we had the forum, we’ve seen a significant uptick in business,” he explained.

Oceania experienced another record-breaking sales day as it launched its 2023-24 programme last Wednesday.

More than 350 sailings ranging from 7 to 82 days in length from October 2023 to December 2024 went on sale.

All were new cash bookings with “absolutely no dilution” from future cruise credits issued during the pandemic, according to the line.

A third of all bookings came from passengers new to the company.

The voyage most in demand was a 35-day circumnavigation of Australia departing on December 21, 2023, where more than 60% of capacity was filled in one day.

Sherman said: “The 2024 Collection launch illustrates tremendous and continued strong demand for cruising in addition to highlighting the increased trend in planning travel farther out, both for past guests and new-to-brand guests.”

Carter confirmed bookings made in the UK and across the globe smashed previous opening day records held by the line.

He highlighted how passengers were “aware” of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine but it had not stopped people booking.

But he added the ongoing war had “some impact” on the US market.

More: Oceania Cruises’ first Vista sailings revealed

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