P&O Cruises ‘confident’ it can fill new capacity

P&O Cruises is confident that it can fill its newest ship, Iona, and the forthcoming Arvia, as demand returns from new and returning passengers.

Iona (pictured) set sail on its maiden voyage in August and Arvia will launch in December 2022. Both have the capacity to carry 5,200 passengers.

Rob Scott, vice-president of sales, marketing and brand at P&O Cruises, told a Travel Weekly webcast that he is very confident that the cruise line can fill the extra capacity as the market recovers from the pandemic.

“We’ve got a very strong product with our Iona. It’s a very different and new product for the brand, but we also got our existing ships as well,” he said.

“We offer incredible choice with the ships and the destinations we offer and incredible value for money.

“What we’ve seen through Covid is that people are looking for that security and that trust and that feeling that they’re investing their holiday money well.”

He said there is a challenge with new-to-cruise clients who are “perhaps slightly further away from making a booking decision” than before the pandemic.

To entice passengers, the cruise line has launched a new TV advertising campaign and will also look to advertise later this year and early next January in the peak wave booking period.

“TV is an incredibly efficient medium for us as a brand, it really drives through to conversion for us,” he said.

The cruise line has moved away from using comedian Rob Brydon to a new style of advertising, featuring the strapline ‘What a night’ and real passengers.

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Commenting on its short season of domestic cruises on Iona this summer, Scott said P&O Cruises saw “a really good mix of new-to-cruise and past guests”.

“Also, we saw really high levels of guest satisfaction…that was the biggest pay-off for us, knowing that we could operate within the guidance at that time which was more prescriptive or restricted than it is now and deliver a holiday experience,” he said.

He said passengers must be fully vaccinated and wear masks onboard – and can book the theatre and restaurants with a new digital holiday planner.

Furthermore, the cruise line will be releasing videos featuring wine expert Ollie Smith to help show agents and customers what the experience onboard is like.

Scott said the brand ambassador partnership with singer Gary Barlow will continue and there are announcements planned for 2022 about other initiatives for Arvia.

“Gary actually loves travelling, he loves being onboard the ship and this is genuine,” said Scott, who spent time onboard with Barlow, the musical director of The 710 Club on Iona.

Ventura has returned to service this month and next spring sees the return of Aurora and Arcadia to operations.

“We’re part of a large corporation, there’s always talk of other ships,” said Scott.

“We obviously are very focused on launching Arvia…but I am really hopeful that the market can sustain a further Excel class in the future. You never say never.”

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