P&O Cruises is embarking on a massive public
relations campaign to rebuild confidence in its shattered brand after the
stomach bug on board Aurora.
Agents up and down the country will receive
information on the virulent Norwalk virus, which hit more than 500 passengers
during a Mediterranean cruise last week, in an effort to head off
cancellations. The bug causes nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting.
P&O Cruises managing director David Dingle said:
“Our big job is to restore confidence. We are hopeful that agents can be our
first line of defence and explain this virus to customers. It is not an illness
that is specific to cruise ships.”
Dingle said P&O bosses were discussing if a raft
of targeted discounts would help override the bad publicity about the ship. Aurora
was denied permission to dock at the Greek port of Piraeus and then sparked a
diplomatic row on reaching Gibraltar when the Spanish closed their border with
the colony citing health concerns.
The cruiseline already had plans to bring out a new
brochure on December 1, and Dingle said prices may be adjusted in that.
“We haven’t had any significant level of cancellations
so far,” he said. “Lots of customers with forward bookings have called for
reassurance and are happy to proceed as normal.”