Carnival UK has reassured travel agents it will continue to invest substantially in Ocean Village despite plans to axe the brand.

The company announced yesterday it plans to phase out the brand, starting from autumn 2009. The brand’s two ships will transfer to P&O Cruises Australia. Ocean Village II will move in autumn 2009 and Ocean Village in autumn 2010.

But Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle said the company would be “as active as ever” in promoting the brand through the trade in the peak January booking period.

He added: “I think it’s most important to reassure agents that we will continue to promote Ocean Village. We have still got two years of Ocean Village to go and we will not be hanging up our boots. We aim to give people a great holiday right until the end.”

He said the move was not linked to poor sales but was a result of increased fuel costs and rising air fares, added to the fact the ships could be more profitable in Australia. “The brand carries 100,000 passengers and generates decent revenues. But it was clear to me that we needed to fufil strong growing demand in Australia and the profitability in that part of the world was looking attractive. Clearly it is disappointing to wind down our Ocean Village operation but we must recognise the need to maximise profit performance.”

He added the move was part of the company’s strategy to focus on brands that “show the greatest growth potential”.

Ocean Village will operate a single ship in the Caribbean in winter 2009-2010 and the programme will be altered, with existing bookings being amended accordingly, Carnival UK said. A European programme will be operated in 2010.

P&O Cruises will take delivery of the 3,100 bed Azura in March 2010 and the new 2,100 bed Queen Elizabeth will join the Cunard fleet in October 2010.