Emily Eastman talks to CMV’s Chris Coates and Mike Hall about how the line is looking to expand its fleet and itineraries, but without changing its USP
Cruise & Maritime Voyages has, in recent years, doubled-down on its USP. Rather than attempt to compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace where lines are working overtime to attract new-to-cruise customers, CMV is instead honing its offering to its target audience: over-50s keen to tick off bucket-list-worthy destinations at a competitive price.
Next year, CMV launches its Grand Round the World Cruise aboard Columbus, a 120-night escape that spans five continents, 27 countries and 38 ports of call. With a lead-in offer of buy one, get one free, the trip works out at just £75 per person per night, cheaper than many city hotels.
The 2020 itinerary follows what has already been a successful 2019. New ship Vasco da Gama launched in Singapore back in April, arriving in London Tilbury in June via calls in Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Portugal. Formerly Pacific Eden with P&O Australia, the 1,220-passenger ship has now been officially onboarded to the CMV fleet.
The line credits its growth to the popularity of its small and mid-sized ships, which offer itineraries and ports of call often unavailable to larger vessels. The line undoubtedly has a loyal following, with some Cruise Club Members having sailed close to 1,000 nights with the line – an impressive figure given that CMV only launched in 2010.
According to CMV group commercial director Chris Coates, “Four cruise conglomerates own upwards of 70 per cent of the industry. It’s not what the traditional cruise market wants.”
And that market is expanding. “By next year, there will be more people in the UK over the age of 55 than under,” says Mike Hall, CMV’s head of marketing. “That puts it into perspective. This is a golden period – people at that age for the next five to ten years will be retiring on good pensions. That’s our target audience, and it’s a growing audience.”
But the line’s growth hasn’t been just purely numbers-based, says Hall. “Itinerary is the number one reason why people cruise with us. We have a lot of very popular perennial itineraries that we run year after year, but we’re also always looking for different itineraries, particularly as we have a lot of loyal customers who want to travel somewhere new.”
CMV’s fleet complements this ambition. Tristan da Cunha – a remote group of islands which can only be accessed by smaller vessels – has been added as a port of call for cross-Atlantic cruises.
There is an element of impact awareness to the line’s small-ship philosophy. “CMV makes sure it can put on the right number of excursions that won’t adversely affect the communities in each destination,” says Hall. “Where we go into places with small communities, we ensure we’re not making an impact on that environment.”
And it is a business model that continues to prove popular. “There are, without a shadow of a doubt, a lot of people who prefer this type of ship,” Hall adds. “They can easily find their way around, they’re going to get to know the crew and the other passengers. It’s a home from home. That’s why they come back. You’re not just a number.”
It is this culture of familiarity that CMV intends to be known for. The line already works closely with the trade, which accounts for around
80 per cent of its business, and it has invested heavily in ramping up its field sales support, welcoming four new business development managers to the UK team and continuing to support the agent community.
“I think the proposition we have
is quite simple,” says Hall. “The danger with the larger cruise lines is that they can, in the end, try to be all things to all people. But we are unashamedly in the over-50s sector.”
CMV’s average passenger age is 67, but the line has responded to customer demand for multi-generational sailings by launching a few cruises in the August school holidays where guests can bring their children and grandchildren.
It is also responding to demand for greater capacity in the UK market, with Coates teasing “something new for the UK soon, possibly even in 2020”.
Vasco da Gama is intended to boost source markets in Germany and in Australia when it repositions there later in the year.
“It’s no secret that we want to grow the fleet more internationally,” says Hall. “It may not be in 2020, it may be 2021, but there’s a new ship in the pipeline. It won’t be a brand new ship – we’re not into shipbuilding – but we’ll acquire one.”
CMV certainly knows its market, and Hall asserts that agents, for the most part, understand its offering. “The bigger challenge with agents now is to understand that, yes, we’re very well known for doing the British Isles and fjords and Baltics and all the northern places, but we are now getting into these much longer cruises; round-the-world trips, more exotic destinations. So it’s getting agents to understand that we do offer that for this demographic – these people are time-rich.”
It should be a simple sell: a clearly defined market and packages for which CMV knows there is demand.