The news on Monday that Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) would be expanding its fleet again came as a welcome, but not altogether surprising, turn of events. The purchase of Pacific Pearl (to be renamed Columbus), from P&O Australia, will undoubtedly prove to be a great acquisition that builds on the company’s relationship with Carnival Corporation. It will also become the biggest ship in CMV’s fleet when it starts sailing in June 2017.
The line has a seemingly winning formula of excellent value, ex-UK cruises that sail to a range of destinations around the world. Add to that a policy of encouraging travel agent sales, and it’s not hard to see why the line has enjoyed such growth. We sat down with Mike Hall, the company’s head of marketing, to find out a little bit more about the company’s new arrival, what it intends to change on the ship and if there was a secret to its success.
Cruise Adviser: What changes are going to be made to the Pacific Pearl?
Mike Hall: The ship is going to be undergoing a number of changes before it starts sailing for Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV). The teen centre will become the Columbus Lounge and Library, while the children’s centre will become Trumps and Aces, a dedicated bridge and card room with a separate craft studio. This is a first for us and comes on the back of the popularity we have seen for arts and crafts on our other ships. We have never had the opportunity to offer a dedicated space for it before. We usually have to take over an existing lounge. Taking on Columbus widens that and opens up bridge and arts & crafts to far more people.
What does Columbus mean for CMV?
This increases our capacity by another 25% and of course introduces another vessel to the ex-UK market. Columbus was the P&O Arcadia, which will mean something to a lot of people. It will homeport in London Tilbury, which means that we will add capacity onto regional ports up and down the country, great news for both travel agents and the British cruise market. We will continue to support the ports that we currently sail out of and there will also be some new ones, watch this space!
How has your regional business been developing?
When Magellan sailed into Dundee for the first time, we had a huge amount of support. People lined up along the estuary to see us arrive. Our success in Bristol means that Marco Polo will now have an extended season sailing from Avonmouth. There are no plans to retire the ship and you have to remember that because of the limited access to the port, there are few ships that can easily get in there. We have built up that business significantly and we really want to develop it more.
Will there be much differentiation across your fleet?
Marco Polo is going to be used more for some adventure-type cruises. There will be some itineraries next year that we have not done before. It is an 800-passenger ship so we can run it to some destinations that are a little bit more niche. Our established passengers love that because they’ve tried a lot of what we do already. This will give them the chance to try something else.
How do you intend on engaging with the trade as your capacity grows?
That’s key. The challenge for us is that we have a new vessel, which is not here, and that we can’t take agents to go see. However, it’s going on sale soon (March 31). We are reliant on them recognising what a CMV ship is and knowing what we can deliver. We are now established enough to do that. We give good levels of commission and continue to support the trade. It is a level playing field. They have our support and we need their support. They are our life blood.
What’s the secret to CMV’s success?
It’s the simplicity of the product and our core values. We don’t big ourselves up, we are a value brand. When we launched in 2010 we were in deep recession. We knew that we would have to be a value proposition and we have maintained that. It’s all ex-UK cruises, with good food and great service. We don’t wander off and start doing other things. We know that travel agents have an awful lot of potential holidays they can sell. So that continuity has helped us.
775 cabins (625 twin and 150 single)
77% ocean view
64 balcony cabins and suites