Good news today for those passengers regretting the forthcoming departure of adults-only ship Artemis from P&O’s fleet.
Managing director Carol Marlow has announced the introduction of a new ship in May 2011, a vessel carrying just 710 passengers and suitable for visiting destinations off the beaten track.
Well, not exactly a new ship because the vessel, which will be called Adonia, is presently sailing as the Royal Princess, and was originally built in 2001 for the now-defunct Renaissance cruise line.
More than 75 per cent of her 355 cabins have balconies and before entering service with P&O the ship will be re-fitted to provide a library carrying 4,000 books, and a grand lounge with a wooden dance floor.
The forward bar overlooking the bow will be re-named the Crow’s Nest, in P&O tradition, and P&O regulars will know exactly the gentleman’s club atmosphere to expect in the refurbished Anderson’s.
Carol said: “I am delighted to announce this great news in response to our passengers’ comments that some prefer smaller ships. The addition of Adonia will deliver an elegant and welcoming ship with real small ship charm . . . Passengers will be able to get to know their fellow cruisers and crew easily as they travel to some of the most intriguing destinations on the map.”
Adonia will be a far cry from Ventura, designed with families in mind, and sister ship Azura, to be launched in Southampton in a few months.
Marlow says: “While larget ships have their own appeal, with the spectrum of bars, dining and entertainment choices they can offer, others really enjoy a smaller ship, with a more intimate ambience. No other cruise line offers the breadth of choice specifically for the British cruiser.”
The news about Royal Princess’s future is also likely to bring closer the long-awaited announcement about a new ship for the Princess fleet.
JOIN THE AZAMARA CLUB
Meanwhile, there is also news about two former sister ships which were also built for Renaissance. Azamara Cruises, a division of Royal Caribbean which operates the Azamara Quest and the Azamara Journey, is to be re-branded as Azamara Club Cruises.
A subtle distinction perhaps, but one which will make it easier for the line to compete with other companies in the up-market, destination-intensive cruise world by providing complimentary wine with lunch and dinner (but not breakfast?), and including gratuities in the fare. Coffee and bottled water will also be free.
President and CEO Larry Pimentel is also talking about slowing the cruise experience down and providing more overnight stays in ports such as Istanbul, St Petersburg, Saigon, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong.
“We are going to allow our guests to not just see the destination, but to live it,” said Pimentel. “Consider destinations like St Tropez or St Petersburg. If you’ve experienced them only by day, you haven’t really experienced them.”
Two-day excursion packages will be provided in places like Dubrovnik, Odessa, Sorrento and even London, where there will be theatre visits, and Liverpool, where there will be a special Beatles tour.
The changes will be introduced from April 2010, but Azamara will not be doing away with all supplementary charges. Dinner in the Prime C steakhouse and the Aqualina bistro will be complimentary only for passengers booking accommodation in suites.
CUNARD HAVE SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
For those passengers still seeking the traditional experience of a Transatlantic crossing, Cunard have announced a tantalising selection of speakers for 2010.
They include Radio 4’s Today presenter John Humphrys, who will be sailing from New York aboard Queen Mary 2 on January 4. I wonder if they’ll be able to persuade him to chair a session of Mastermind on board instead of the pub quiz.
Authors Bill Bryson and Joanne Harris will both be on QM2 sailing in the opposite direction from October 1, making the potential for an interesting book club.
Other speakers during the year include Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu sailing from Port Louis to Cape Town on part of QM2’s world cruise in March; and TV foreign correspondent turned politician Martin Bell on board Queen Victoria between Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro, also in March.
Sex therapist Dr Ruth will be on QM2 in April, and the much-loved (and much-missed) Grand Prix commentator Murray Walker on Victoria in June. They might be even more interesting as a double act.