Tempest plays the P&O name game to keep cruise customers guessing

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Britain’s biggest cruise line is likely to look to its 176 years of history and heritage when choosing a name for its next ship, which will be launched in 2015.
Whether that means the revival of a familiar old name like Canberra remains to be seen, and we’ll have to wait a few months to find out. There are fans who would love to see a return of the name carried on the popular ship which served from 1961 to 1997, while others would prefer it was laid to rest.
Gerard Tempest, who has been in his job as Chief Commercial Officer at Carnival UK – parent company of P&O and Cunard Line – since the beginning of the year, told me this week that an announcement is likely to be made in September.
But even he will have to defer to his boss, Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle – who first joined P&O 35 years ago and who, unless I am very much mistaken, has already made his decision.
“David is a walking encyclopedia of shipping and of P&O,” said Tempest. “He knows exactly what has gone before and what the name for the new ship will mean in terms of the heritage of the business.
“Before we can make a final decision there’s the whole legal business of registering the name as a trademark and ensuring that we actually own the name.
“Then we get into what it looks like on the outside of the ship, and we are asking focus groups – who are sworn to secrecy – what do you think of this, and why?”
The new ship, costing about £490 million, is being built in Italy on the same hull design as the sister company’s Royal Princess and will carry about 3,600 passengers. It will be the biggest cruise ship ever built for the growing UK market. Hotel specialists Richmond, who have worked on London’s Mandarin Oriental, the Four Seasons Hampshire, and top resorts such as Sandy Lane, Barbados, are designing its interior
It will be Tempest’s task to put on a launch which makes as big an impact as last month’s Royal Princess naming ceremony by Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
“That raised the whole profile of cruising across the board and I have to ensure we do the same again in 2015,” he said. “It will be a big deal for P&O to get its first new ship in five years. There’s a real opportunity for us to attract people who are on the cusp of cruising and for us to stimulate the market.
“We have a lot of existing customers keen to cruise on the new ship and we will bring along new customers.”
Tempest himself had never been on a cruise until he joined Carnival from Premier Inns; he preferred villa holidays for himself and his family.
He took a cruise on Azura in December and has just returned from a trip aboard Aurora where he encountered a popular P&O attraction – Strictly Come Dancing.
“Thankfully for the other passengers, I didn’t participate. I’m a big guy and they would have had to clear the floor. But I saw at first hand how popular it has become with our passengers. We are looking to see what more we can do to build on that partnership.
“The thing about P&O is that we have our heritage, having celebrated the 175th anniversary last year, but we also have things like restaurants from Marco Pierre White and Atul Kochhar, Olly Smith and his Glass House wine bar.
“Alongside the big family ships we have mid-sized ships that are adults-only and we have Adonia, the discovery ship that can go to places the others can’t reach..
What of Cunard, Tempest’s other charge? He has visited the line’s three ships while they have been in Southampton, and will be crossing the Atlantic aboard Queen Mary 2 in early September.
“There’s a sense of occasion about taking a Cunard cruise,” he said. “The ships have their distinctive black hulls and red funnels, and on board they have the matchless White Star service.”
And is it time for a new Cunard ship? “I wouldn’t rule it out but there are no plans in the short term. In the next five to 10 years? There could well be.
“We are in the fortunate position of having the financial muscle of Carnival Corporation when it comes to making plans for new tonnage, but I might have my plans and my counterparts at Holland America and Carnival Cruise Line and other parts of the business will have theirs. We will put our plans forward and the corporation will decide where best to deploy its money.”

By | 2013-07-20T06:41:56+00:00 20 July 2013|Cruise news, Cruise people|0 Comments

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John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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