The key to successful growth is to draw more passengers from a wider holiday market,” said David Dingle, managing director of P&O Cruises, explaining the creation of the company’s new brand, Ocean Village.
The typical Ocean Village passenger will be from 34 to 55, with a younger outlook, according to Dingle. He said they will be comfortably off, enjoying a busy and active lifestyle. “We will offer them the opportunity to ‘chill out’ on the ship,” he said.
These passengers also want experiences. “They want to see more, do more, and be more,” Dingle pointed out. “Informally, this is cruising for the dress-down Friday generation,” he added. “They no longer follow the rules and don’t see why they should follow conventions. I will be amazed if I see any ties on the ship at all.”
Dingle does not expect Ocean Village to remain a one-ship brand. “We would not go to this effort if it remained a one-ship brand forever,” he noted. “We believe there is enough potential in the marketplace.”
Dingle outlined a multi-brand development in the U.K.
P&O Cruises is building up its U.K. market capacity rather aggressively. P&O will take delivery of two of Princess Cruises’ ships, the Ocean Princess in 2002, which will be renamed the Oceana, and the Sea Princess in 2003, to be renamed the Adonia. The Oceana will replace the Arcadia, which will go to Ocean Village, while the Adonia will replace the Victoria, which will be retired. The new ships are considerably larger than the ships they replace.
There will also be growth at Swan Hellenic, which offers educational-style cruises, and will be replacing the 300-passenger Minerva with the 690-passenger R8.
“We will grow capacity 60 percent across our brands in the U.K. in 2003,” Dingle said. “In 12 months, we will grow P&O Cruises’ capacity by 31 percent and double the capacity of Swan Hellenic, while also introducing Ocean Village. In addition, we contribute about five percent of the passengers to Princess Cruises.
“We have a wide range of target audiences. We are very optimistic,” Dingle said.
To be launched in 2003, Ocean Village will refit the 1988-built, 1,465-passenger Arcadia. The passenger capacity will be increased to 1,620.
“We needed to develop a new brand to appeal to a new mix of passengers,” Dingle said. “Nobody is appealing to this market. It has a lower price point and a different image than the traditional cruise market.”
Ocean Village will be a distinctly different product, according to Dingle, who said the core dining experience will be based on the buffet concept. “We will convert two thirds of the main dining room to buffet service, but retain one third as an upscale bistro,” he said. In addition, the topside Horizon lounge will be converted into a gym and lifestyle center.
“We will expand the pub so it will become the largest pub afloat,” Dingle continued. “We are also making some changes to the main show lounge, turning it into a cabaret club where people can come in, sit down and watch the entertainment or go to the bar. There will be access to the casino from the upper level. The point is that people can move about freely. It will be more of a club than a traditional show lounge — a free-moving experience.
“We are turning the pizzeria into a Mediterranean-style pool-side restaurant.
“We are adding extra cabins but doing so by dividing some of the suites into two cabins. We are also converting some crew cabins into passenger cabins.” Dingle admitted that the passenger capacity will go up quite a bit, but emphasized that the Arcadia is a very spacious ship. And with the buffet service, crew needs will be somewhat less.
During its first summer season, the Ocean Village ship will sail two alternating seven-day itineraries from Palma de Mallorca. A winter program is expected to be announced shortly.
Ocean Village will be run by a separate management team. “We have to make sure the brand is not influenced by P&O Cruises’ or Princess Cruises’ branding,” Dingle said.
Ocean Village cruises were scheduled to go on sale July 1,2002, at a lead in price of 549 pounds for a seven-day cruise.