P&O, Australia’s first locally-based cruise line, has announced dramatic changes, including new livery, new onboard amenities and destinations – and the end of the the buffet bar.
The moves to woo the “contemporary Australian” will dramatically alter the perception of the P&O brand in a bold bid to take the lead as the cruise industry heads for one million passengers, possibly as early as next year.
Two new ships and refits of Pacific Dawn and Pacific Jewel will see a revolution in domestic cruising, targeting the 30-55 year old mainly female traveller. Rebranding as “Like No Place on Earth”, the existing white-hulled vessels will sport a navy stripe and the new slogan across the stern.
In November next year, all five P&O ships will sail into Sydney Harbour in a spectacular display expected to attract tens of thousands of onlookers.
New domestic and international destinations, including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and PNG, will be served with 60 percent more capacity as two new ships, Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria join the fleet next year.
According to Tammy Marshall, senior vice president, the move represents the biggest investment in P&O’s history. Domestic destinations will grow, short cruises of two or more days and events like the Melbourne Cup, the tennis open and food festivals will feature.
The end of the buffet tray and queue aboard P&O ships is almost certain to spark debate, as plates piled high with food has been a cruise ship tradition. But according to P&O research, today’s generation is more interested in quality food and healthy eating.
So instead of the buffet bar, The Pantry will bring a more contemporary face to dining, offering individual spaces for different foods. There will be new food venues, too, including The Dragon Lady, serving Asian fusion, an Italian restaurant Angelo’s, named after photographer Angelo Frontoni, and offering traditional comfort food Open Kitchen features a culinary school as well as dining, while a dedicated Chef’s Table dining area will be available.
Salt Grill by Luke Mangan – already featured on Pacific Jewel, Pacific Pearl and Pacific Dawn – will be served with a twist on Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, with the inclusion of Salt Grill Bar, offering Luke Mangan cocktails. A new Cellar Door will provide a boutique experience, with an opportunity to taste the wines on-board and pre-order for dinner.
“The Australian cruise tourist is young, savvy, middle class and worldly. They don’t want a buffet or a chicken schnitzel. They want more,” said Ms Marshall.
Ken Flavell, P&O’s hotel product development director, revealed the new looks in a series of slides. “No more buffets – no need to carry your tray around with you. You’ll go to your own separate venue within that space. They’ll be seafood, dim sim, a deli – you’ll be able to go to each of those venues and then leave.”
There will also be wine classes, whisky tasting, rum tasting, and coffee appreciation classes. New shows with live music and DJs.
Pacific Dawn goes into dry dock in November and will be first to show the changes, including The Waterfront, a pool deck with a more resort feel featuring cabanas and hammocks, The Edge adventure program and racing car simulators.
New in-room services will allow passengers to order anything from food to yoga mats. And a pillow concierge will offer a choice of where to lay your head. Jewel will be the first ship with no buffet in May next year, and she will also receive an upgrade in all bar areas.
Simon Cheng, marketing and distribution director, said the company had set big targets for growth as the industry was expected to reach a million passengers as early as next year.
A survey of 2,000 Australians showed one third were considering cruise and identified an opportunity in those aged 30-55, which the changes were designed to attract while keeping P&O’s traditional passengers.
The research showed contemporary Australians had a love of food – ‘They see food as an experience, hence all the work we’ve done around it”. But he said the buffet, with its connotations of overindulgence, and wrong perceptions of the entertainment on offer were the two common issues cited for stopping more Australians from cruising.
Despite the biggest investment in the company’s history, Ms Marshall pledged no price changes to the cruise passengers, though there could be some supplementary charges. “We’re not going to change the base price, but there is an opportunity for the customer to customise what they want.”