Changes are to be made to P&O Cruisesâ€™ Â£300 million new ship Ventura after the line admitted to facing â€œchallengesâ€ in its introductory summer season.
The 3,000-plus passenger family-focussed superliner â€“ the biggest in the fleet - will see alternations to its dining while the company is to address complaints over a lack of sun loungers, particularly on sea days.
Ventura has carried around 57,000 passengers this summer as well as hosting more than 4,000 travel agents.
The companyâ€™s managing director Nigel Esdale revealed the changes in a letter to travel agents.
He said: â€œIn general newcomers have reacted very favourably to Ventura and we continue to see this as our primary focus.
â€œThat said, we have had some challenges in marrying the differing needs and expectations of a new audience with those who have travelled with us many times before.
â€œIndeed the first year of operation for any ship is always its most difficult and the team on board have worked extremely hard to consistently deliver against our passengers' expectations.â€
Esdale conceded that the ship had experienced â€œparticularly heavy demandâ€ for Freedom Dining at peak times, especially during the summer school holidays.
â€œIn order to realise this concept to the full, and thereby ensure that it does indeed offer customers the flexibility that they desire, we have increased the number of tables within the Cinnamon Restaurant and will be introducing specialist software to enable the team to effectively manage the utilisation of the range of restaurants around the ship,â€ he said.
â€œMore significantly though, passengers will no longer need to book a table in advance. Instead they can enjoy the ultimate freedom of arriving at the time they would like to dine and, where possible, they will be seated immediately.
â€œThis is the system that we operate on board Oceana with great success.â€
The entertainment scheduling is also being improved and phased to offer increased choice and flexibility at a range of times, thereby alleviating 'peak time' demand.
The standard of presentation in the casual dining areas is being enhanced.
The family-orientated Beach House will â€œevolveâ€ to offer an additional informal dining venue with waiter service.
On sunloungers, Esdale acknowledged that availability â€œhas been an issueâ€ during some of the summer school holiday cruises.
â€œIn order to address this we have decided to devote some of the space originally allocated to Cirque Ventura on Deck 19 as an additional sunbathing area,â€ he said. â€œThis will give those passengers who like to spend some time relaxing in the sun more space to do so.
â€œWe will retain the bungee trampolines which have been a real hit with passengers aged from 8 to 84. And we will continue to offer the Cirque Ventura circus skills school teaching the art of juggling, tightrope and stilt walking.â€
New furniture, including a reclining chair, will be introduced to cabin balconies in next spring.
â€œThis will have the added advantage of helping to alleviate the high demand for loungers on the open deck, which we experienced during the summer school holidays,â€ added Esdale.
The ship will be using a new terminal at Southampton next year.
Esdale added that â€œthe sheer number of people boarding this vessel has inevitably meant a greater requirement for car parking.
â€œThis has been at the forefront of our minds when planning for the brand new cruise terminal currently under construction and, as a result, the new terminal will be better able to accommodate such demands when it enters use next year.â€
by Phil Davies
Monday, November 17, 2008