Line introduces alternative winter sun destination with launch of five sailings from Dubai in 2019. Senior vice-president Paul Ludlow spoke to Lucy Huxley
P&O Cruises is to base a ship in the Arabian Gulf for the first time to operate fly-cruises to destinations such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Oman.
The British line will deploy Oceana to Dubai for a ‘partial season’ between January and April 2019, taking 18,000 UK guests on holiday to the region.
Senior vice-president Paul Ludlow said if successful, the programme would be extended the following year from November to April.
Ludlow said the move was about offering guests more choice and made in response to customer demand. He said: “In the summer months, there are lots of places that we can sail to, to find the sunshine, but in the winter months, it’s traditionally been world cruises or the Caribbean.
“The Arabian Gulf has become an ever-more popular region to holiday in, and the itineraries we are offering are exactly the kind of exotic mix that our guests are going to love.”
P&O Cruises is partnering with Emirates to fly guests to Dubai where they will stay for one night before boarding. Five 10-night cruises will be operated and Ludlow said the itinerary combined “unique cultures, camel racing, dune rides, mosques, museums, Arabic souks and shopping”.
Ludlow said: “Oceana is one of our sun-class ships, meaning it is a vessel that was built to operate in warm climates. So the outside deck space is phenomenal, and the Arabian Gulf is a region of the world where you can pretty much guarantee the evenings will be warm, so our team is working to ensure we maximise the space.”
Ludlow dismissed suggestions some guests might be concerned about security in the region.
“Our guests understand the difference between the places our Arabian Gulf cruises are taking them and other countries. Travelling to this region with P&O on a fly-cruise gives them a sense of comfort.
“There is an inherent trust in us – our guests know we will have done our due diligence and so we do not see this as an issue.”
P&O will not be the first cruise line to base a ship in the region but Ludlow said it was the only one that sourced 99.9% of its guests from the UK.
The Arabian Gulf programme will go on sale this month, a week ahead of P&O’s main winter 2018‑19 programme.
“We will give it a full week on its own so our sales team can go out and talk to partners, deliver sales collateral, explain the new training module and blitz it. We will hugely over-index on the Arabian Gulf for that week to our agent partners.”
The cruise line will run two fam trips to Dubai in the spring and autumn for up to eight of its top agent partners on each.
Other agent tools and marketing activity will include a dedicated P&O Academy online module; Oceana and destination training for the sales team; and presentations and flyers for regional managers.
The Arabian Gulf cruises will depart from Dubai, then sail to Sir Bani Yas in the UAE, Manama in Bahrain, Khasab in Oman, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where it will overnight, before calling at Salalah and Muscat in Oman and head back to Dubai.
Prices start from £1,399 with up to £450 onboard spend on all bookings made before May 2. Past guests will also receive a 5% discount on bookings made before May 2.
The five Arabian Gulf cruises will be bookended by two positioning cruises of 20 and 14 nights respectively to and from Dubai.
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