Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2022

5 8 INTERV IEW Loyalty pays P&O Cruises’ faithful guest base is a key component in its recovery. President Paul Ludlow talks to Susan Parker about the path taken and the road ahead Paul Ludlow had only been president of P&O Cruises for about 18 months when Covid-19 struck. At the time, the major task ahead was to bring the brand’s LNGpowered sister ships, Iona and Arvia, into service. However, virtually overnight he, and the rest of the industry, was faced with very different challenges. “It has been a real journey over the past couple of years,” he says. “If someone had said that this was what we needed to tackle as a business, as a case study, as a hypothetical exercise, I would have said it was impossible. But what we all accomplished together is nothing short of a miracle, and it is something I look back on with enormous pride.” Ludlow credits P&O Cruises’ longstanding loyal guest base with being a major factor in the brand’s recovery. “We’ve always been very grateful for that [loyalty] and never more so than in the last couple of years. As we’ve worked through the pandemic, we have tried new things, for example roundtrip UK sailings, and the guests came back time and again. Guests’ support has carried us through what has been an incredibly testing period.” Keeping guests abreast of news and developments has been, and will continue to be, key to P&O Cruises’ success. “We’ve really learnt new ways to communicate through social channels, emails, webinars and more to satisfy that hunger for news,” explains Ludlow. “Our ability to talk in a clear, honest and transparent way will give our guests confidence that the next few chapters of our recovery story are going to be successful. “We’ll continue to talk to guests, making sure they understand where we are at and the reasons why we are where we are at any given time.” Certainly, bookings have been building since the start of 2022, and not necessarily due to any particular lifting of travel restrictions by the UK Government. “Momentum has been continually building week on week since Christmas,” says Ludlow. “We are now seeing booking volumes at historically high levels of performance, particularly for the second half of this year and into 2023 and beyond. “Evidently there has been a huge level of demand out there but guests have been waiting until they felt confident to book. That’s coming through now P&O Cruises’ newest ship Arvia is expected to be delivered in December 2022 and welcome her first guests in early 2023