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Something old, something new

As New York City readies itself for the biggest-ever Macy’s 4th of July fireworks spectacular , which will be broadcast live from the newly-named Norwegian Epic, a quieter, more modest celebration has taken place here in the UK this week.

Fred. Olsen Cruises launched its 2011/2012 brochure over a glass of wine on a sunny terrace overlooking the Thames. There were no fireworks.

You may ask how this is connected to the razzle-dazzle Norwegian Epic, which sailed from Southampton last week across the Atlantic, leaving the guests from its two-night preview cruise reeling from sensory overload.

Well, what brought it all home was when at the Fred. Olsen drinks, marketing director Nigel Lingard, made the amusing observation that Norwegian Epic alone carried more passengers than Fred’s entire fleet.

He’s right; the combined capacity of the four Fred. Olsen ships is 3,987, while Norwegian Epic can take 4,100. Puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? There’s been so much in the news over the last 12 months about huge, gleaming new ships (Oasis of the Seas, Azura, Celebrity Eclipse, Epic and next, Allure of the Seas) that to an observer, or perhaps a non-cruiser, a capacity of thousands must seem like the norm now.  

Yet the British cruiser’s appetite for smaller, more personal ships is stronger than ever. Some 52% of Fred. Olsen’s passengers are repeat bookers, a higher level than ever before, Lingard told us, adding that what Fred. Olsen lacked in ‘sexy hardware’ (fancy new ships), it made up for in ‘human software’ (friendly crew).

Of course, we’re not comparing like with like, but to me, Lingard’s comments were a reminder of the amazing variety of what’s out there. And although Fred. Olsen is better known for the diversity of its itineraries than its entertainment (no Blue Man Group here), he did mention a new development. “We’ve moved on with our passengers,” he said. “Ten years ago, we might have had songs by Vera Lynn. Now, it’s more likely to be Sixties Gold.”  Quite.

SJB

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