Cunard line flagship Queen Mary 2 has been given a £90 million makeover -the biggest and most expensive re-fit in the company’s long history.
Now Alex White, Vice President of Sales for Carnival UK, has to get the message across.
There’s hardly an inch of Queen Mary 2 that did not benefit from the ship’s re-mastering. The hull was refreshed with 3,900 gallons of paint, 594,000 square feet of new carpets were laid and 4,000 new framed pictures were brought on board to decorate staterooms, restaurants and corridors.
The ‘re-mastering’ added new balcony staterooms and -for the first time – cabins for solo travellers, as well as transforming many of the public areas and restaurants.
Out went the Todd English speciality restaurant and the Winter Garden -replaced with the modern cuisine of The Verandah, and a welcoming, Carinthia Lounge packed with comfortable sofas and an all-day snack servery.
There’s extra accommodation for passengers – and their pets; the kennels, unique to QM2, have been extended and pets have a vintage Liverpool lamp post and a genuine New York fire hydrant for their convenience.
Queen Mary 2 is different in so many ways from other cruise ships. Not just because the scale of everything on board is bigger; not just because she spends much of the year undertaking crossings between the UK and the United States; and not just because she draws crowds everywhere she goes.
Now it’s up to Alex White, who joined Carnival UK at the beginning of this year after three years as UK head of sales for Princess Cruises, to help get the message across to travel agents and their customers.
“Cunard is unique,” he said. “The brand awareness in the UK is incredibly high; we are in a strong position because of our history so we have a good starting point. What makes Queen Mary 2 different in the luxury space that we operate in is that we offer luxury on a grand scale.
“Every voyage is a special occasion. It’s an event rather than just another holiday. The sea days are just as important as the destinations we go to.
“It’s about the bucket-list Transatlantic voyages during which our passengers can spend their days at sea however they want, whether it’s learning or relaxing; improving mind, body and soul.
“The benefit of a large ocean liner is the choice that we can offer, together with our world-famous White Star service and food that would rank alongside any Michelin-starred restaurant on land.
“We are an international brand, with customers from North America as well as Australia, Europe and Asia, but we are British at heart and it’s our sense of occasion and formality that attracts many of our American guests.”
Since moving offices at Carnival House in Southampton and transferring from Princess to Carnival UK – which takes care of both Cunard Line and P&O Cruises -Alex has overseen a significant change in the company’s sales structure.
The sales team is now 30 per cent larger and the business managers who work with travel agents have more autonomy. The team numbers 46, and there are five regional managers dealing with retail outlets, plus another four who are responsible for nationwide sales operations.
“It’s not just account management, it’s in sales support,” said Alex. “We have a dedicated team whose goal is to make Cunard easy to deal with, whether you’re an agency generating millions of pounds of sales or a newcomer looking to make your first Cunard booking.”
He accepts there is still work to do on the company’s on-line learning systems, and is keen to point out that action has been taken and appointments have been made to reduce call-waiting times.
“We did some research into why agents needed to call instead of making bookings online, and discovered that it is often in relation to upgrades and flights, so we need to give more training on these aspects. We have also been active on social media in addressing the problems and offering help to agents.”
With the investments of 2016 behind him, Alex can now look forward to boosting sales further in 2017 and 2018. Next year is already looking stronger than 2016, and sales of world cruises the following year are already looking good. And there are all the new features of a re-mastered Queen Mary 2 to make your customers feel really special. What are you waiting for?
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