P&O Cruises is denying rumours on the French website Mer et Marine that Artemis, the smallest and most elderly ship in the fleet, has been sold to German operator Phoenix Reisen.
The Mirror's John Honeywell, aka Captain Greybeard, reported on the story over the weekend but has been issued the same official statement as we have by P&O: "We do have interest in our ships from time to time and we currently have an enquiry for Artemis from an unnamed source. However, we can confirm that Artemis will definitely operate her programme of cruises as currently published."
Mer et Marine reckons Artemis will leave the fleet as early as summer 2010 but P&O Cruises has just started selling a 36-port, 98-night Asian Grand Voyage for the ship in 2011, finishing in Southampton on April 12.
Beyond April 2011, who knows? Carnival Corporation, owner of P&O Cruises, has a habit of shedding or sidelining smaller, older ships that don't quite fit the mould – look at what's happening to Ocean Village, a brand that will cease to exist by the end of summer 2010. Both ships are being transferred to the P&O Cruises Australia brand, Ocean Village 2 leaving the fleet this autumn and the original Ocean Village at the same time next year.
The 45,000-ton, 1,200-capacity Artemis certainly isn't in keeping with the P&O Cruises model of big, contemporary ships. Built in 1984 and named by Diana, Princess of Wales, the vessel originally sailed as Royal Princess, transferring to the P&O Cruises fleet in 2005 to operate culturally-led cruises for an adults-only crowd, mainly of a certain age.
Now, though, competition is hotting up to sell destination-intensive cruises aimed at an older market, what with Swan Hellenic (a former Carnival brand), Voyages of Discovery and more recently, Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Voyages to Antiquity all chasing the grey pound.
Maybe Carnival has decided to leave the others to it and concentrate on the big and the new.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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Farewell To P&O Cruises' Artemis?
September 7, 2009