Thursday, October 22, will be a day of mixed emotion for Ocean Village fans. On that date, Ocean Village Two will set sail from its summer base of Heraklion, Crete, for the last time -- embarking on a 23-night voyage to Singapore where it will enter dry dock, before emerging as Pacific Jewel.
In December, the vessel will start a new life, sailing out of Sydney, for P&O Cruises Australia. The ship will sail from, and be marketed to, that region.
It's been almost exactly a year since Carnival announced it was phasing out the Ocean Village brand and transferring its ships to P&O Cruises Australia. The bombshell dropped just 18 months after OV2 joined the fleet, named in Southampton in April 2007 by sisters Jodie and Jemma Kidd. The reason given for pulling the plug? Carnival U.K. CEO David Dingle said that the company needed to "recognise the need to maximise profit performance from our assets."
In many ways, the Ocean Village brand has served to revolutionise U.K. cruising, with its dress-down style, contemporary entertainment and casual dining.
"Dress code and fixed dining arrangements were big 'keep out' signs deterring a lot of people," the line's head of marketing communications Gill Haynes told Cruise Critic. "Ocean Village has enabled us to take people to sea who never thought they would enjoy a good holiday on a ship." As many as 60 percent of passengers on any one cruise were and still are newcomers.
Although it's not time for the final curtain yet -- the original Ocean Village still has a winter and a summer season to run before it joins its former stable-mate down under as Pacific Pearl -- the last voyage of OV2 promises to be a good one.
Apart from the fact that it's taking casual cruising for the first time through the Suez Canal to Egypt, Oman, Dubai, India, Malaysia and Singapore, there is a big line up of talent onboard. "We've got all the best tribute acts we've ever had: Cher, Lionel Ritchie, the Bee Gees, Robbie Williams, Sting, Elton John, Lulu and Freddie Mercury," said Haynes.
Eighties disco diva Jaki Graham will be singing and TV's James Martin will be onboard from Dubai, doing cookery demos and whipping up modern British classics in the Bistro. The line's signature circus show on deck will wow passengers under a tropical moon -- it's been such a success that P&O Australia is keeping the complex rig attached to the top deck and offering circus shows of its own.
And what does the future hold for "people who don't do cruising" when the original Ocean Village retires a year from now? Will they upgrade to P&O Cruises' Ventura or Oceana, both offering a more laid-back spin on the traditional P&O experience? Switch to NCL's Freestyle fleet? All squeeze onto Thomson's smaller Island Escape? Where will you go? Let us know!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic contributing editor
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Ocean Village Two Embarks on Final Voyage
October 20, 2009