(9 a.m. BST) -- A brand new U.K. cruise line is set to launch next year -- the first new British cruise line in 12 years.
Billed as "premium-value", Ambassador Cruise Line will operate just one ship at first Ambience, filling the space left by the now-defunct Cruise & Maritime Voyages, which went bust in July last year -- one of the first victims of the pandemic.
The 1,400-passenger ship will be based in Tilbury, Essex, and offer low prices, no-fly cruises to the predominantly over-50s -- exactly as CMV did -- from April 6, 2022.
"We are hugely excited to launch the first British cruise line in over a decade," said the Chair of the Board of Directors, Gordon Wilson.
"Our launch today is a demonstration of our belief in the underlying strength of the UK travel market as we emerge from the pandemic.
"Ambassador Cruise Line has been established to offer a proposition to consumers who want premium-value on classic ships."
When asked why launch a new cruise line now, Wilson explained that COVID-19 notwithstanding, cruise had had an almost unbroken growth for 20 years -- with passenger numbers growing by around six per cent year on year.
"Within the market for cruise, the over-50s population in the U.K. is about 36 percent of the population in 2013, by 2028 that will be 40 percent -- and they have by far and away the fastest growing disposable income," he said.
"And even when there is a big impact like COVID-19, they are relatively well off and all the dynamics that caused them to cruise before COVID still exist, it's still that desire to explore and see different things."
He also confirmed that the line was in the market for more ships: "We haven't invested as we have to run a one ship operation. However there is a lot to do to get our first ship up and running, but we are absolutely on the market looking for additional vessels."
However he emphasised that Ambassador was in the small ship market and was looking for vessels similar in size and style to Ambience:
"We're not looking to buy a 5,000-passenger ship or one smaller than Ambience, but ships around Ambience's size are very much in our sights."
Ambience began life as Regal Princess before transferring to P&O Australia and being renamed Pacific Dawn. It was bought by CMV in 2019, but the line went bust before it could operate.
It has 798 cabins, but due to its age (21-years-old next year), just a fifth of those are balcony. The ship will be completely upgraded and refurbished before it launches, as well as fitted with emission reducing technologies to make it compliant with the latest updated rules regarding emission reductions.
In terms of onboard amenities, Ambience will have five restaurants including specialty dining options; two cafes, nine lounges, a swimming pool, spa, day and evening entertainment, fitness and leisure facilities complemented by enticing enrichment and lifestyle programmes, but Ambassador had no further details on this.
It is aimed squarely at the over-50s market, but unlike Saga does not have an over-50s only policy, so children will be welcome onboard as part of a mixed generation group in school holidays.
Ambience will launch with an inaugural short-break cruise to Hamburg, before embarking on a mixed itinerary programme with sailings to the Norwegian fjords and the British Isles planned throughout spring.
It will not be all-inclusive, but packages will be available to include drinks, tips, excursions and speciality restaurants.
The lead-in price for a cruise-only seven-night fare is being billed at £850 per person.
"We're trying to attract a clientele who want good value and want to pay for what they get, they don't want to pay unnecessarily for things they don't need, they don't use or they don't want," Wilson explained.
"We want to make cruising affordable to people, but we also want to do it with style and with service."
The first full year programme operating until May 2023 will consist of 33 sailings visiting a total of 88 different ports, featuring the Baltics and St Petersburg, Greenland, the Arctic, and Iceland, whilst for the winter months a range of expedition style voyages will sail to the Canaries, Cuba, the Caribbean, Cape Verde and Scandinavia.
There has been speculation that CMV would rise again in some form, despite most of its older vessels sold for scrap -- and so it has proved -- most of the new line's management team were previously with CMV, including CEO, Christian Verhounig CCO, Christopher Coates, CIO, Gary Hides and CFO, Simon Weeks.