Alan Fairfax interviews Mike Hall, Director of Marketing at Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), the UK’s largest independent cruise line. He’s very fleet of foot!
When did you join CMV and what are your responsibilities?
I joined the company in 2007, very much at the beginning. I am responsible for developing the CMV brand, developing and implementing all marketing strategies, offline and online marketing, editorial content in brochures, magazines and company literature, all strains of public relations also comes under my wing.
How did the company progress from the early days?
It was not until January 2010 that our first ship, Marco Polo, departed on her maiden voyage to the Caribbean on a 30-night cruise, CMV was now on the map. Marco Polo became a firm favourite and was joined the following year by Ocean Countess which 2 years later was replaced by the larger Discovery, a ship that featured in the TV series, Love Boat but in October 2014 she left the CMV stable. 2013 saw Astor join CMV, home ported in Freemantle, Australia during their summer months and repositioning to Germany under the Transocean brand. CMV had accumulated a loyal following and demand was increasing so in 2015 the fleet was joined by Astoria and the much larger 46,000gt Magellan, formerly a Carnival Cruise Line ship. Again, these ships gained a large following requiring further ships to meet the demand. In 2017 the current flag ship, 63,000gt Columbus was introduced, followed in 2019 by Vasco de Gama to operate for the German and Australian markets.
How are new itineraries developed?
This is dealt with by our planning team who are always on the lookout for new ports of call whilst keeping to the cruising areas that our customers enjoy. This is not always easy, many things have to be considered: is the port large enough to handle the ship, the tide system, some ports have very low water at low tide which would be unsuitable for the ship, are the facilities such as security, customs, transport and general infrastructure capable of coping with ships carrying up to fourteen hundred passengers. They then look at how far away the main attractions are and shore excursion agents who can/will arrange tours. However, our fleet of smaller to mid-sized ships create greater opportunities to include more remote ports of call and interesting itineraries.
Which market does CMV aim to cater for?
With the exception of two or three ‘multi-generational’ cruises, our ships on the UK market are ‘Adult Only’ for the 50+ semi-retired and retired. We offer a traditional ‘British’ cruise experience, how cruising used to be. We feature ‘Formal’ nights when the vast majority of passengers dress up, men in dinner jackets or tuxedos, ladies in cocktail dresses or smart trouser suits. On ‘Casual’ evenings it’s shirt and smart trousers or slacks. We are one of the few cruise lines to have retained Gala Nights, ice and vegetable carving demonstrations and the baked Alaska Parade. All our ships have a library and we include Guest Speakers on a wide range of subjects, arts and crafts and an increasing number of Theme Cruises; everything from Cricket Legends to Legends of the Musicals. In the bars we do not add a service charge to the cost of drinks which goes down well with customers (excuse the pun).
And your favourite cruise area is?
That is almost impossible to answer. There are so many beautiful areas in the world that I enjoy for different reasons but if I had to pick one it would be Norway, waking up surrounded by snow-capped mountains, gushing waterfalls and some of the most stunning scenery in the world.
Is there one item you never travel without?
Actually yes, a small 4 port USB charger plug for my phones (yes, I have 2), tablet and laptop that will work on any electrical socket in the world. It saves taking several adapters and chargers.
What do you enjoy when not working?
I love ballroom dancing, I began at the age of 10 and competed as a junior dancer, then later became Home Counties Amateur Champion and appeared on the original Come Dancing TV show. I retired from the competition floor to pursue my career but later, I returned to dancing becoming a European Champion. Being married to a Greek, we are fortunate to have a second home on the beautiful island of Samos. Our escape from the daily challenges of the cruise industry.
What is the future?
Due to the continual increase in demand the current fleet does not have sufficient capacity, as a result, two more ships are joining the fleet in 2021.