Ever since the unveiling of the new P&O Cruises livery, the cruise media has reverberated with volley after volley of comments, varying from the tepid to the downright thunderous. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion. And, in that frame of mine, this blog is mine.
It must have taken a seismic internal shift in thinking to make P&O– that most conservative and traditional of British sipping institutions- to take such a bold step. For a company that enshrines a whole raft of hallowed, age old traditions, the significance of this rebrand is impossible to overstate.
The ships themselves will lose their traditional, buff coloured funnels in favour of dark blue ones. The famous, snow white hulls will be adorned with long, flowing, Union Jack hull artwork. Artist’s renderings look rather good but, as always, seeing the real thing will be the proof of the pudding.
This is an obvious attempt to emphasize the ‘Britishness’ of the fleet- all of them registered in Hamilton, Bermuda.
That aside, the new livery is a very bold change for what is often perceived to be a solid, if somewhat staid, product. But inevitably, a lot of people do not like it, and are quite vocal on the subject.
And that is fair enough. My opinion is, after all, no more or less valid than theirs. Few fraternities are as resistant to change as ship lovers. And, at times, that is a charge that can fairly be levelled at yours truly. But not this time.
I full well remember the debut of the brand new QE2 in 1969. With her hotel style interiors and her black and white funnel, the ship was an all out attempt at relentless modernity and it, too, provoked howls of outrage at the time.
Not until her post war Falklands refit in 1982 were the traditional Cunard colours added to her funnel, after thirteen years of service. People were glad to see it at the time. She wears those colours still.
However, in the very early days, the P&O ships had uniform black funnels. That was in the days when the company had the mail contract between England and Australia, and it retained those house colours for many years. Not until the 1930’s would the immortal ‘Straths’ usher in the era of white hulls and buff shaded smokestacks.
Of course, those colours became synonymous with post war P&O sailings and, inevitably, with mainstream cruising. No ship wore those colours more proudly than the immortal Canberra. For me, the idea of the ‘Great White Whale’ in those new corporate colours would just be so obviously wrong.
But Canberra and her ilk are long since gone. The cruise industry is changing and evolving at a dizzying rate of knots. And in a cut throat market, cruise lines must either adapt or wither and die. And your granny’s P&O is no exception.
The first clue should have been with the new television advert, with its backing track that owes more to Xavier Cugat than Edward Elgar. That was eye opening enough in it’s own right and yes, it was refreshing. If I was meant to sit up and take notice- surely the raison d’etre of any on screen advertising- then that commercial succeeded admirably.
There is new blood coursing right through the Carnival Corporation as a whole, and at P&O in particular. Anyone who thought that there would not be changes as a result was fooling themselves.
Hence, the new hull livery. Love it or hate it, this will get people talking and taking notice. It creates momentum, not all of it necessarily forward. But, in the course of things, such rebranding is usually given at least the benefit of the doubt. This one should be, too.
New colours on any cruise ship are always a matter of personal taste. The look might enhance the sleek, classic Oriana, for instance, or backfire spectacularly on the vast, boxy Ventura. Or, indeed, vice versa. And, because perception is such an individual thing, no two people will look at the ‘new’ P&O in the same way.
But this is a bold move, one coming from a company not renowned for being especially adventurous. I wish the company well with the endeavour.
And- if push comes to shove and the exercise fails- the original colours can always be restored at any future date.