In this week's commentary TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver examines the nuances behind the concept of a Maiden Cruise.
What is a Maiden Cruise?
We had an interesting debate within our 'CruisTalk' forum recently about 'Maiden Cruises' and how sometimes a 'Maiden Cruise' is not really the 'Maiden Cruise'.
When a new ship enters service the first cruise is typically called the Maiden Cruise. Despite the fact that there may be issues with the quality of food and service as a new team of crew members 'learn the ropes' of a new ship, these maiden voyages are very popular and are often sold at a premium price.
In some instances the Maiden Cruise ends up being cancelled if ship cannot be delivered on-time (very rare). In other instances, the ship may end up sailing with workers from the shipyard rushing to finish up work (also very rare).
So what is exactly is a Maiden Cruise? It obviously the 'first cruise' of the ship, isn't it? Well no, it's not quite that simple I'm afraid.
The ship will have almost certainly cruised from the shipyard to the port. However on such a trip the ship normally only carries crew, not passengers. Therefore a Maiden Cruise must be a ship's first cruise carrying passengers, must it not? Well no, it's not quite that either.
Before a Maiden Cruise, a ship may offer a mini-cruise or two, typically an overnight trip to nowhere, for guests such as the Media and Travel agents, who do not do pay. Therefore the Maiden Cruise must be the first cruise offered to fare paying passengers, mustn't it? The Maiden Cruise should also last for several days or weeks as well, right? Well no. it's not quite that simple, I'm afraid.
To help us understand exactly what a Maiden Cruise is let us consider the case of P&O's newest ship the 'British Superliner' Ventura. She is scheduled to enter service next month and her Maiden Cruise will be a 14 night Western Mediterranean cruise, departing Southampton on the 18th April 2008. Seems fairly straightforward, right?
Well, with Ventura, there is an interesting twist. It turns out that she is actually going to be delivered early by the ship yard. Since an idle ship does not make any money for a cruise line, the folks at P&O decided to add a pre-Maiden Cruise of 2 nights on 11th April for fare paying passengers.
For most people, this seems like a reasonable thing for a cruise line to do. But most people were not booked on Ventura's Maiden Cruise and some of those that are became upset because their Maiden Cruise was being usurped by the 2 night pre-Maiden cruise.
P&O must have anticipated the potential for disappointment amongst the Maiden Cruise passengers because they are not referring to the 2 night trip as a Maiden anything, choosing instead to call it a 'Welcome Party', even though it does cruise to Zebrugge and back.
A P&O Cruises spokesperson shared the logic of this approach by noting that the earlier trip will not ruin the maiden Mediterranean voyage for holidaymakers because "As it takes place before the official naming ceremony, this cruise will not in any way detract from the Maiden Cruise that sets sail on 18 April."
Therefore even though the 'Welcome Party' (cruise) will take place on a ship with the name of 'Ventura' painted on the bow, the ship will not officially be called 'Ventura' until Dame Helen Mirren officially names her. The passengers on the Maiden Cruise will be the first to cruise onboard the 'officially' named Ventura. (I wonder if Dame Mirren will be recreating her role of the 'Queen' in the absence of any real Royalty.)
So that's another of life's riddles sorted out. Mind you, I wonder what the difference between a 'maiden' cruise and an 'inaugural' cruise is.