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P&O’s new ship Ventura will debut next April. She’s currently in the final stages of construction in Italy, has been christened, floated out and is now undergoing fitting-out. P&O have been marketing her very heavily: she’s the main attraction in the 2008 brochure, and in fact had her own mini-brochure or two. P&O have arranged a full first season of cruises from Southampton, with the ‘Maiden Cruise’ (14 nights to the western Mediterranean) due to start on 18 April. And that’s how the brochure describes it: “The Maiden cruise”. But perhaps construction of Ventura has proceeded faster than expected because P&O are about to announce an additional cruise *before the Maiden*. Yes, that’s right, Ventura will be at sea for two nights from the 11th of April, with paying customers.

So which of these cruises is now the true ‘Maiden’? We all know of course that there will have been a shake-down voyage or possibly two before a new ship goes into service, but these aren’t generally made available to the paying public. I can’t help thinking that if I had booked a cabin on the Maiden cruise I would have done so in the expectation that I would have been in the very first group of paying passengers on the ship, and I would have felt disappointed if, having so booked, I later found out that there was an earlier cruise.

Some people have suggested that the Maiden cruise on a ship such as Ventura isn’t very significant. After all, they suggest, it’s not a very special ship – it’s a near-clone of Diamond Princess and is therefore the latest of the Grand Princess class, so not a new design at all. (Nor, many would say, an especially beautiful ship.) I think this argument is wrong. People are attracted to different ships for different reasons, and anyone who booked on the Ventura maiden cruise must have an interest in the ship, and presumably wants to think that their cruise will be extra-special because it’s the first.

‘jademongoose’ posted the following very witty response in a thread discussing this topic on Cruise Critic (http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk):

“For those of you waiting for this sailing to appear on the P&O website, you’ll have to wait a long time. It won’t be appearing on there because (you’ll like this) it isn’t actually a cruise!

Yep – it’s actually a ‘Welcome Party’. Not a cruise at all. So it *technically* isn’t a maiden cruise.

So, despite the fact it sails out of Southampton, with paying passengers, stops in Zebrugge and sails back (one could almost say “cruises back”) to Southampton, it isn’t actually on a cruise at all. So the Maiden Cruise will still be the Maiden Cruise. This is just a party. At sea. But not cruising. Floating, maybe. Sailing, even. But not cruising.

But to be totally honest, you really can’t compare a 14 Night Mediterranean Cruise to a 2 Night jolly to Belgium. I for one would much rather be on a 14 night cruise that isn’t *technically* a Maiden Cruise compared to a 2 night sailing that isn’t *technically* a cruise at all.

So, to those of you booked on the *REAL* Maiden cruise on 18 April, firstly, I am very, very jealous and secondly, forget the fact it has been at sea with paying passengers a little bit before you and ENJOY IT!”

Well said, I think.

One Response to “What makes a real 'Maiden Cruise'?”

  1. Malcolm says:

    Just to confuse the issue:

    Most mini-shakedown cruises are full of Travel Agents and Journalists, but on the bigger ships they sometimes sell the spare cabins to the public too.

    Imagine being on a cruise that you have paid for, knowing half the passengers are there for free. They normally get a free bar and you don’t.

    Life’s not fair is it?

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