Sture MyrmellP&O is Australia’s home brand, according to Sture Myrmell, president of P&O Cruises Australia. “Australia has seen double digit growth for more than 10 years. We are the backbone of the market and have been driving a lot of that growth, coming up with new products, new types of cruises, new homeports and finding more new customers,” Myrmell said to Cruise Industry News in an exclusive interview.

Going from three ships in 2014, to five in 2015, the brand saw a bump-up in capacity with the introduction of the Pacific Eden and Aria, which continues with the full-year service of both ships this year. Next year, P&O will lose one ship, the Pacific Pearl, which has been sold, but is being replaced by the Pacific Explorer, which is presently sailing as the Dawn Princess. As the Explorer is larger than the Pearl, capacity will see a slight increase in 2017 as well as in 2018.

Then comes P&O’s first-ever newbuild, currently under construction at Fincantieri. The yet unnamed 135,500-ton, 4,200-passenger ship will enter service in 2019.

With more ships, the brand is introducing new itineraries, including 16 new destinations this year. Myrmell said: “Some of the ports are new to the industry and some are new to us. Out of Singapore, for example, we are sailing to some very unusual ports. But we are also continuously opening up new ports in Australia as well as such destinations as Papua New Guinea this year and more to come next year. We are always looking for new opportunities and new places to take people. That has been part of our success the past few years.

“We are also taking our product to the people. I think that is part of us growing demand and the pie. Having a national footprint now gives 75 percent of all Australians access to a P&O ship within a two-hour drive.”

Born in Bergen, Norway, Myrmell launched his cruise career as a sommelier aboard the QE2. From there he moved to provisions, bars, restaurants and food and beverage before being named hotel director aboard the Vistafjord.

He has since held executive positions with Cunard, Seabourn and Princess, before moving to P&O Australia.

His focus today? “Exceeding guest expectations,” Myrmell answered. “If we ever lose sight of the needs of our guests or if we fail to consistently deliver amazing experiences, we will be out of business. So focusing on the customer is essential in everything we do.

“Of course there are requirements for profitability,” he continued, “but the key is to find ways to operate effectively and efficiently in ways that do not impact the guest experience negatively.”

While Australia already has the highest market penetration, Myrmell said he thinks it can go even higher. “Ten percent may be ambitious,” he said, “but we can certainly grow it beyond where it is today.

“Australians like to travel and they have more holiday time than in North America, for example, and have easy access with most people here living within a couple of hours of a major port. Those factors put together give us a good base to grow the penetration.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2016