Putting a Smile on Your Face

The Thomson Spirit marks a big step into the cruise industry for the British tour operatorWe are ‘in’ - this is our firm commitment to the industry,” said If |f David Selby, general manager, Thomson Cruises, referring to the British tour operator’s charter of the Thomson Spirit (exPatriot, ex-Nieuw Amsterdam) from Louis Cruise Lines, which acquired the ship from Carnival Corporation.

“We are the leading brand in tour operations in the U.K.,” Selby explained. “At one point we were chartering four ships. This year we have two, the Emerald and the Topaz.” Next year, the Thomson Spirit will replace the Topaz, increasing Thomson’s cruise capacity by 12 percent.

Selby said that Thomson carried nearly four million passengers on tours (and cruises) in 2001 and has customers across the whole range of demographics in the U.K. While the company also owns the 800-member Lunn Poly travel agency group, Selby said that with the new ship he hopes to be in other travel agencies in the U.K. as well. “All the agents should look at us now,” he added.

“In the past we have had older tonnage, but our goal has always been to someday have newer ships.

“And just because we contract out does not mean we do not do cruises well. We do cruises very well. Some cruise lines contract out too,” said Selby, in answer to those who question Thomson’s commitment and delivery.

Selby also said that Thomson had the opportunity to put more cabins in the ship, but decided not to. The capacity will remain at 1,254. The focus will be on dining, entertainment and open deck space, according to Selby, who said that the ship will feature open dining in the main 700-seat dining room, a 24-hour casual dining venue, and a 45-seat a la carte restaurant. Entertainment will include contemporary shows and musicals.

Starting in May 2003, the Thomson Spirit will sail from Palma de Mallorca, while the Emerald will continue to sail from Corfu. A winter program has not been announced yet.

Selby explained that while the Emerald is an older ship, she was completely refurbished in 1990 and has the “look and feel of a much more modem ship on the inside.”

“I think the Emerald is recognized as the best ship in her class,” he added.

Meanwhile the U.K. market is still suffering a bit from the impact of 9/11, according to Selby, who said that while the company is making up for bookings lost earlier with closer-in bookings, pricing is down.

With a “smiley face” on the funnel, Selby explained that the logo is from the German-based travel company TUI, of which Thomson is a part. “We want to put smiles on people’s faces when they vacation with us,” he said.

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