Travel: Memorial cruise relives Titanic trip

In August 2010, travel agent Miles Morgan Travel hired Rachel O'Reilly Communications (RORC) to handle PR for the Titanic Memorial Cruise. The cruise was due to set sail in April 2012, retracing the route taken by the ill-fated Titanic 100 years earlier. RORC was asked to generate coverage that would drive cabin sales for both the Southampton to New York journey and the return leg. The organiser was keen to get 1,309 passengers on board - the same number that travelled on the Titanic.

Passengers wore period costumes for the cruise
Passengers wore period costumes for the cruise

Campaign: The Titanic Memorial Cruise
Client: Miles Morgan Travel
PR team: Rachel O'Reilly Communications, supported by Siren PR
Timescale: August 2010-April 2012
Budget: £25,000

 

Objectives

  • To generate awareness and media coverage to sell cabins on both legs of the cruise
  • To connect the Miles Morgan Travel brand with the cruise
  • To manage coverage about safety on cruise ships.

Strategy and plan

The PR team set up an online press office with news updates, photography, quotes from passengers and a Q&A, which was regularly updated.

In order to maintain interest in the cruise over the period, a series of news stories were created and disseminated to media. These included the different nationalities booked to travel on board, passenger case studies, announcing a charity partnership, the launch of the menus - which used recipes from the original Titanic - and using milestones such as '100 years since Titanic tickets went on sale'.

Four months before the cruise was due to depart, another cruise ship - the Costa Concordia - sunk off the coast of Italy, generating global media attention. The PR team set up media briefings with the Passenger Shipping Association and other industry bodies. It made sure that senior spokespeople were on hand to talk about modern cruise ships and their safety records, and the lessons learned from the Titanic and Costa Concordia disasters.

Six weeks before sailing, RORC hired Siren PR to handle event and media management. On the day the ship set sail, the media were invited to the docks in Southampton for a press conference, photo opportunities and one-to-one interviews with a panel of Titanic experts. Some journalists were given on-board exclusives. The BBC broadcast daily updates from the ship, while a Reuters photographer syndicated pictures globally. A second crisis came when a BBC cameraman on board fell ill with a heart condition. The ship had to turn back towards the Irish coast so he could be airlifted to hospital.

Measurement and evaluation

The cruise was covered on all the main nat-ional TV news channels, as well as getting international attention. In the UK alone, the cruise was in every national paper on a daily basis for the first week of the voyage.

Results 

The cruise sold out almost a year before departure. Some cabins were later released due to a small number of cancellations, and PR generated extra bookings. The cruise sailed full with exactly 1,309 paying passengers - the same as the Titanic. The return cruise was also a sell-out.

SECOND OPINION

SUSIE TEMPEST, HEAD OF PR, HILLS BALFOUR

The Titanic Memorial Cruise succeeded in attracting a wide range of far-reaching coverage, especially when the cruise set sail and during the voyage itself.

The case studies and personal stories of the passengers that RORC provided added considerable dimension, colour and even humour to a story that could easily have been negatively construed. Most impressively, the team managed to avoid negative coverage about the Costa Concordia disaster and any unfavourable mentions with regard to running an anniversary cruise after the original ship sank.

It was clear the agency intelligently prepared for this response and proactively navigated away from such connections.

The challenge now lies in how to extend the life of the campaign.

Presumably, this was a one-off cruise, so it is necessary to link all of the coverage back to the cruise company and continue to build that brand. A targeted social media campaign would also complement the campaign, attract new audiences and complete the PR mix going forward.

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