The seven-day Mediterranean cruise is booked at 115% occupancy, a record for CDF, and will be followed by another week-long cruise and two four-day sailings before Horizon is officially inaugurated April 28-29 in Marseille.
The ship emerged from a three-week drydock at Chantier Naval de Marseille that completely transformed Pullmantur’s former Pacific Dream, built in 1990 as Horizon for Celebrity Cruises.
The white hull has been painted blue, all public spaces were refreshed and the the 721 cabins, including 68 with balconies, got new beds, furniture, flat-screen televisions, carpets and flooring.
‘The ship has been totally adapted to a French-speaking public, from its name—also a French word—to its decor, colours and new services,’ said Antoine Lacarrière, Paris-based CDF gm, who is also in charge of the Swiss, Belgian, Luxemburg and Québec markets. Even the deck names are now French.
Dining, which Lacarrière said is particularly important to CDF passengers, has been upgraded with a higher food budget and menus supervised by Francis Leveque, chef of the Restaurant du Marché in Paris. Menus include a choice of four appetizers, four main dishes and four desserts.
Horizon also offers a self-service option at the Bistro Gourmand for casual dinners between 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Lacarrière expressed satisfaction with the response to CDF’s recent television promotions and poster advertising in the Paris Metro. The company targets customers in the 35- to 60-year age range, mainly families. CDF also promotes heavily on the Internet and Lacarrière said the brand is ‘sold now by nearly everybody, which means about 3,500 travel agencies.’
Horizon replaces Bleu de France, sold to Saga Holidays and sailing as Saga Sapphire.
Lacarrière reports Horizon’s occupancy is at 88% for 2012, with many groups booked. Last year CDF had 110,000 bed-nights with Bleu de France. With Horizon, the company has already sold 264,000 bed-nights out of 302,000.
‘Our all-inclusive concept works very well and is all the more attractive in times of [economic] crisis. It is also very interesting for the MICE market, a sector where we register very good results,’ he said.
In 2012, CDF targets some 52,000 passengers for Horizon and 6,000 for Pullmantur, which it also sells.