Karla Apel has received many requests in her 25 years working for the KD Charter Service. During her career she put many fancy ideas into practice already. Thanks to her precious experience and know-how she was the perfect contact person for the Düsseldorf communication agency [m]STUDIO. The agency, which specialises in realising brand experiences, wanted to charter a ship, give it a make-over inside and out in the look of its customer, Aperol, and use it as a party venue – for a whole three days. "It's feasible", was Karla Apel's assessment, "but a huge amount of work."
The inquiry was quickly firmed up and it turned out that the agency didn't just want to hang promotional banners, but to wrap the outside of the gleaming white ship in Aperol orange down to the waterline. In addition, they wanted to refurnish both decks of the ship in white and orange to match the brand image and the relaxed lounge character of the planned events. "We normally charter out our ships furnished, but in this case, the request was for an empty ship. This meant additional work, of course", says Karla Apel.
The word "usually" is not actually one Karla Apel uses often, as in her line of work, usual is the exception. "Anyone who asks us about chartering a ship is generally looking for the unusual", is how she describes what motivates charter customers. As such, the enquirers and the events they want to use the ships for are always different. Charterers include private individuals wishing to celebrate special occasions, like weddings and round-number birthdays, and companies wanting to hold product launches or present their annual results, organise employee or customer events or celebrate anniversaries aboard. KD has a suitable ship, together with the furnishings and equipment, catering and staff, available for all types of group, from around 60 to 1,600 in size, and event – from classy gala dinner to elaborate stage show to lively dance party.
And why do so many people want to celebrate their special occasion aboard a ship? Karla Apel has a number of explanations for this: "There's a certain laid-backness associated with being afloat. Something akin to a holiday feeling sets in when you board a ship, so that every event begins with positive emotions", she's convinced. "And when you charter a ship, you're not just renting a venue. The vast majority of charters involve casting off and going on a cruise, too. That's something no other event venue can offer. Newly married couples can literally sail off into the sunset with us. Where else can you do that?", grins Karla Apel.
Cruising into the sunset is a key aspect of [m]STUDIO's concept for their customer Aperol too. The iconic bitter-sweet aperitif from Italy celebrates its 100th birthday in 2019. To mark the occasion, they wanted to bathe the whole of Cologne in orange and celebrate the qualities of Aperol as a sundowner on the Rhine. The relaxed atmosphere of a cruise on the Rhine perfectly reflects the Aperol lifestyle. A powerful signal on its 100th birthday. In the afternoons, the "Aperol Sundowner Boat" could be seen from afar moored up in the historic Cologne city centre, inviting passers-by to chill out on the open-air deck. Guests were greeted by beach chairs, a swing and lounge furniture, and a bar where they could indulge in a selection of Italian finger food and, of course, Aperol Spritz accompanied by relaxing lounge music. On three evenings, the Aperol ship weighed anchor and took the party guests on a cruise into the sunset to the sounds of internationally renowned DJs.
The three chilled lounge and party days were preceded by a meticulously planned and tightly scheduled four-day conversion phase, because the ship – which lay glowing at the jetty in Aperol orange from Friday afternoon – was still in its white KD livery until shortly beforehand. Following her deployment at the "Kölner Lichter" fireworks spectacular, the MS Loreley sailed directly to the Niehl Harbour on the Saturday night to be given a complete make-over. Within just four days, the elegant river cruiser, with its refined fittings and furnishings, had been transformed into a lounge ship reminiscent of a beach club or rooftop bar, including colour change. This was made possible by the extensive use of coloured wrap film and carpets in Aperol orange. And on the decks, the usual tables and chairs were replaced by lounge furniture comprising white-painted pallets and deck chairs.
"The effort involved was enormous", says Karla Apel. "But it serves as an impressive demonstration of what is possible with us and our ships." Apel and her colleagues from the KD charter team assume the role of facilitator. They support every customer each step of the way from the initial enquiry to the day of the event. They have a vast
network of service providers they can call on and equally extensive experience when it comes to the possibilities the various ships in the fleet offer.
Less than 48 hours following the Aperol Sundowner Cruise, the MS Loreley had been restored to its usual KD look together with the traditional furnishings as if nothing had happened. At least, until the next time Karla Apel and her colleagues receive a request to charter the ship – perhaps for a trade show party or dream wedding...
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