SeaDream Yacht Club caters to younger clients with adventurous itineraries. // © 2013 SeaDream Yacht Club
SeaDream Yacht Club may be small, but it has awards much larger lines would envy — year after year the cruise line’s two ships top the list of boutique cruise ships in the “Berlitz Cruise Guide,” receive Conde Nast Traveler awards, as well as place in National Geographic’s “The 10 Best of Everything.”
And the company is poised for growth. At the beginning of the year, Pamela Conover, veteran of Cunard Line and Seabourn Cruises, moved into the CEO position, taking over from Atle Brynestad, SeaDream chairman and owner, in what is in many ways a reunion. Brynestad founded Seabourn Cruise Line in 1987, and Conover was president and CEO of Seabourn from 2006 to 2011. Brynestad was chairman of Cunard when Seabourn and Cunard merged in 1998; Conover was president and CEO of Cunard Line Limited, which operated Cunard and Seabourn from 2001 until 2004. Meanwhile, in 2001, right on the heels of the terrorist attacks, SeaDream was born.
Now, Conover has the task of taking the product, with all its distinctions front of mind for both travel agents and consumers.
“We are a small cruise line with a small marketing budget,” said Conover. “And we must raise awareness of what we have.”
What SeaDream has is yachting luxury, with two ships offering exceptional personal service — 89 crew members cater to only 112 guests. The size of the ships also works to the line’s advantage when planning luxury expedition cruises such as the eight Amazon cruises offered this year that go all the way into Peru and Colombia, where larger ships cannot penetrate. In offering such cruises, SeaDream may well be riding an emerging wave of luxury adventure cruising. Recently, Silversea Cruises doubled its expedition presence with a second ship dedicated to the Galapagos. And Seabourn just announced that it is placing one of its smaller vessels in Antarctica.
Although one of the advantages of expedition cruising is the younger passengers that they bring to luxury lines, SeaDream is already drawing from a demographic that averages in the 50s and extends well into 30- and 40-something guests. In addition to the attraction of adventure, the onboard emphasis on active wellness is surely a factor. SeaDream’s spa program earned the line high honors among Conde Nast Traveler’s ratings, and the ships offer creative healthy dining, including raw options at every meal. Mountain bikes and a watersports platform with a large selection of equipment are available to guests without charge.
Gratuities, drinks and sports equipment are also included in the fare; only premium beverages, spa services and shore excursions are not. The onboard culture is casual, if very elegant, with the al fresco dining, very individual art and social evenings rather than heavy entertainment adding to the yachtlike feeling.
For agents, the possibilities are mouth-watering. Conover mentioned that, last year, SeaDream sent a West Coast travel agent a $70,000 check for a full ship charter, which means 56 couples. She said a great deal of such business — usually connected to a milestone occasion and/or a reunion or a special interest group — is done through travel agents. She noted that SeaDream plans to get key travel agents onboard to experience the product for themselves.
Conover came into the cruise industry via banking, and she is not a person who typically stands still. She was president of Cunard when the Queen Mary 2 was launched, and president and CEO of Seabourn when the Odyssey class was inaugurated. So, although she says there are no specific plans to expand the fleet in the immediate future, look to SeaDream for growth sooner rather than later.