Variety Cruises is bringing its very attractive small ship product to the American market for FIT and group sales. The line has forged alliances with organizations including Vacation.com, Travel Savers and NEST and it is part of Ensemble. Greek-owned Variety has been doing business in the UK through agencies and tour operators including Thompson, and now has offices in New York City.
In addition to small yacht charters, Variety has seven-day scheduled sailings from Athens in the Med and the Red Sea. They offer a private yachting feel, more time in ports and some fascinating destinations passengers would never see on big ships, along with traditional ports of call. The sleek 49-passenger Harmony V launched in April and the company is building a new ship for next year. Executives say many cruise lines have offered them ships for sale, but they prefer to create their own design for today’s passenger, and have taken a stake in a European shipyard.
Among the ships long on charm and on elegant appointments are the 22-stateroom Harmony G with Jacuzzis in four suites and the 23-stateroom Pegasus. The line’s romantic sailing yachts include the 49-passenger Pantheon and the 54-passenger Panorama. Variety ships have features such as a swimming platform, kayaking, snorkeling and windsurfing equipment, a minispa, sunning area and Internet service; they can accommodate special diets if requested in advance and have set up kosher cruises. The stateroom interiors have flat screen TVs, individual air conditioning, marble tiled bathrooms with showers, minifridges and safes, with queen, double or twin-size beds.
The typical Variety guest is 55-plus and active and wants to see unique destinations; most are strongly interested in enrichment and soft adventure. The line also appeals to honeymooners, fund-raising organizations and small incentive groups. Commissions start at 13 percent.
Executives are meeting with agents nationwide and plan within the next two or three years to have a nucleus of 1,500-2,000 trained agents who really understand the product. Variety offers training through the Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance and also has a dedicated Web site for agents with special offers, fams and sales tools. By the middle of the year the line will have an online booking engine offering live inventory.
The company offers a broad range of itineraries including a new Aegean Odyssey that combines Aegean Islands and Turkey April-October calling in Delos, Mykonos, Kusadasi, Patmos, Santorini, Folegandros and Kea Island, April-October from $2,290.
During late fall and winter they operate Red Sea sailings with excursions to Mount Sainai, Luxor and Petra, and visiting Hurghada, Ras Mohamed-Dahab, Nuweiba, Taba, Aqaba, Sharm El Sheikh and Safaga, priced from $1,490.