SeaDream Yacht Club president Bob Lepisto says the cruise line’s success is not the result of advertising, but rather word-of-mouth from customers and travel agents. // © 2016 SeaDream Yacht Club
Feature image (above): The 112-passenger SeaDream II // © 2016 SeaDream Yacht Club
Launched at a most inauspicious moment — fall of 2001 — SeaDream Yacht Club has gone on to build a passionately loyal following and win an impressive number of awards for its twin yachts, the 112-passenger SeaDream I and SeaDream II. Recognition has come from Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Berlitz and many more, including a 2015 award from ForbesLife declaring the line Best Small Luxury Cruise Ship of the year. Interestingly, the company fills its yachts through word-of-mouth from travel agents and customers.
SeaDream does a minimum amount of advertising; mostly, its customers and dedicated agents get the word out. The company will hold cheese and wine events that bring past clients together, and the company encourages guests to bring their friends — it even connects potential passengers with past cruisers. And, from an agent’s point of view, there is much to recommend.
Bob Lepisto, president of SeaDream, recalls working with an agent in Florida last year on a charter for Christmas and New Year’s. They worked together for just two weeks to complete the deal; the commission was $150,000. Lepisto says agents are bringing in an increasing number of clients celebrating milestone events, as people turn from collecting things to gathering experiences. He and Gretchen Bell, the line’s vice president of sales for the Americas, regularly offer agent webinars, emphasizing the distinctive qualities of the company, which include a strong and unusual emphasis on health and wellness. These segments are of great interest to Atle Brynestad, founder and CEO of SeaDream, and to the clientele, which grows more and more conscious of quality dining and healthy lifestyles.
“People refuse to age these days — there’s so much more awareness of health,” Lepisto said. “SeaDream has eight massage therapists serving a maximum of 56 couples. We have vegan and raw cuisine, glucose-free food and more, all presented with the same gourmet style as the rich sauces and desserts. We don’t push it, but we have it all available.”
In addition, guests can take advantage of tai chi and yoga classes, as well as mountain-biking and hiking trips. In the ships’ marinas, all the toys — paddleboards, wave runners and kayaks — can be deployed into the water very quickly (on certain itineraries).
Additionally, SeaDream has announced a new adventure: a partnership with TCS World Travel to offer “Sea. Sky. Safari.” The 20-day cruise and safari, departing May 2017, will visit Spain, France, Italy, Monaco, Rwanda, Botswana, South Africa and Morocco, with connections via a custom Boeing 757 private jet. The journey starts in Barcelona, Spain, continues with a SeaDream cruise disembarking in Cannes, France, goes on to Africa by private jet and ends with a stay in London via a flight from Morocco.
“We don’t have to do it all ourselves; we just need to have excellent partners,” Lepisto said. “This cruise has been booking well before the brochure was even printed. The reception is very good, and we hope this is just the first of many such ventures.”
SeaDream also is looking carefully at Cuba. Lepisto says that guests are asking for trips to the destination, and that Cuba is perfect for SeaDream, which generally tenders into unusual ports and doesn’t require an extensive local infrastructure.
After 15 years, SeaDream is considering adding an additional ship, but there is nothing firm in the offing.
“The interest is there,” Lepisto said. “When it comes, you can be sure that it will be a product that speaks to the yachting experience that has been such a successful niche for SeaDream.”