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Cast an eye on the luxury cruise horizon, and the picture looks exceptionally bright.
“People are not only booking for ’08 and ’09, but I swear they would book ’10 and ’11 if we would let them,” said Eric Maryanov, whose Los Angeles-based All-Travel.com is an upscale cruise seller.
Across the luxury segment, suppliers are ordering new ships, marshaling additional capacity for world cruises and gearing up their ships in ways that appeal to those who previously never had the time for extended luxury cruises.
What’s NextThe world cruise market appears to have never been stronger for luxury cruise lines. As one indicator of the bullishness prevalent in today’s market, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will offer not one, but two world cruises in 2009. That’s a first for any luxury cruise operator.
Part of the strength of the world cruise market is being attributed to technology’s “liberating” effect. BlackBerry devices, text messaging and faster connectivity on ships allow people to take their work with them, or at least manage their work while at sea for an extended time. Connectivity is an important selling point for travel agents to stress to their clients, cruise executives say.
There’s a lot of new luxury capacity on order. Seabourn, for example, has taken the most aggressive position, with three new ships on order. Silversea Cruises acquired a luxury expedition vessel that it will launch in the spring, and also has a new ship on order. Crystal Cruises is talking about a new ship, and with its new deep-pocketed owners (the private equity group Apollo Management), Regent Seven Seas Cruises has a new ship in its sights, though there is no firm order yet.
The industry also gets its first “ultra-luxury” river cruise line. Or at least that’s what Silversea’s former CEO promises to bring to European rivers this spring. Albert Peter says his new cruise line, Jewel River Cruises, will be the first river cruise line to feature all-suite accommodations and multiple dining venues. His competitors may beg to differ, but Jewel is the first cruise line to position itself as ultra-luxury.
There’s no question that right now, the luxury end of the market is a profitable place to be for travel agents — and the profitability picture is dramatically improving. At Crystal’s Gala for its top-producing agents last spring, top brass revealed that the number of million-dollar producers (for Crystal) just keeps trotting upward: from 25 agents in 2005 to 35 agents in 2007. Expect more to join the ranks this year. With quite a lot of business already on the books for 2008, here’s a look at what’s new for luxury lines for the remainder of the year — and beyond.
Crystal CruisesIn 2009, Crystal’s two large ships will once again touch all seven continents. Several new itineraries are on tap in South America, Europe and the Middle East. Crystal’s 2009 program focuses on port-intensive itineraries with overnight port stays on most cruises.
In South America, Crystal will return to cruising the Amazon, after skipping the region in 2007 and 2008. In Europe, Crystal will make maiden calls at Kotor, Montenegro; Lipari, Italy; Patmos, Greece; Sinop, Turkey; Alesund, Norway; and Kiel, Germany. There’s also a new British Isles cruise featuring the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, and a North Cape cruise to Spitzbergen and the Polar Ice Cap. In the Middle East, the line will offer a new fall cruise to Israel and Egypt.
Crystal’s 2009 world cruise will take the form of a 106-day Pacific Circle Celebration roundtrip from Los Angeles, including the inaugural ports of Rangiroa, French Polynesia; Komodo, Indonesia; Napier, New Zealand; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; and Petropavlosk, Russia. Also featured is the 150th birthday of the Port of Yokohama and a return to Alaska.
Regent Seven Seas CruisesLuxury really does go exploring in 2009 for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, as the large-ship luxury operator deploys not one, but two ships on world cruises. On Jan. 12, Seven Seas Voyager departs Los Angeles on a seven-segment 116-night world cruise to the South Pacific, Orient, Arabia, the Mediterranean and Bermuda. Two weeks later, Seven Seas Mariner departs for a 121-night sojourn to South America, French Polynesia, Australia, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Russia and Alaska. The two distinct itineraries span six continents and feature 23 overnight calls combined.
New Circles of Interest programs have been launched for 2008, with enrichment programs that range from culinary to photography, allowing guests to experience the world through the lens of a specific interest. In May and June, health/fitness expert Oz Garcia and life-extension guru Deepak Chopra will host enrichment programs.
Regent is also touting its pre- and post-cruise land programs as well as its shore excursions on sailings worldwide. From soaring over Chile’s Orsono Volcano by canopy, to sharing a hug with a giant panda in China, these new land programs offer unique and memorable ways for your clients to enhance their cruise experiences.
Seabourn Cruise LineThe first of Seabourn’s three new 450-passenger ships, Seabourn Odyssey, will enter service in June of 2009. Meantime, the three existing Seabourn sisters are being spruced up with multi-million-dollar makeovers that will be completed in April.
From now through April 2009, the line’s three 208-guest, all-suite vessels will visit more than 200 ports in 55 countries on 127 voyages. Regions include the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
Seabourn Legend spends the summer cruising the picturesque harbors of Spain, the French Riviera and Italy, including Trapani, Sicily, a new port for 2008. Seabourn Pride will venture from Cape Horn to the North Cape. Spring cruises of the Mediterranean include new calls at Genoa, Italy, and Koper, Slovenia. The ship will operate several new Western European itineraries calling on ports in France, the British Isles, Belgium and the Netherlands. Seabourn Spirit explores Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia and makes two eight-day voyages to China, including Xiamen, Zhangjiagang (for Wuxi), Nanjing and Shanghai. Several new 2008 itineraries concentrate on the Adriatic’s Dalmatian coast, including Split, Dubrovnik, Hvar and Rovinj, Croatia, and Kotor, Montenegro.SeaDream Yacht Club
In 2006, readers of Conde Nast Traveler ranked SeaDream Yacht Club as one of the top 100 travel experiences worldwide. In fact, SeaDream was the only cruise company to be included in the listing. The other 99 winners were all hotels and resorts. Additionally, readers voted SeaDream “World’s Best Small Passenger Shipping Line,” and the company achieved the highest overall rating of any cruise company — large or small. The 2008 schedule splits the sailing seasons with 176 days in Europe, 168 days in the Caribbean and 22 days in transatlantic voyages back and forth. In Europe, from May through October, SeaDream I and II will sail in the Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea up into Croatia and even down to Tunisia.
Silversea CruisesThe 2009 schedule for Silversea’s four all-suite ships includes several new ports with an array of specially crafted itineraries focused on exploring popular marquee destinations as well as some of the world’s most exotic regions.
Of special note is the company’s first-ever Grand Pacific Voyage, a 92-day extended odyssey that explores destinations around the Pacific Ocean. Following a route from Los Angeles to Papeete, Sydney and the Far East, with final stops in Alaska and Vancouver, Silver Shadow will visit 45 ports, 15 countries and two hemispheres on this epic journey.
Other highlights include 10 new destinations: Szczecin, Poland; Malmo, Sweden; Skagen, Denmark; Gozo Island, Malta; Symi, Greece; Koper, Slovenia; Olhahali Island, Maldives; Nemuro, Japan; Visakhapatnam and New Mangalore, India.
This spring, Silversea launches a new expedition ship to tap “that segment of the luxury travel market that is adventure driven,” said Manfredi Lefebvre, Silversea’s chairman. Currently undergoing a multi-million-dollar refurbishment, the ship, Silver Dawn, will open the door to Antarctic explorations.
After the ship’s retrofit, the ice-class vessel will accommodate 132 guests in 66 oceanview suites, many featuring private verandas. Silver Dawn will offer the highest space ratio in its class and will provide the largest average size in accommodations of any expedition ship. With a new-build also on order, Silversea’s fleet will increase to six ships in 2009.
Windstar CruisesWindstar entered 2008 with all of its Degrees of Difference enhancements completed to all three sailing vessels. The multi-million-dollar investment brought significant upgrades across the fleet. At press time, Windstar’s 2009 planning was still being finalized, but executives tell us to look for more “heavy” Croatia sailings, which are proving to be popular on both Wind Surf and Wind Star.
A few roundtrip Rome sailings, with emphasis on Italy, are in the works for 2009. Windstar also hopes to revive its Signature Collection, which was popular in the late 1990s and early this decade, with guest hosts and theme cruises focused on wine, culinary, sports and more.
Cunard LineCunard Line’s new Queen Victoria, like Queen Mary 2, is a two-class ship that boasts luxury elements. While there is no steerage class on Queen Victoria, there is something that evokes the class structure on liners of the past. On Deck 12, the smaller Queen’s and Princess Grill dining venues are reserved for guests in Queen’s and Princess’ suites. These traditional dining venues are accessed by private elevator, keyed by a stateroom card. Your luxury clients will appreciate the exclusivity.
Also for your luxury clients: the Royal Court Theater. Designed to resemble a grand West End theatre, it features a first at sea: 16 private viewing boxes that overlook the stage. The $50 per couple charge for the private boxes includes many extras: a pre-show cocktail in a private bar as well as complimentary individual-sized bottles of Veuve Cliquot champagne, truffles and even a velvet pull cord to summon the bell boy.
Oceania CruisesOceania Cruises positions itself as the “world’s only upper-premium” cruise line. Frank del Rio, chairman and CEO, maintains Oceania straddles the line between premium and luxury, with pricing equal to what one would expect to pay for a premium sector cruise but with service and amenities that nudge the luxury sector.
Nonetheless, your clients might well view Oceania squarely in the luxury category. Its three small ships, carrying 684 passengers each, are sisters to the five premium-category ships owned by Azamara Cruises and Princess Cruises.
Oceania has two new ships due out in 2010 and 2011, each with a capacity of 1,260 passengers.
Crystal Cruises888-799-4625www.crystalcruises.comItineraries: Crystal operates its two luxury ships, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, in all major cruise destinations worldwide.
Cunard Line800-728-6273www.cunard.com Itineraries: Cunard Line’s three ocean liners sail transatlantic crossings and world cruises, in addition to sailings in Europe, the Caribbean and Canada/New England.
Oceania Cruises800-531-5658www.oceaniacruises.com Itineraries: Oceania’s three 684-passenger vessels, the Regatta, Insignia and Nautica, will sail a variety of itineraries that span the globe.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises800-285-1835www.rssc.com Itineraries: Regent Seven Seas Cruises operates a fleet of medium-sized luxury cruise ships that will call at more than 300 ports on all seven continents.
Seabourn Cruise Line800-929-9595www.seabourn.com Itineraries: Seabourn Cruise Line operates three 208-guest, all-suite vessels that will visit more than 200 ports in 55 countries on 127 voyages through April 2009.
SeaDream Yacht Club800-707-4911www.seadreamyachtclub.com Itineraries: SeaDream Yacht Club operates two “50-couple yachts,” sailing in Europe and the Caribbean. Sailings in 2008 include Europe, the Caribbean and transatlantic voyages.
Silversea Cruises954-522-4477 www.silversea.com Itineraries: Operating four all-suite ships (soon to be six), Silversea will visit more than 320 different ports in 108 countries.
Windstar Cruises800-258-7245www.windstarcruises.com Itineraries: Windstar Cruises operates three sailing yachts that cruise to nearly 50 nations, calling at 100 ports throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas.
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