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Cruise travel is on the rebound, and that’s true of the luxury segment, as well. We had the chance to catch up with Jason Montague, president and CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, to chat about the state of the sector.
Where are the ships and crew of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, currently?Of our five ships, four ships right now are in Italy: Seven Seas Splendor, Seven Seas Explorer, Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Navigator. The Seven Seas Mariner is the only ship not in Italy. That ship is actually getting ready to transit the Panama Canal this week. It’s coming back from the West Coast [and going] over to the East Coast.
We have mostly minimal crew onboard, just maintaining the ships right now as we're obviously not in operation. We've been very effective at being able to get the vast ma-jority of crew off the ship who weren't working.
What do you think the future holds for luxury cruise travel in general, and Regent specifically, in a post-COVID-19 world?I’m actually really bullish on the luxury market, and specifically for Regent. Having among the highest space ratios, the lowest staff-to-guest ratios, and what we believe is the most luxurious suite sailing the ocean puts us in a great position to take advantage of the luxury space.
When you look at cruising as we move forward, especially our demographics — the people who are retired or semi-retired — they’ve been cooped up in their homes, and they’re ready to travel.
The vast majority of cruisers in the luxury space are seasoned cruisers, so they understand how seriously we took safety and health protocols to begin with, even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
I believe once we’re cleared to get back to sailing — and definitely once we have the vaccine — we’re going to see a very strong return in the luxury space.
Do you think a resumption of service in 2020 is still possible?I hope so. I don’t think it’s off the table, yet. We’re putting together a very robust program of health and safety protocols, ensuring that we’re keeping COVID-19 off the ships. Then, if for some reason something should happen, we’re incredibly well-prepared to deal with any instance that might arise.
What are the current booking trends, and what is the outlook for the 2021 season and beyond?It’s interesting because all regions and all ships are booking fairly well. Demand is [there for] a lot of the latter half of 2021, which is doing great. For the early part of 2021, I still think there’s some caution from guests who are not wanting to book that soon. But for the second half of 2021, all regions are doing really well.
Do you anticipate any shift in guest demographics?I don’t. I think we might see a shift toward younger guests who would traditionally start with other cruise lines jumping toward luxury right off the bat. This is where our travel partners come in. The beautiful thing about the cruise industry is there really is a cruise line for everyone, and it's our partners who help; when they direct a guest to the right cruise line, they're sold for life.
Our demographics have traditionally been the semi-retired or retired. I believe that they're going to come back to cruising. But I also think that we're going to get seen by other parties that weren't traditionally looking at the luxury space.
Overall, there won’t be a shift because we're losing our core demographics; there’s just going to be more people looking at the luxury space to begin with.
What advice would you give to travel advisors during this time?This is an opportune time to take advantage of brushing up [on educational offerings] — whether it’s with Regent University, which we’ve completely redone, and by staying in contact with customers, helping them dream of getting back out.
One of the misconceptions at Regent is that we’re priced so high. We have the highest price tag because we’re the most inclusive. That doesn’t mean guests are paying that much more to go with us, versus any other similarly sized suite.
Suites are also on mass lines and on premium lines. So, the price point that guests pay on those big ships — when you package in everything that we include — is relatively similar on comparative sailings and suites.
What’s not the same is the experience that the guests have, and the commission that our travel partners get. Because we’re so inclusive, our travel partners are getting a bigger commission on the overall purchase.
Because we’re so inclusive, our travel partners are getting a bigger commission on the overall purchase.
How can advisors help in the recovery process?Advisors can help by [increasing their] education, being close to their clients, and just making sure they can help educate customers on what all the cruise lines are doing and what’s happening throughout the world.
Because we’re such an all-inclusive experience, we try to make it as seamless as possible for our partners to work with clients to give them that unrivaled experience from start to finish.
Tell us a little about the Elevate Your Experience promotion.Regent prides itself on providing an unrivaled experience throughout the entire journey. When looking at getting back to cruising and helping people take advantage of opportunities to truly enjoy their entire vacation, it’s just part of that.
Alaska is a perfect example. Including free first-class air with all of our Alaska sailings from the U.S. is a great add. We did that last year, and it had huge success.
Also, on our European sailings, we offer multiple suite upgrades to entice guests to not wait and to book early, which has seen great results.
We launched our world cruise recently, and it's been an extraordinary launch. The world cruise is in 2023. It’s not a short sailing. It’s a total of 143 nights starting in the early part of January. We've already sold out our penthouse suites and above, along with our entry-level suites, as well.
So, the demand has been extraordinary. It's just a testament to the desire for cruisers to get back and cruise.
The DetailsRegent Seven Seas Cruiseswww.rssc.com