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Upscale cruises aim for personalized service, authentic excursions

Upscale cruises aim for personalized service, authentic excursions
Passengers on luxury and ultra-luxury ships seek personalized service and authentic, enriching experiences in remote, hard-to-get-to destinations, panelists said Wednesday during the session 'Upscale Cruise Market: What’s Next' at Cruise Shipping Miami.

Antarctica’s stunning scenery was showcased during several presentations as an example. Only 28,000 people last year experienced Earth’s southernmost continent, which allows only 44 landing sites and 100 passengers ashore at a time.

After such an excursion, passengers are content to return to intimate, amenity-appointed ships, said Sarina Bratton, chairman, Asia-Pacific, Ponant.

‘They want authentic experiences that they just can’t get to easily. Yes, they want their comforts. We don’t need infrastructure,’ Bratton said. ‘All we need is Mother Nature at her best.’

Upscale passengers pay for authenticity, panelists said. Moderator Roberto Giorgi, honorary president, V.Ships and executive chairman, Fraser Yachts, noted that remote expedition cruises are ‘the luxury of the future.’

Enzo Visone, ceo Silversea Cruises, pointed out that an ‘expedition doesn’t have to be rough and tough. In the end, we do sell dreams.’

Seabourn president Rick Meadows, also president of Cunard North America, said interiors of two new ships—Seabourn Encore, with delivery scheduled for late 2016, and Seabourn Ovation—are under creation with more residential-styled spaces by noted hospitality designer Adam Tihany.

‘Stay tuned,’ Meadows said.

Through a UNESCO World Heritage partnership, Seabourn offers ‘backdoor access’ and ‘insider information’ to passengers, Meadows said.

‘It’s about what they want, when they want it and in the flavor they want it. It’s about promising a lot and delivering more,’ said Edie Rodriguez, president & coo of Crystal Cruises.

Genting Hong Kong is acquiring Crystal for $550m in cash and planning a luxury newbuild.

At Windstar Cruises, ‘the most important word in the English language is your name,’ said ceo Hans Birkholz. ‘For us, it’s not the hardware. It’s the people who make a cruise.’

Windstar is undergoing a $17m investment expansion, from four to six ships in May with the addition of two Seabourn ships and renovations.

The expansion includes new Caribbean sailings out of Puerto Rico, to the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao and the north coast of South America.

‘We give you the hidden harbor experience that is fantastic. We really believe in the Caribbean,’ Birkholz said.

Luxury lines typically have a repeat clientele of 45% to 55%, panelists said.

Charles Robertson, chairman and ceo, Pearl Seas Cruises and American Cruise Lines, pointed out that in a promotion, passengers who book 10 sailings get an 11th for free. 

Pearl Seas has seen more than 300 such bookings. ‘Ports are a big important part,’ Robertson said.