‘I think in the end, the problem was the Ukrainian situation with Russia and fuel unavailability in the Atlantic Sea, and this is something you just can’t overcome because everything else you manage, but this one was too much,’ he added, referencing the ship’s inability to leave the yard in Croatia due to lack of fuel.
‘Supply chain issues will affect the whole world for the next couple of years… It’s a challenging period [but] we have an amazing team to overcome these challenges.’
Adding to those obstacles are concerns around crewing. ‘Many people don’t realise that 17% of all seafarers in the world are Ukrainian, so if you’re a male Ukrainian seafarer and you’re home at the moment, you won’t be joining a ship anytime soon, and that adds pressure…’
‘Extremely strong demand’
‘We have seen extremely strong demand,’ asserted the CEO, ‘We will react to any feedback; we are a small team, we are the new kid on the block. We listen very carefully to what guests are saying and their feedback, and if this tells us we have to change something then we will immediately change it.’
Asked if there are more Ambassador ships on the horizon, the answer from Verhounig is, ‘We're not putting numbers or time frames on it…but the feedback we have seen so far, the demand we are seeing, warrants for more to come.’
‘We are constantly evaluating options to reduce our carbon footprint, any business decision is undergoing an environmental compliance review… we are trying to reduce the usage of printed materials, and we’re actively encouraging our crew officers and staff to come up with ideas on how we can be better,' says Verhounig. So far, Ambassador has slashed nitrogen oxide emissions by 95%, reduced sulphur oxides by 80% and, says the CEO, will ‘not be putting any untreated wastewater in to the sea, even if allowed to by international laws. The same for our ballast water systems. And contrary to most lines, we are biodigesting food before it goes into the sea so as not to affect the oceans and the ecosystem.'
IMO Tier III compliant, Ambience can sail in the most environmentally protected areas around the world.
Ship naming ceremony
Over 500 guests, partners and suppliers attended the ship's naming ceremony on April 19 – one day ahead of its inaugural voyage from London Tilbury to Hamburg. Said the CEO as the festivities opened, ‘I think it’s impossible to put into words how challenging it is to raise a cruise line in the middle of a pandemic… Launching during the pandemic, the first British cruise line in over a decade, shows very clearly how committed we are and how strongly we believe in the future of cruising and in the future of Ambassador.’
He added, 'Nearly 25 years ago on this day, I joined my first cruise ship as a bar waiter. While I instantly fell in love with the cruise industry, I could never have imagined that one day I would be the CEO of a brand-new cruise line and witness the naming its first ship.'
A montage of former athletic champion Sally Gunnell’s wins were projected from a large screen in the ship’s Palladium theatre, before she blessed the ship and initiated the customary bottle smashing. ‘Ambassador has a collection of brand values that I too strongly believe in, from community and wellbeing to being sustainable and ethical,’ she said. ‘We all need to be accountable for the seas we sail on.’
Songs from musicals The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera were also performed as part of the naming ceremony – a flavour of the ‘Magical of the Musicals’ onboard show – with passengers given masquerade masks.
In keeping with the line’s sustainability focus, all costumes worn by performers were made with 100% recycled plastic drawn from the ocean.
Chief Commercial Officer Chris Coates, who recently moved to a part-time consultancy role with the line was in attendance, while Ambassador Chairman Gordon Wilson and Chief Commercial Officer Phil Gardener delivered speeches, as well as captain Egil Aune speaking on behalf of staff working onboard, and who described ‘jumping at the chance to join Britain’s newest cruise line.’
A nine-course meal in the Buckingham Restaurant followed the ceremony where wait staff participated in a parade carrying the ship's signature Baked Alaska dessert.
In its first year, the 1,400-passenger Ambience is set to offer 31 cruises spanning 37 countries and sailing 90,000 miles. Following its four-night maiden cruise, it will embark on itineraries exploring the British Isles, the Norwegian Fjords, the Nordics, Greenland, the Arctic and Iceland, plus several short break cruises. In winter it will sail the Canaries, Cuba, the Caribbean, Cape Verde and Scandinavia.
Ambassador’s Ambition is set to undergo the same upgrades – including environmental upgrades – ahead of its launch next March. It will operate no-fly cruises from regional ports in the UK, such as Tilbury, Liverpool, Newcastle, Dundee, Belfast, Bristol and Falmouth.