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Sea Cloud taps new president, VP sales for US market push

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Sea Cloud Cruises tapped Mirell Reyes, center, as US president and Kevin Smith, left as VP sales. At right is US CEO Daniel Schaefer
To grow the North American market, Sea Cloud Cruises appointed Mirell Reyes as president and Kevin Smith as VP sales, based in the company's new Fort Lauderdale office.

Reyes, formerly president of Star Clippers Americas, and Smith, most recently VP sales at American Queen Voyages, with experience from AmaWaterways and Silversea Cruises, are jumping in to raise Sea Cloud's profile and sales via travel advisors, consortia and new charter partnerships.

They've just returned from sailing on Sea Cloud Spirit in Europe, flush with enthusiasm for the brand's newest and 'largest' — at 136 passengers — three-masted sailing vessel, introduced in 2021.

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Sea Cloud Spirit has a breathtaking 44,000 square feet of sails

'With 44,000 square feet of sails, it takes your breath away,' Reyes said. 

'Magical moment'

'There's something so romantic about sailing,' Smith added. 'When we shut the engines off and everyone's on deck, and the wind hits the sails and the vessel lists to the right or to the left, it is a magical moment. You can see the guests fall in love with it.'

Smith was wowed even before sail-away when he arrived at his spacious cabin with its natural light, Jacuzzi tub and welcome bottle of Champagne, which all passengers receive.

'When the guests come on board, you hear nothing but the Champagne [corks] popping from the verandas,' he said.

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A Category C cabin with panoramic windows that open

Twenty-five of the 69 outside cabins have balconies, including the three owner's suites, and top deck accommodations have panoramic windows that open to the fresh air.

'There is so much natural light, even in the spa, which is huge,' Reyes said. Elevators connect the decks.

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Aft Lido Deck, 'the heart of the ship'

The outdoor lounge and bistro aft on Lido Deck form the heart of the vessel, a gathering place with a bar where lunch is served and, on Reyes and Smith's cruise, where an oyster and wine pairing was held during the call at the North Sea resort of Sylt.

Sophisticated yet casual

'It's an absolutely fabulous area,' Smith said. He described Sea Cloud as a 'sophisticated product in a casual sailing experience, a blend of both worlds. It's not a Silversea but a Silversea client can be comfortable here.'

The line has a music partnership with Steinway, and some sailings feature Michelin-star chefs.

Sea Cloud also operates the namesake, storied 64-passenger windjammer built in 1931 and once owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post and Edward Hutton, and the 94-passenger Sea Cloud II, built in 2001. All three vessels are hand-sailed, with crew scurrying up the masts and along the rigging.

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Sea Cloud, the storied, 1931-built yacht

'Gilded, floating time machine'

'For me, sailing on the Sea Cloud was like stepping back into a gilded, floating time machine,' said Peter Knego, journalist, ship historian, preservationist, collector and ardent fan. 'From the top of her billowing sails to the bottom of her beautifully sculpted keel, she oozes equal portions maritime lore and timeless elegance.

'Her story, from lofty beginnings as the Post family’s globetrotting yacht to her World War II duties, then service as the Dominican dictator’s retreat, all to be followed by sad years of decay and then a miraculous rebirth into an elegant cruise ship, reads like overwrought fiction and yet it is all true and then some.'

Knego continued: 'In addition to this rich history, what makes the Sea Cloud and her newer sisters such a magnificent cruising experience is their intimate size, unique off-the-beaten-track itineraries, the devoted crew and the glorious food.'

Trade distribution

While Sea Cloud cruises are sold on the US market via longtime charterers like Lindblad Expeditions and Kalos Golf, the brand hasn't had FIT business stateside. It's now investing in that, working through travel advisors.

'We don't have a direct market in the States,' Smith said. 'All our resources are going to the trade and the consortia partners.'

Smith, whose father Bill Smith held leadership roles at top luxury brands like Silversea, Crystal and Virtuoso and is beloved by the trade, said travel advisors are paramount.

'Mirell’s and Kevin’s vast cruise knowledge and background in the luxury high-end market combined with their strong industry relationships will play a major role in growing the Americas,' Sea Cloud Cruises US CEO Daniel Schaefer said.

Germany is the top source market for this bilingual (German and English) experience served by international crew. Reyes aspires to grow the Americas contingent to 40% or beyond in the coming years.

In early 2022, The Yacht Portfolio, which developed The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, announced plans to acquire Sea Cloud, a deal that was called off mid-year. Reyes said a sale is 'off the table' and the owners are committed to investing and growing the North American market on their own.

All-inclusive pricing

Sea Cloud is weeks away from rolling out all-inclusive pricing, bundling in port charges, taxes, tips and all beverages, but not shore excursions. In select destinations, special experiences are included, such as after-hours museum visits or beach barbecues.

Smith said the line plans to provide on-board credits to preferred consortia partners for their clients to spend on excursions, the spa or gift shop.

'Every itinerary is unique and special'

Itineraries are varied and non-repeating, and range from three nights to 16 nights.

'The beauty of this is going into those tiny, little ports in Europe and the Caribbean. Every itinerary is unique and special,' Reyes said. 'I'm not easy to impress. I've worked in the cruise industry for 23 years. I think I know every port out there. This is different.'

Destinations like Italy, Croatia and the Greek Isles are top sellers for North America. 'We go there, but in a different way,' Reyes said, pointing to places like the tiny Greek island where 'Mamma Mia!' was filmed and visitors tour in horse-drawn carriages.

Classic itineraries like Barcelona-Nice tie in with the America's Cup. Other sailings feature the Saint-Tropez Regatta or Grand Prix in Monaco. Six- and seven-night itineraries in Europe can be combined without repeating ports. Longer Caribbean sailings 'dive in a little deeper.'

The British Virgin Islands are 'particularly pleased to have boutique ships like Sea Cloud calling on islands like Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke this season,' said Clive McCoy, director of tourism, BVI. 'We appreciate the positive impact travelers from these ships bring to the small businesses in our territory and look forward to giving them a warm welcome to our beautiful islands.'

Familiarization trips

Getting North American travel advisors to experience Sea Cloud is a priority.

'I want our trade partners to come on board and see this is truly different from anything out there,' Smith said. He will be reaching out to consortia partners, enticing them with a Champagne-themed Italy-Spain cruise carrying two chefs who have three Michelin stars between them.

Sea Cloud Spirit's March 3 cruise, a round-trip Miami sailing to the Bahamas' Family Islands and Key West, is designated a familiarization cruise.

Story-telling

Having worked for executives like John Waggoner and Bob Salmon at American Queen Voyages, Smith knows the importance of story-telling to convey a niche brand's extraordinary features. Sea Cloud has engaged a master at that, Michael Hicks, as communications advisor.

He called the brand 'authentic and regal' and looks forward to sharing the history, the destinations and enrichment, like an October sailing with the Michelin-star German chef Tristan Brandt of the 18-seat Tambourine Room, 'one of the hottest restaurants in Miami right now.'

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Sea Cloud Spirit's Sun Deck

Sailing, luxury, history, sustainability

Smith was drawn to Sea Cloud by 'the sailing, the luxury, the history, the sustainability. When you shut off those engines and go under sail, you can't be any greener.'

He added: 'We have an opportunity to deliver an immersive experience unlike anybody else.'

Smith sees the challenge of breaking through with a product like Sea Cloud on the US market as that 'Everybody's got this idea that bigger is better, and that's really not the case. It's getting down to a smaller passenger count where you can deliver an impeccable product ... The way the crew delivers this product is unparalleled.

'It's a higher level of service. This is world class.'