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Ambassador CCO Chris Coates moves to consultancy role as line welcomes three new execs

Ambassador's CCO Chris Coates transitions in to a consultancy role from June
Ambassador Cruise Line appointed three new members to its executive management team with current Chief Commercial Officer Chris Coates transitioning to a part-time consultancy role.

Cruise industry veteran Phil Gardner takes up Coates’ role of CCO, chartered marine engineer with Royal Navy roots, Nick Hughes, is named chief operating officer and seasoned business and finance professional Matthias Seeger joins as chief financial officer.

The appointment of Seeger enables interim CFO Simon Weeks to take on his full-time role as chief administrative officer. He is an existing member of the executive team.

The announcement comes after Ambassador announced its purchase of AIDA Cruises’ AIDAmira, which will enter service next year as Ambition, and nine weeks before the inaugural season of its first vessel, Ambience, which is undergoing a refit in dry dock in Croatia as its crew assemble for training. 

‘The contribution that both Chris and Simon have made to the initial set up and commercial launch of Britain’s first new cruise line in over a decade has been exceptional,’ stated Christian Verhounig, CEO, Ambassador Cruise Line. ‘It is a real asset to the business and the new team we have hired to have both continue their involvement in the business in their new roles outlined…’

He added, I am very excited to formally welcome Matthias, Phil and Nick to the Ambassador family. Their expertise from both within and outside the cruise industry will bring extremely valuable and diverse knowledge to the business, further accelerating Ambassador’s growth plans…’ 

Gardner and Seeger took up their posts February 1, while Hughes will begin his role in March.

Chris Coates

Ambassador’s first CCO Coates will take on a part-time consultancy role at Ambassador from June, advising on market and ship deployment and programming, route planning management, cruise industry relations and acting as counsel to the rest of the executive team on other strategic matters.

Phil Gardner 

Gardener, who has over 20 years travel industry experience, will have responsibility for sales, marketing, and commercial planning, which includes digital and reservations centre interaction with passengers and travel trade.


‘Opportunities like this don’t come round often,’ he said of his new role. ‘To be joining Britain’s newest cruise line, with the prospect of building on the amazing start Ambassador has made and be part of growing the business, was a compelling proposition. I look forward to being back in the heart of the cruise industry and developing a brand and business that is the envy of the UK cruise market.’ 

Prior to joining Ambassador, Gardner was CCO at Fosun Tourism Group, where he focused on relaunching Thomas Cook. His previous roles include integration programme manager at First Choice during the First Choice/Thomson merger, leading the flight only division of the newly created TUI UK business, running the commercial arm of TUI UK Cruises, and director of sales, e-commerce & marketing at Thomas Cook where he was member of the UK Board.

Nick Hughes 

Hughes, a chartered marine engineer with a Royal Navy background, is tasked with overseeing maritime operations, engineering and the delivery of the onboard/in cruise experience. 

The new COO who has worked in defence, shipping, and cruise ship operations, remarked, ‘The overwhelming attraction for me, was Ambassador’s clear vision and commitment to environmental protection, sustainability and upgrading the fleet to qualify within the top 10% of all cruise ships globally in terms of ESG rating. This is critical to the future of cruising.’

Hughes’ most recent role was as director of the ro-pax fleet at P&O Ferries; until 2020, the engineer spent seven years as head of technical operations with Marella Cruises where he was responsible for fleet management, budget control and compliance. 

He has led several business re-organisations with experience spanning guest and technical strategy, compliance, risk, shipping law and other aspects of shore-based management. 

Matthias Seeger 

Seeger brings with him over 25 years’ experience as a finance and business executive at large blue-chip consumer goods and retail companies. His most recent appointment was as CFO and board member for the Costcutter Supermarket Group where he served from 2015 to 2021. Prior to this, he held a range of regional and global finance leadership positions with Procter & Gamble.


Noted the new CFO, ‘Within under a year, Ambassador has achieved a solid financial basis to build on… With ambitious plans for its growth and development, I am looking forward to further defining the company’s [Ambassador’s] financial plan and expanding the strategic finance function.'