Luxury cruise ships come in all guises – from six-star all-inclusive to less inclusive classic voyages. For those who have never before sailed at this level, it is a whole new experience – and one that can be surprisingly affordable
Luxury means different things to different people, but on a ship it generally means first-class service, personal recognition by crew members and excellent accommodation. It means the waiting staff remember your favourite tipple and carry your breakfast from the buffet to your table for you. It’s all about the little touches.
Ever more new ships are being commissioned for the luxury market – Silversea’s new flagship Silver Muse launches in spring 2017 and Oceania Cruises welcomed Sirena earlier this year, while summer saw Regent Seven Seas Explorer’s inaugural voyage. Debi Holmes, team leader, Concierge Department, Iglu Cruise & Planet Cruise, was delighted with her visit to Explorer. She observed:
“Embarking Explorer you see immediately that attention to detail is second to none and how classy the ship is.”
Seabourn Encore’s maiden season starts in December 2016. Lynn Narraway, MD Seabourn UK, said: “2016 has been a strong year for Seabourn thus far; we have seen UK sales increase exponentially. We’ve invested in sales activities, public relations and marketing partnerships with Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller and interior hospitality designer Adam D Tihany. This has resulted in an increased awareness of Seabourn, which has showed within our 2016 sales. Our aim is to grow the number of agents selling luxury.”
Celebrity’s ‘Jet Set Sail’ programme returns from May to September 2017. Its purpose is to extend the luxury cruise experience to the journey prior to embarkation. The programme from Stansted’s private terminal to Venice, Barcelona and Rome to meet Constellation and Reflection offers reduced airport check-in times, a preflight lounge, larger seat pitches and an increased luggage allowance.
Nicola Defty, CruiseDeals.co.uk, said: “With so many deals around, it’s easy to see why luxury cruising is becoming popular with people who want a special holiday without breaking the bank. We’re seeing more amenities to appeal to the luxury market, from fine dining to state-of-the-art spas. As cruise lines compete for a hold on the luxury market, it’s vital to meet guests’ rising demands.”
Elegant mega-yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream II hold a maximum 112 guests
with 95 crew. Mark Schmitt, UK sales director, emphasised how important the UK market is for SeaDream. “We’ve invested in sales activities, marketing partnerships and a robust PR strategy aimed specifically at a UK audience, resulting in increased awareness of the SeaDream brand and ultimately a good uplift in sales,” he said.
“SeaDream distributes monthly promotions to agents. Our current promotion is ‘Sell Three and Sail Free’, whereby the sales agent can secure a complimentary sailing in 2016 if they sell three qualifying voyages during the promotional period.”
Fifty-passenger Hebridean Princess, one-time car ferry, has established herself in the pages
of the history books as one of HM The Queen’s favourite ways to travel round the Scottish islands. The smallest luxury cruise ship afloat, it offers excellent levels of comfort and service.
Cruise Nation founder & MD Phil Evans said: “We’re seeing a considerable rise in luxury cruise bookings – in particular interest in luxury lines excursions, whether a deep sea dive in Crystal Cruises’ submarine or test driving a Ferrari in Monte Carlo. For luxury cruise lines, significant destinations will be the Arctic and Antarctica, offering an unparalleled travel experience for which there is high demand.” Indeed, Antarctica is on Quark Expeditions’ 2017 agenda with the introduction of premium, all- inclusive ship Island Sky, ideal for the more adventurous cruiser desiring a luxury experience. Andrew White, president Quark Expeditions, said: “Our passengers rank comfort and value high on their list of priorities. Premium cruise amenities and flight accessibility allow us to offer the same depth of Antarctic exploration as on our more classic voyages.”
Also heading to Antarctica in 2017 is Silversea’s Silver Cloud, extensively refurbished and converted
to an ice-class expedition ship. The addition of Silver Cloud expands Silversea’s expedition fleet to four ships. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has two 5-star expedition vessels in the pipeline scheduled for launch in April and October 2019, with itineraries including the polar regions. CEO Karl J. Pojer said: “We are perfectly positioned in the luxury market with our cruise ships Europa and Europa2. We already operate successfully in our expedition segment, which offers growth potential for 5-star cruises. Our new- builds will serve to strengthen our leading position in this market, in particular at international level.”
Helen Tabois, senior product and marketing manager, Caribbean and Cruise ITC Luxury Travel, said: “Many clients are new to cruising and the luxury sector of the market is reshaping their perceptions. They realise that they can enjoy the same facilities and services that they would in a five-star hotel whilst being delivered in style to incredible destinations. Amongst our clients Crystal and Star Clippers perform well, while major players are Regent Seven Seas, SeaDream, Silversea and Seabourn.”
Seabourn, with one of the highest passenger/space ratios in the business, plans to return to Alaska with Sojourn in 2017 for the first time in 15 years. John Delaney, Seabourn’s senior vice president, global marketing and sales, said: “No other line can show Alaska’s highlights in such ultra-luxury Seabourn style.”
MSC Yacht Club guests enjoy the luxury of a private yacht while having access to the facilities and services that MSC ships offer. Andrea Gangale, head of product, MSC Cruises, said: “We worked on designing a ‘ship within a ship’ to create a physical space dedicated to Yacht
Club guests. This innovative concept will feature on all of our next-generation ships.” MSC Yacht Club is currently available on Preziosa, Divina, Splendida and Fantasia. It will be available on Meraviglia from June 2017 and on Seaside from December 2017.
Royal Caribbean may not be classed as a ‘luxury’ line, but it sets a new standard with its Royal Suite Class, comprising three service levels based on suite category. The top level includes the Royal Genie service. The butler is trained by the British Butler Institute and his – or her – job is to cater for guest requirements 24 hours a day.
1. Agents should be knowledgeable about the cruise market’s top-end players. Knowledge is key.
2. Ever more cruise lines refer to themselves as ‘luxury’. One way to calculate whether your clients will actually get a genuine luxury experience is to find out crew-to-passenger ratios. Luxury brands will be much more equal than mass-market cruise lines.
3. Recommend luxury cruise options for those celebrating special occasions such as birthdays.
4. If you can persuade clients to step up to a luxury brand once, they will probably want to return to that level for their next trip.
5. For the undecided client, point out the value that all-inclusive luxury cruises provide.
SeaDream offers an eight-night wine-themed cruise departing Lisbon on April 27, 2017. Calls include Gibraltar, Malaga, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca and Menorca. All-inclusive price fro £3,328pp including gratuities and selected wines. 0800 783 1373 |seadream.com
Hebridean offers a seven-night Easter Cruise on Hebridean Princess departing Oban April 11, 2017. Price from £3,390 pp including meals, alcoholic drinks, two gala dinners, local transfers, shore excursions and Champagne reception at Duart Castle with Sir Lachlan Maclean. Itinerary includes stops at the Isle of Eigg, Canna and Staffa. 01756 704704 | hebridean.co.uk
Silversea offers an 11-night cruise on Silver Muse departing from Piraeus (Athens) on July 15, 2017. Price from £5,650pp in Classic Veranda suite includes Champagne, select wines/ spirits, butler service and onboard gratuities. Stops include Mykonos, Santorini, Katakolon, Valletta, Palermo and Sorrento. 08444 251 0837 | silversea.com