Ambassador Cruise Line CEO Christian Verhounig provides his thoughts on how the new line can tap into demand for no-fly cruising by blending a traditional cruise experience with innovative itineraries.
What has been the reaction since you launched the brand earlier this year?
There is huge unfulfilled demand for no-fly departures. Ambassador is filling the niche as a premium-value British cruise line offering a friendly service, smaller ships with traditional values.
Having included some clear vaccination and health procedures and financial protection policies via our trust account, guests booking with us have peace of mind regarding their money and health.
What are your immediate challenges as a new line and how do you intend to overcome them?
The launch of the first British cruise line in over a decade has not been without its challenges. Ambassador is addressing a customer demographic that is almost entirely vaccinated and by the time we operate in 2022, the majority of the destination markets we serve will also be fully vaccinated. All guests and crew are to be vaccinated, subject to exemptions.
We also own our first ship, Ambience, outright so don’t have any financial debt – different to existing players in the market. Ambassador’s guests’ deposits are not used to finance the operation.
Guests’ deposits and payments for their cruises are paid into a fully independently managed trust account and the monies are not released until the cruise departs.
Likewise, additional insurance cover is in place to financially protect all monies paid directly to Ambassador, or via travel agents, in case a cruise is cancelled.
How are you working with the trade – and how do you intend to grow your partnerships?
Since our launch in June, we have been establishing relationships with our travel agent partners and wider trade contacts, as they are the key to our success.
Our business development team is on hand to deliver one-on-one product training and marketing support on request.
We provide an easy-to-use online tool along with a dedicated trade partner section on the Ambassador website, home to a range of useful information. We know that early bookings are vital to agents, so we frequently launch exciting sales campaigns to help secure early booking business.
We are also working on our plans for ship visits and fam trips in 2022.
What should agents know about Ambassador to help them sell your cruises?
We offer a premium value, traditional cruise experience at a fantastically affordable price. Quality doesn’t have to come at a price.
Treating our guests right is not just about the booking and on-board experience. We know how important it is to feel financially protected and to be able to book with confidence, which is why our booking reassurances include a refund guarantee, should one of our cruises be cancelled.
Your first ship is Ambience – what you can tell us about the on-board experience?
Ambience offers a higher space-to-guest ratio. We can build relationships between staff and guests and create a sense of community at sea. Carrying just 1,400 guests, she will create an inviting and social atmosphere.
The ship will have a choice of five restaurants offering a selection of locally inspired dishes including specialty dining options, as well as two cafes and nine lounges. The restaurants will all be service-led with no self-serve buffets.
We are currently designing an enticing on-board entertainment and enrichment programme aimed specifically at our 50-plus market. It includes the likes of dedicated bridge hosts adding a professional atmosphere to the game, guest comedians, a book club, and for cruises of six nights and more we will also have hand-picked guest speakers, arts and crafts demonstrations and lessons.
What plans do you have to grow the fleet?
While we have ambitions beyond one ship, we won’t confirm the size of our ambition at this stage. However, it would be prudent of us to be aware of other ocean ships of a similar size as they become available.
Can you tell us more about your itineraries for 2022 and beyond, including your maiden voyage?
The maiden season features 33 voyages covering more than 90 different ports, spanning the British Isles, Norwegian fjords, the Baltic, Greenland, the Arctic, the Canary Islands, Cuba, the Caribbean and Scandinavia, from 6 April 2022 to 16 May 2023. Ambience’s size and environmental compliance allows her to visit many of the ports that other vessels cannot access.
Ambience’s inaugural sailing is a four-night cruise to Hamburg. With two sea days cruising the River Elbe, and a full day in port, we feel we are introducing Ambience to our guests and giving them ample time to experience the pleasures of sailing on board our flagship, while still exploring the Hanseatic city.
Ambassador also has two multi-generational cruises scheduled for summer 2022, where children and infants over six months old can sail together.
Do you expect to continue your focus on no-fly cruising for the foreseeable future?
Ambassador is exclusively for the British market sailing from London Tilbury. After completing its inaugural season in spring 2023, we plan to extend sailings from additional regional ports on a no-fly range of voyages.