We speak to Chris Lorenzo, UK director at Variety Cruises, about his time in the cruise industry and Variety’s plans for the next 12 months.
How long have you worked in your current role?
I was the founder of Seafarer back in 1995 and have been in the same role ever since. We were appointed as Variety Cruises general sales agents in the same year and the company has evolved in many ways over the last 23 years, so my role changes with it. I must say I have loved every minute.
What do you like best about the cruise industry?
I love how dynamic the industry is; certainly there is never a dull moment. I have some reservations about the trend towards larger ships. I understand the economics of this, but there is a lot more to this debate than economies of scale and profitability.
Sustainability is a key word in my book, considering aspects like the environmental and social implications of cruise operations. Ultimately, that has been one of the main reasons we have chosen to specialise in small ship and yacht cruising.
How is your company different to other cruise lines?
The only thing we have in common is that we offer holidays afloat. The megayachts of the Variety Cruises fleet accommodate between 36 and 50 passengers, while the flagship, the 36-cabin Variety Voyager, accommodates up to 72 passengers.
This means a friendly, informal and more intimate cruise experience with personal service, exploring destinations up close, accessing places beyond the reach of large cruise liners. Other key features are swim stops, using the aft swimming platform, more time ashore to relax or explore, all-outside cabins and single sitting, open seating dining.
What are you looking forward to most over the next 12 months?
I am really excited about our new destinations, with cruises from Bali, as well as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. I’m delighted we will be back in the Red Sea with a fabulous itinerary that combines Israel, Egypt and Jordan, together with a transit of the Suez Canal.
If agents only sell one itinerary this year, which should it be?
I joined one of our cruises to Cuba in March, which I would recommend. It is a much-quoted cliché that Cuba is stuck in a time warp, and at times you do feel as though you are on a 50’s film set. That is, of course, part of the attraction.
However, there is so much more to Cuba. It has the palm-fringed beaches and azure seas to rival any Caribbean destination, a unique culture, fabulous music and dance and some of the best examples of colonial architecture in the western hemisphere. Add to that the fascinating recent history of the Castro years – all on a yacht that never looks out of place.
Describe a typical Variety Cruises customer?
Our guests are travellers, not tourists. They enjoy good food, service and comfort, but are also prepared to go the extra mile to get under the skin of a destination away from shopping malls and tourist strips. They love to connect with the locals, but also enjoy swimming off the ship, snorkelling and kayaking. Many become converts who return again and again – we enjoy one of the highest repeat booking ratios in the industry.
What is the biggest challenge facing cruise sales?
The mainstream cruise industry is running out of ports with the facilities to accommodate them, with potentially serious consequences for future sales. Thankfully, for our small ships this is not a problem.
How does Variety Cruises work with the travel trade?
Tour operators love the opportunity to create unique products when taking a vessel exclusively. For agents, booking a package through Seafarer is a great proposition for discerning clients who want a boutique-style cruise experience and cultural immersion.