Oceania Cruises EMEA senior VP and MD Bernard Carter discusses the line’s ongoing OceaniaNEXT project and how luxury cruising is evolving.
Can you talk us through some of the latest OceaniaNEXT enhancements?
The $100+million programme of enhancements continues apace. Nautica restarted sailings on 1 April 2022, which completes the rebuild of the four 684-guest Regatta-class ships and marked full return to service with all six ships sailing with guests once again.
The next phase sees the re-inspiration of our two larger ships, Riviera and Marina, which will make their debuts in December 2022 and November 2023, respectively.
In addition to the full transformation of the fleet, we are introducing new solo staterooms on the four smaller ships, plus two new series of excursions, Go Green and Beyond Blueprints, which offer a more immersive experience.
What makes this project different to other renovation concepts we see across the sector?
OceaniaNEXT is all about taking our product to a whole new level, better than it ever has been before, as we always strive to find ways of improving the guest experience.
For example, Oceania Cruises is renowned for the finest cuisine at sea, yet we do not rest on our laurels.
Over the past two years we have introduced a wide range of new menus and culinary offerings in all on-board venues, including the expansion of options for stateroom dining.
How is work progressing on Vista, your new ship?
We are so excited to welcome Vista to the fleet in April 2023, our first new ship in more than a decade.
Work is progressing well and we are looking forward to her inaugural season, with plans underway for a series of trade events to showcase her to our travel partners.
How are UK sales looking at present?
The UK has weathered the pandemic better than a lot of countries, but we have seen how hard it has impacted on our travel partners.
We have been there for them throughout, protecting commissions, ensuring timely refunds, and generally helping however we can. It is great to see that, even with current global uncertainties, the market is returning.
We have seen two 180-day Around The World launches fill in a single day (one in 30 minutes), we had a record booking day, both globally and in the UK for Vista’s sales launch – and most recently we have created another new record booking day for our double-season launch on 4 May.
Demand is also strong for 2022 sailings. We kept our powder dry for some time, with high booking levels and a stated desire to concentrate on lower guest numbers to ensure that even the first returning guests would receive the signature Oceania Cruises experience.
You’ve had some changes in the UK sales team – how is that helping you to support agents?
We restructured the UK sales team to ensure delivery of the best support to our valued trade partners, and it is going well, with great feedback from partners across the commercial spectrum.
Louise Craddock, who has been with us for 10 years, was promoted to sales director UK and Ireland; Alex Farquharson moved up to become to senior manager key accounts; James Scott is now sales manager south, and we appointed David Sanderson as sales manager north, Scotland and Ireland, who joined from our sister brand NCL.
It seems that luxury cruising is always evolving – what do you think is the next big innovation?
Choice. Put simply, people want choice more than ever – over everything they buy or do.
Our needs are evolving faster than ever, spurred on by the pandemic. Cruising is by virtue a luxury and inclusive experience and what everyone sees as most important, as more special to them, is diversifying rapidly.
Cruise will continue to evolve. The next five to 10 years will be the most exciting yet.