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Royal Caribbean and Silversea: ‘The personal relationship is the key’

Royal Caribbean, Roberto Martinoli, cruise

Yesterday, it was announced that Royal Caribbean will acquire a 66.7% equity stake in luxury and expedition specialists Silversea Cruises. We speak to Roberto Martinoli, chief executive officer at Silversea, to find out more about how the agreement will help the company move forward into a new era.

When did discussions between Silversea and Royal Caribbean start?

About one year ago. Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, executive chairman, Silversea Cruises, was looking for an investor, to guarantee we were going to have the aggressive growth plan we wanted.

We saw an opportunity to move the business forward faster and find a partner to supplement what we had planned.

We started talks with Royal Caribbean, and things really accelerated in the last four to five months, with serious conversations taking place. The process was of course very long and complex to get where we are today – but we are glad to be here.

The deal is subject to approval, so we are waiting for this to happen, but we are confident it will go through

How will the agreement help Silversea move forward?

Silversea will be remain an independent entity, but it’s great to be partnering with an organisation as big as Royal Caribbean, so I am sure we will be able to exchange best strategies.

It’s going to be an easier environment for us. Also, in terms of distribution, we are a much smaller business, so we don’t have the network of agents that Royal Caribbean has. This will be great for us in the future, putting our name out there around the world.

Also, in terms of purchasing power. We imagine that will be able to access the same purchasing power as Royal Caribbean, which is far bigger than us. Royal gives passengers great experiences, and we share lots of views, even though we are in a different segment of the market.

In terms of strategy for the future, we are all coming from the same place, and we have the same culture. We will also benefit from sharing our beliefs with people who have been running a very large organisation.

Silversea is known as a family run business, so was it a hard decision?

Of course, it goes without saying. We’ve had a long debate, but Manfredi has been very smart in understanding that the opportunity to grow the business is easier with partners like Royal.

However, it’s also important that we will not lose our identity, as Silversea.

So, accessing that opportunity for the future, while maintaining the same management structure. I think that’s why Manfredi decided to go ahead with it; this was the thinking process behind it.

Manfredi and Richard Fain, chairman and chief executive of Royal Caribbean Cruises, are very like minded and share many of the same principles. We are very excited about it.

The personal relationship seems key?

Yes, absolutely. I think this has been a great contributor for Manfredi in making his decision and to change from being the sole owner of a business to sharing it.

Will this agreement help you innovate more?

We are obviously in a different space, but technology always helps. In terms of things in the back office, it does help, such as making ships more efficient. But I don’t think our guests are looking for other forms of innovation, in particular.

We want to give our guests the best possible experience on board, but I’m not sure we’re going to make it too sophisticated in terms of technology that is used on board. However, we will certainly do whatever will be a plus for our guests.

How will it change the business?

Strictly speaking, we don’t see any particular change moving forward. I think we are very happy with what we are seeing today.

We had the Silver Muse launch last year, which has been a great success, and we had the lengthening of the Silver Spirit, which was also a tremendous success, as well as the refurbishment of the Silver Cloud. Overall, in terms of what we are doing today, we wouldn’t expect things to change very much.

We are looking at what we can do for our guests in terms of product delivery. However, I think it will be minor tweaks, nothing major. Fortunately, our guest satisfaction levels are great. Nonetheless, we are also looking to do better, of course.

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