The UK is a key growth market for ultra-luxury cruiseline Yachts of Seabourn as it seeks new customers to fill three new ships that will more than triple the brand's capacity over the next three years.
The first, Seabourn Odyssey, is due to be delivered in mid June and departs on its maiden voyage from Venice, on June 24. It will be followed by sister ship Seabourn Sojourn next year and a third, as yet unnamed, vessel, in 2011.
Each ship is 32,000 tons and holds 450 passengers. Seabourn's three existing ships, Seabourn Spirit, Legend and Pride, are each 10,000 tons and hold 208 passengers.
Speaking this week at the Mariotti shipyard in Genoa, where the new ships are being built, Seabourn chief executive officer and president Pamela Conover said about 65% of the line's passengers are American, with the remaining 35% coming from the rest of the world.
She said: "If every market grows proportionately, I will be content, but we will be pushing aggressively in the UK because I think there is a lot of potential there."
Sojourn is to be named in London next year and will launch with two ex-UK cruises - a maiden voyage to Iceland that starts in London and ends in Dover and a round-trip cruise from Dover to the Baltic - that are aimed at the British market. Some 95% of the line's sales come through agents.
Conover said: "The new ships will sail the tried-and-tested routes, allowing us to position the older ships on new itineraries, for instance in Asia, Indonesia and the Indian Ocean, that will appeal to repeat passengers."
The new ships will have a similar look and feel to the existing fleet but because they are bigger they have space for an additional restaurant, a much larger spa and outside grill and pool area. They will also have a theatre, suitable for cabaret than Broadway productions, according to Conover.
She said: "We are providing lots of options so there is something for everyone. That has been our guiding principle when designing the new ships."
Conover said the big challenge with the bigger ships will be to ensure existing high service levels are maintained. "We know a lot of past customers want balconies [Spirit, Pride and Legend only have Juliet balconies, which are not big enough to even stand on] but otherwise they want everything the same."
As a result, the dining room, which can seat 450 passengers at once, has been designed with two galleys so all food can be cooked to order, as it is on the current fleet. Also, four suites on Spirit, Pride and Legend have been out of service since January, making room to train new chefs, waiters, room stewards and other frontline crew.
Conover said: "It has been a major investment for us because we could have sold those suites, but we insist any new frontline crew train on a Seabourn ship. That way we can be sure of delivering the same service."
She confirmed the requirement that crew remember all passengers' names within 24 hours of embarkation will not change although there are twice as many names to remember on the new ships. Checks are made to ensure this ruling is observed.
- Blog post: Jane Archer visits Seabourn Odyssey at the T Mariotti shipyard
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