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Two new cruise lines reveal their designs
at SeaTrade Conference
CruiseCompete and AllThingsCruise were well represented last week at SeaTrade, the annual conference of the global cruise industry held annually in Southeast Florida.
Publisher and Executive Editor Heidi Allison Shane, Editor and chief blogger Cynthia Boal Janssens, and two key writers for the websites, Jackie Sheckler Finch and David Molyneaux, were on site attending informative panel discussions and press conferences, interviewing cruise executives and generally hobnobbing to determine what is going on in this dynamic sector of the tourism industry.
The conference always open with a “State of the Industry” discussion with the top executives of the world’s major cruise companies….Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC and Norwegian Cruises.
Their message was clear:
The industry is booming with over 100 ships on order, a record number. Sixteen new ships will launch this year.
Following them were the heads of two brand new cruise lines which are making headlines of their own: Virgin Voyages and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Both of these lines are backed by strong brands and appear destined for success. Even their names tell you something about their marketing strategies, with Virgin calling its trips “voyages” and Ritz-Carlton referring to its new vessels as “yachts.”
Here are some highlights of these two new cruise companies:
Tom McAlpin is the president and CEO of Virgin Voyages and his casual look onstage (jacket, but no tie) set the tone for his presentation. Much like the other companies launched by founder Richard Branson (record stores, airlines and more), Virgin Voyages will be “edgy.” Its sleek exterior was revealed last Oct. 31 at a keel-laying ceremony where Boy George was the featured performer. Not many details have been released yet about the interior spaces.
Many had thought that the hull would be Virgin red but it is silvery gray with only a bit of red. Smoked glass windows contribute to the design. Painting designs on ship hulls seems all the rage, but Virgin is sticking to a simple mermaid designed by Toby Tinsley.
'She will be the most recognizable ship sailing the seven seas, delivering an irresistible sailor experience,' Branson pledged in October. “We’re also committed to making sure our crew are the happiest at sea and will be proud to sail with us.”
Three ships are on order and will carry 2,800 “sailors” each. McAlpin explains that after much deliberation and consultation with their future customers, the ships will be “adult by design” with a minimum age of 18. The first ship will sail in 2020 from Miami, Fla. and will alternate seven-day itineraries in the Caribbean. It has yet to be named.
Virgin has ambitious aims:
“We want people to come off the ship saying that was the best experience I ever had.”
The promises continue:
“The way you enjoy dining will be different. The entertainment will not be what you typically have on a cruise…It will be a sophisticated premium product.”
Last October the line began taking $500 per stateroom deposits for the chance to be one of the first to book, another bold marketing strategy. Ninety-three percent of the cabins will have ocean views with 86 percent having “sea terraces.” Given Branson’s English background you can expect a British flair to the décor. Ten international companies are designing the public and private rooms and some details will be released in May…hopefully, as 2020 isn’t that far off!
Virgin expects to attract a slightly younger cruiser and those that have never considered a cruise before…but we will appeal to anyone with a “young at heart” attitude, McAlpin says.
From Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection:
Douglas Prothero, the managing director of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, presented a starkly different cruise concept. He revealed the design of the first of several small ships (298 passengers) which will offer an ultra-luxury experience….which he calls its “laser-sharp” mission.”
While there are a few other luxury yachts operating in the cruise sector, notably the SeaDream ships and and the Crystal Esprit, this company is banking on drawing its early customers from those who know and appreciate the Ritz-Carlton experience and are willing to pay for it. Many of these will also be patrons of the Marriott Luxury Collection.
The company is co-managed with Marriott and that company’s 600 salespeople, 800 focusing on luxury, are a terrific resource for a new venture.
The first vessel is due in late 2019 and will include the Great Lakes and Atlantic Canada in its itineraries.
Prothero promises that inside and out the design will evoke being on a luxury yacht.
Accommodations feature 149 suites, each with its own terrace, including two luxurious penthouse suites. As with Ritz-Carlton on land, cruises feature:
- Destination-based activities with local chefs, artists and musicians
- Luxury amenities including The Ritz-Carlton Spa
- Elevated dining including a restaurant from Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, and Panorama Lounge
Most voyages range from 7 to 12 nights and include intimate and signature destinations alike with many overnight calls. The shore excursion line-up was also released last week.
The first of three yachts will sail in November 2019.
Reservations for the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will open to the public in June 2018, following priority access booking in May 2018 for Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Rewards loyalty members. They are also available for private charter.