Australia has become one of the top markets globally in passenger growth for boutique operator, SeaDream Yacht Club.The company hopes to lift the figures still higher with a new focus on the best in wine-and-food pairing.
SeaDream operates its two-yacht fleet, SeaDream I and SeaDream II, in the Mediterranean during the Northern Summer, and over 10% of guests sailing that region now hail from Australia.
Sales in Australia for 2015 are already up by 13% on the same four months of last year, SeaDream president, Bob Lepisto, revealed during a visit to Sydney on Tuesday.
Lepisto, currently visiting Australia, arrived in Sydney on a particularly waterlogged day – the NSW capital was being lashed by storms. The outlook for SeaDream, however, is sunny, and travel agents are largely responsible.
SeaDream’s growth in the Australian market had been driven by loyal travel agents, Lepisto said, as well as word-of-mouth by enthusiastic Club Members (past guests) to friends and relatives. An impromptu function for Club Members in Sydney this week rapidly gathered 100 acceptances. About 70 attended a similar event in Melbourne.
“SeaDream likes having Australians onboard and they certainly seem to like us …. and I think they will also be especially interested in our upcoming new wine voyages,” Lepisto said.
“Since we began selling into the Australian market place 12 years ago, we’ve carried Australians in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and Northern Europe, the Caribbean, two great seasons on the Amazon and one in South-east Asia – and including five exclusive-use charters by corporates and individuals, as well as 35 major groups of 40 or more, and a third of whom have re-booked in subsequent years.
“Equally we’ve had individuals sail multiple times including one Sydney couple for a total to date of 157 days, another 142 days, and quite a number of guests for over 100 days. We’ve also had Australian adult families book up to 10 staterooms at a time, and couples who have enjoyed a special time renewing wedding vows aboard.”
SeaDream does no advertising and has virtually no promotion, Lepisto admitted – yet the company manages to exceed the expectations of its guests and is promoted widely by word of mouth. Sixty percent of business is repeat.
The two SeaDream mega motor-cruisers have little competition because of their small size and distinct place in the market. Positioned as the world’s highest-rated boutique passenger vessels, each has just 56 staterooms for a maximum 112 guests, served by 95 crew. Competitors, such as there are, tend to use much bigger ships.
Lepisto says one of the main attractions for Australians is SeaDream’s philosophy of “elegantly casual”: a five-star atmosphere which does not require suits, jackets, ties or ball-gowns at any time aboard.
Cuisine is sumptuous, with guests able to choose Chateaubriand and lobster every night if they wish, try more adventurous dining or opt for gourmet health options. Shore excursions were often well suited to a healthy lifestyle, Lepisto said, such as hiking up to hilltop monasteries.
Many guests from Australia and New Zealand booked back-to-back voyages, he said. Voyages tend to last 10, 11 or seven nights.
A wide diversity of small ports in the Mediterranean and Caribbean appealed to guests because larger cruise ships simply could not get into them, Lepisto said.
“Many have told us it’s these ports and the boutique and intimate nature of SeaDream that gets them aboard time and again.”
SeaDream’s pricing is all inclusive. It includes premium bar drinks and wines, a golf simulator with 30 international courses, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, mountain bikes for shore use, power and sail water-sports where permitted, crew gratuities and port charges and taxes.
Expanding on the company’s new food and wine offerings, Lepisto said sailings from this month let passengers learn about the best in wine-and-food pairing.
With current bourgeoning interest in wine-and-food appreciation, the eight sailings in the Mediterranean this year and a further eight in 2016 will allow guests to meet with eminent winemakers aboard, enjoy free tastings of the maker’s wines, participate in specially-created wine-and-food dinners, and take part in optional visits to some of Europe’s most prestigious smaller and historic wineries.
SeaDream Yacht Club’s owner and chief executive, Atle Brynestad, has appointed one of Scandinavia’s most-respected wine writers, Erica Landin, as Director of Wine. Landin is in charge of developing new optional programs for guests wanting to expand their wine knowledge and appreciation of how best to match favourite or special-occasion wines with food.
Written by : Peter Needham