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Aussies near top for Azamara, senior exec’s visit reveals

July 30, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Australians are so keen to sail with Azamara Club Cruises that Australia is currently the line’s number three source market and is challenging Britain for the number two position. 

Azamara, which admits it’s something of a cruising insider’s secret, has introduced a full open bar aboard its ships, with unlimited free spirits, wines and international beers. The open bar policy, however, has no direct connection with the fact that the boutique cruise line attracts a surprisingly large number of Australians.

Edie Bornstein, Azamara

Edie Bornstein, Azamara

Australian patronage has been building steadily for some time, while the open bar policy is relatively new, though Azamara has always served complimentary boutique wines at lunch and dinner.

Azamara’s Senior Vice President, Edie Bornstein, made a whirlwind tour of Australia last week. A cruise industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in the global cruise, travel, and technology industries, Bornstein landed in Sydney on Monday and managed to pack in meetings with industry partners in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Brisbane before returning to Sydney on Friday and jetting back to Florida at the weekend.

Bornstein was promoted to Senior Vice President last year. She confirmed that even with Azamara’s relatively low profile in Australia, this country has become the line’s third-largest market “and is on track to bump the UK out of the way soon”. The biggest market, unsurprisingly, is the US, which holds about 50% of the total. The UK represents about 20% and Australia somewhere between 15% and 20%.

Bornstein says the Azamara product “resonates with people in Australia” who tend to stay away longer than most cruisers and who appreciate being able to combine Azamara sailings back to back.

One of Azamara’s Australian partners, Cruiseco, chartered a ship for a 35-night cruise,” Bornstein says.

Azamara Journey Discoveries_Lounge“They filled it in a couple of months and then chartered another for 37 nights.”

Azamara Club Cruises is a destination-immersive cruise line for upmarket travellers “who want to not only see the places and cultures they visit, but to live them”, as the cruise line puts it.  The line is a division of Royal Caribbean Cruises, which also operates Celebrity Cruises.

Azamara’s two intimate, 694-guest ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, offer a combination of 347 suites and staterooms. European-boutique hotel ambience with exceptional service, fine cuisine and wines from around the world – that’s the formula, along with wellness and vitality programs.

The ships make the most of their smaller size, sailing to destinations larger vessels cannot reach in Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, the Caribbean and the West Indies.

Azamara Journey boasts two specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, with onboard entertainment options including a casino, onboard shopping, theatre shows, art auctions, fitness and spa centres.

Bornstein, who before joining Azamara was Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships for Carnival Cruise Lines, has also served as a senior officer at Cunard and Seabourn Azamara QuestCruise Lines. She is well qualified to comment on the “small ships versus big ships” debate.

Her feeling as that both are appropriate, depending on the occasion.

“Today’s consumers want different things at different times. For a family reunion, a larger ship can be right but for a couple going away for a cruise, a smaller ship can be  perfect.”

Azamara is a big hit with singles, Bornstein says, because on some sailings it offers single occupancy of a double stateroom for 125% of the twin-share per person price for double occupancy. 125% is a big saving, considering that many lines charge 200%.

Silversea Cruises, a rival boutique cruise operator competing with Azamara, recently encountered problems when it’s luxury vessel Silver Shadow failed a  surprise sanitary inspection by the US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) while visiting Alaska. Silversea’s embarrassment was acute. It is boosting crew training and making other changes.

Bornstein confirmed that the CDC does conduct such surprise inspections and has the right to do so. “ We are very proud of the health and safety standards of our cruises.”

Commenting briefly on the Silversea case, Bornstein said: “I only know what I read. I just hope that Azamara_Atriumthey get it all straightened out. It helps our industry when we are all doing our best.”

As for Australian travel agents: “I’d just like to thank them for all their support. And to draw their attention to some new things happening in 2013.”

Those things are:

AzAmazing Evenings. Azamara Club had recently introduced AzAmazing Evening, which are complimentary immersive and bespoke destination events held on-shore. They are featured on every voyage, each one specially designed and suited to each cruise’s itinerary and available completely free of charge to all guests booked on the cruise. During the events all interested guests are transported via private motorcoach to an unforgettable evening. Guests sailing a Baltic voyage, for example, could enjoy a private ballet performance in St. Petersburg, Russia, while walking the red carpet and sipping champagne. Or those on a Mediterranean voyage may find themselves sampling Jerez, Spain’s, famous sherry wine at Gonzalez Byass and later enjoying a private equestrian ballet at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art.  The complimentary evening ashore varies from voyage to voyage, offering guests sailing consecutive voyages a wide variety of experiences.

Newly Refurbished ships. Azamara Club Cruises recently refurbishing both ships in its cruise line by completely refreshing all public spaces and staterooms onboard. The ship-wide renovations include new carpets, upholstery, and a new colour palette in public spaces; new mattresses and upgraded veranda furniture for suites and staterooms; and a resurfaced pool, and new sun loungers and pool towels on the outer decks.  The Casino Bar was expanded and enhanced with new furniture, while the Spa and fitness center was refreshed with a new steam room, showers, and state-of-the-art Life Fitness cardio equipment. On the culinary front, guests can now enjoy a new caviar and champagne bar within Aqualina, one of the ships’ two specialty dining venues, as well as a new Chef’s Table concept featuring three wine degustation menus – Italian, French and Californian. Furthermore, a range of enhancements were made behind the scenes in the staff and crew area to add to the comfort of the cruise line’s most valuable asset. The line’s two ships, Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey, now also feature a new “Azamara Blue” hull.

Included amenities and expanded beverage program. As mentioned, Azamara Club has recently  expanded its complimentary beverage offerings. In addition to the existing selection of complimentary boutique wines, served at lunch and dinner, guests will enjoy a wider complimentary selection that includes a selection of standard spirits, wines and international beers throughout the day at any of the ships’ bars and lounges. The new beverage inclusions add to the list of inclusive amnenities that guests aboard Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest already enjoy, such as included gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff; complimentary bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees, teas, complimentary self-service laundry; English butler service for suite guests; and shuttle transportation to city centres in ports, where available.

Late-night departures/ overnight stays. All Azamara’s 2013 itineraries feature late-night departures and overnight port stays, some as long as two or three days. This concept of slowing the ships down to offer guests the opportunity to experience a city’s nightlife is an almost unique concept in the cruise industry.

Written by : Peter Needham

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