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Top Azamara cruise team discusses formula for success

March 26, 2014 Cruise, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59Azamara Club Cruises operates two very fine ships – but the line’s president and chief executive, Larry Pimentel, is the first to admit that ships are not why cruisers choose Azamara.

The ship is a conveyance, Pimental says, and while Azamara’s ships are quite beautiful, “there are no ships with better itineraries”. The secret of Azamara’s appeal is the places it visits and the way it visits them, a formula Pimentel calls “destination immersion”.

“This line has destination immersion at its core,”  he says. Azamara team in Sydney, including Larry Pimentel (in yellow tie) and Bruce Setloff

Azamara Quest, 688 passengers and one of the line’s two boutique luxury ships (the other being Azamara Journey), will make an inaugural visit to Australia as part of its 2015 voyages program. The voyage sails from Bali on 23 December 2015, visits Darwin and includes a New Year’s visit to the Great Barrier Reef. Port Douglas and Sydney are on the itinerary on a round-Australia cruise, and more will follow in Australia in 2016.

One of the key elements in destination immersion is seeing great cities at night, not sailing off in the late afternoon before the places even come alive. During a visit to Sydney this week, Pimentel, a noted cruise industry visionary, pointed out that in Spain and Greece, people don’t even start to dine until late in the evening “yet many ships are gone by 5pm”.

Azamara caters for the high-end of the market and its way of seeing the world has seen business soar tenfold in four and a half years, Pimentel said.

Pimentel said Azamara specialised in “slow cruising” along the lines of the “slow cooking” movement. The new season will see it visit 228 ports in 67 countries.

Azamara QuestAzamara’s director, global charter and incentive sales, Bruce Setloff, says charters are incredibly popular and even long charters are selling out very rapidly. A 35-day charter to an Australian company sold out so quickly Azamara added more days, bringing it to 71 days. Anzac Day at Gallipoli was proving immensely popular, Setloff said. Both Azamara ships would be in Anzac Cove for the Galipoli service and in Monte Carlo for the rally. Long cruises were selling out two years in advance.

On the slow cruising theme, Setloff said “fewer days and more overnights is the way cruising should always have been”. Who wants to sail away from Mykonos before the evening has even begun?

“If you can put an Australian first-time cruiser on one of the ships the satisfaction level is extremely high because of the value proposition,” he said.

Pimentel said that in terms of market penetration, Australia was growing rapidly while the US was not. Australia was on track to achieve the highest cruise market penetration in the industrialised world.

“My opinion is that you will achieve 1 million cruise passengers by 2016.”

The US is no longer the biggest market outright for Azamara. Australian and UK visitors combined outnumber US guests.

Azamara’s signature “AzAmazing Evenings” include exclusive performances and other special experiences that money can’t buy, similar to an incentive event.

Pimentel gave an example, concerning the port of Livorno, generally used for visiting Florence or perhaps Pisa. The Azamara team scoured Livorno and found a two-century-old opera house. On the inside, it turned out to be a gem of art and architecture. Azamara brought in three tenors from the Florence opera house to perform, and a top lecturer to address the audience on the subject of opera in Italy. Result: an unforgettable event.

Cruising with Azamara, Setloff said, is “almost inclusive”. Shore excursions are not included, as not all guests want to take every shore excursion, but pretty much evening else is included.

Most observers would conclude that Azamara is ripe for fleet expansion, and the line does not deny it. It is contemplating whether to buy, build – or both.

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. AgentGerko says:

    There must be a lot of cruise lines saying thank goodness for Renaissance Cruises, the company that ordered ten ships and then promptly went broke, leaving all these mid-size ships to work for companies like Azamara and Princess. But agents won’t be thanking Azamara for finally bringing a ship to Oz and then making its circumnavigation journey only saleable through one agency group. Great way to make sure all the other agents that have supported Azamara over the years lose interest for the product.

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