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Defining Regent Seven SeasAugust 6, 2007 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
Many front-line agents liked the former Radisson Seven Seas Cruises product, but felt it needed a bit more "luxury cache." Now, after the line's switch to the luxury Regent brand, a $20 million fleet refurbishment and adoption of all-inclusive pricing, agents say it's a positive transformation.
"One of my agents, Diane Kimczak, just got off the Seven
Seas Voyager," says Sally Goldwasser, president, Unique Travel of Palm
Beach, a Virtuoso agency. "I asked her how she felt about it and she just
raved." Goldwasser says Kimczak felt the soft good upgrades were wonderful
and the bed very comfortable. "Even the sitting area of the cabin was
modernized and improved," notes Goldwasser, who says Regent's new
all-inclusive policy also "makes it much more comfortable when having
drinks at the bar or wine with dinner."
In July, Travel Agent interviewed Mark Conroy, Regent
Seven Seas' president, about the brand changeover. Here are excerpts from that
First, we've heard
rumors of a new trade gala?
EXCLUSIVE TO TRAVEL AGENT: While we haven't had a Top
Producers' cruise previously, I can tell you that we will probably do our first
trade gala later this year—most likely just before the holidays in the
Caribbean. We'd like to recognize those agents who really do well for us.
How has the Radisson-to-Regent switch gone?
It's actually gone better than I thought. In hindsight, I
wish we'd done it two years earlier. Although the Radisson name was a good
name, it wasn't a luxury name. Customers often didn't know us if they got a
mailing or saw an ad. They viewed us more in the competitive set of Carnival or
Royal Caribbean. People know the Regent name as a luxury brand, so we get much
better direct mail and ad responses.
The Regent name also helps travel agents make the sale with
new customers; often they don't have to explain who we are. And while some
luxury brands weren't interested in partnering with us previously, that's
changed. We have a few things in the pipeline with luxury suppliers. Stay tuned.
You've raised fares?
How do you compare with other luxury lines?
We've raised rates to compensate for including liquor and gratuities in our
fares. Rates vary by voyage but generally pricing is up 13-15 percent. Our
lead-in pricing used to start at about $300 per guest, per day; that's now $350
per guest, per day in the
per guest, per day elsewhere. Competitively, we're usually priced slightly
below Silversea and somewhat cheaper than Seabourn.
pricing comparisons also vary.
How's business faring?
This is our best year yet with a 15 percent increase in sales without any
capacity increase. For 2008, we're also off to a great start; we're currently
21 percent ahead of [where we were at the same date in 2006 looking at bookings
for this year].
Why so many upgrades? Why not just a name change?
We couldn't just change the name and have nothing else different. That's
why the re-branding took a little longer than we thought. We had to come up
with different elements. We were already planning the shipboard refurbishments,
but with the change to Regent we went a little further and spent a little more
We went all-inclusive as a tie-in point, and that's been a
huge factor. Now liquor [except for specialty or rare vintages] is included. We
tested this concept on our World Cruise and it created much more social
What else has
We've adopted the Tao of Regent (set forth by Bob Burns, Regent Hotels'
founder); it stresses that to serve others is to serve one's self. This philosophy
fits well with Regent's Asian heritage and a service culture that embraces
"hear without being told, see without being shown and know without being
We've always had a strong complement of Filipino crew. Now
we've added more Chinese, Indonesian, Balinese and Thai crew. There are many
good hotels in
cross-pollenization between the hotel and cruise side.
On our Circle Asia cruises, we've added overnights at the
Regent Beijing, so guests can take a land tour. On port calls, we'll take
cruise guests to our new Regent Shanghai hotel for cooking classes; we'll also
do that at the new Regent Bangkok (under construction).
Onboard, we've rolled out a new musically based
entertainment program; we've added a larger group that can play as a full
orchestra but can also be broken up into smaller combos for multiple types of
entertainment around the ships.
In all suites, we're installing new flat-screen televisions
(to be completed by mid-2008). Early next year, we also expect to introduce new
interactive television programming.
Who is the Regent
Our average age is now 56; just a few years back it was mid-60s. We have
two sets of customers. Traditional customers are typically in their 60s and
enjoy the longer Grand Voyages. For 2008, we'll have four Grand Voyages—the
same three as this year, plus a new 82-night, five-continent Discovery
Collection cruise on Seven Seas Navigator.
Our young professionals who are still working have the money
but not the time; they could buy a cheaper 10-day cruise on another line, but
they prefer to spend a few days less and step up to luxury. Seven days in the
still combine several seven-day itineraries to create a 14- or 21-day cruise.
have also been very successful for us with families.
What's improved with
A new comprehensive database system for Seven Seas Society information
allows for highly personalized communications. For example, a magazine-style
itinerary update sent to a past guest might say: "Dear Mrs. Jones, last
time you sailed you said you hoped to visit the
you'll find our upcoming itineraries for that region on pages 10 to 15."
We also have introduced Innovation surveys on our web site.
When we couldn't decide on the "right" photo for our new Cruise
Atlas, we asked for web feedback and received 5,000 responses over one weekend.
Why did you change
your smoking policy to prohibit smoking in suites and on balconies?
This was a tough decision based on multiple factors. Smoking was the number
one complaint during our onboard question-and-answer session with our World
Cruise guests. So, effective with our New Year's cruises, we've prohibited
smoking in suites or on balconies. There are at least three other designated
smoking areas onboard each ship.
Only 3-15 percent of guests on any voyage are smokers. A
large number of our guests who are smokers don't smoke in their suites. So for
them, there is little impact. Still, we've had more than $1 million in
cancellations. But it was the right thing to do. Hopefully once the smokers get
over the change they will come back, but primarily it was about doing the right
What thoughts do you
want to leave with agents?
Don't be intimidated by our new pricing. We still represent great value. Do
a price comparison for clients showing the cost of our cruise in U.S. dollars
versus a luxury European resort vacation or tour. Considering our
inclusiveness, we even price well with contemporary cruise products.
Sell our combination of very personalized service and the
destination experience. Guests have the comfort of home but with a high level
of service that's not too stuffy. It's luxury for sure, but it's not snobbish.