Making waves a full year before its first vessel takes to water, Atlas Ocean Voyages, a new small-ship, luxe-adventure cruise brand, introduced "Max Shore" Monday. These land/sea extended regional journeys “sandwich” a three- to six-day overland tour between two select back-to-back cruises.
The "Max Shore" overland adventure will be complimentary for guests booking both voyages. The 16-day "Black Sea in Full" Max Shore itinerary, departs July 28, 2021, while a 24-night “Comprehensive Anatolia & The Holy Land” Max Shore departs August 13, 2021.
“Essentially, we’ve combined two unforgettable, travel experiences—a luxury cruise and a fascinating land tour—into one without compromising either,” says Alberto Aliberti, president, Atlas Ocean Voyages. "Usually, tour extensions are at an additional cost but 'Max Shore' includes the extended, overland adventure for guests without having to extend their travel time.”
Voyages are on the new 196-passenger World Navigator, now under construction—along with two sister ships, World Explorer and World Voyager at Portugal's West Sea Viana shipyard.
Speaking to Travel Agent, Aliberti calls the new offering a “vacation within a vacation” option; plus, chats about his line’s approach to advisors during 2020 and how it will differentiate itself in what’s becoming a more crowded small-ship expedition/adventure sector.
Max Shore Debuts
Aliberti says that his new line started out looking at spending more time overnighting in destinations, so people could immerse themselves in the local history, culture and lifestyle. That's happening with overnights in such cities as Istanbul, Turkey and Sochi in Russia. But this focus evolved into bundling two cruises with an overland between the voyages that utilized the same pre- or post-cruise nights, which people would typically book (mostly city stays), into something more far-flung in which "we can immerse even deeper,” he emphasizes.
He also says "Max Shore" will also take travelers to inland destinations and to see landmarks they likely wouldn't experience on other lines headed to the same region. On some nights, guests will stay in an upscale city hotel; on other nights, they'll be at a local, rustic inn or take a glamping adventure.
During time spent on the multi-night overland experience in the Holy Land, the ship typically would normally be in several Israeli ports. So, guests would go off the ship, take a half-day or full-day tour then come back onboard, and do it all over again—shuffling back and forth from ship to shore several days in a row.
“Now, we’re able to take them out and actually just have a land vacation that’s included as part of the back-to-back” cruise purchase,” Aliberti says. "Max Shore" overland adventures will be all-inclusive—covering ground transportation, hotels, meals, beverages and tours.
While the overland tour will be complimentary and included for those booking the back-to-back cruises, it will not be available for those only taking one voyage. Instead, pre- and post-cruise options will be offered.
Two Options for Now
Initially, Atlas will offer two "Max Shore" experiences with others on the horizon. While the voyages and some form of the land trips were previously announced, this is the first they’ve been coupled and sold under the "Max Shore" umbrella. So, it's now a more formalized program for the line's most in-depth, land/sea adventures.
The 16-day “Black Sea in Full” Max Shore program will depart July 28, 2021 from Athens (Piraeus), Greece. On the cruise portion, guests will visit Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Russia. It includes a two-night overland adventure from Odessa to Kiev and Pripyat, site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
Aliberti explains that this land journey is a good indication of the type of unusual land trip the line seeks to develop for guests. He said that one night will be spent in a premium Kiev hotel, but the other night will be a more rustic inn experience in Pripyat, located in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Alberto Aliberti, president, Atlas Ocean Voyages, at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in 2019.
The area near the power plant, at which a nuclear reactor suffered a catastrophic failure in 1986, is now designated safe for visitors, according to Atlas. "I was there last year, and it’s so strange," says Aliberti. "It’s a surreal experience, but I was not afraid to go out there."
On this "Black Sea in Full" program, guests also will transit the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits and overnight at Sochi, Russia, as well as go ashore on port calls at Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey; Nessebar, Bulgaria; Bucharest (Constanta), Romania; Novorossiysk, Russia; Batumi, Georgia; and Sinop and Amasra, Turkey. The "Max Shore" land-sea adventure concludes with an overnight in Istanbul.
The second "Max Shore" offering is a 24-night “Comprehensive Anatolia & The Holy Land” land-sea journey on August 13, 2021. This adventure encompasses destinations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and begins with an overnight in Istanbul.
World Navigator will circumnavigate the Levantine Sea to Athens (Piraeus), calling at Troy (Kepez), Bozcaada, Dikili, Esphesus (Kusadasi), Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethieye, Kekova Island and Demre, for a destination-intensive look at multiple ports in Turkey, along with Patmos and Heraklion (Crete), Greece; Limassol, Cyprus; and Cairo (Port Said) and Alexandria, Egypt.
At Ashdod, Israel, guests will head out on a five-night "Max Shore" caravan journey through Israel and Jordan. They’ll explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra, Jordan, then head off-road with a local bedouin team for desert glamping under the stars. They’ll also explore history and culture in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Masada and Madaba, Israel, on a guided expedition.
Aliberti believes the "Max Shore" approach is the right type of approach as "we've already had groups in these cruises." He says the regions are somewhat remote, guests will travel in relative comfort "and it’s not something they’d see on a regular cruise.”
Whether future trips are in India, other parts of Europe or Asia, the Caribbean or South America, for example, Aliberti sees these "Max Shore" offerings as “diving deep into a region”—well beyond a pre- or post-cruise city stay in one port destination. He says one upcoming "Max Shore" option will involve a repositioning voyage but isn't yet ready to provide more details.
Supporting the Trade
From a travel trade perspective, “the great thing about 'Max Shore' [offerings] is that they are sold as one commissionable package with everything included,” says Brandon Townsley, Atlas Ocean Voyages' vice president of sales and trade partnerships. “We’ve seamlessly wrapped cruise, land adventures, cultural immersions and transportation in one complete package for travel advisors to sell. It’s a great value.”
Plus, Townsley stresses that travel advisors who book their clients on 2021 "Max Shore" adventures will receive a $500 or $750 American Express gift card now, plus 15 percent commission at time of sailing. Billed as “Get Paid Now,” this program rewards travel advisors up front during what's proving to be a tough summer sales-wise for most agency personnel.
Aliberti reports that Atlas recently adjusted messaging for that gift card offer, as some advisors erroneously thought it was prepaid commission—but it's not commission, just a booking bonus with the commission paid as normal at the time the guest sails.
The gift card is $500 for each Veranda/Horizon/Adventure stateroom booking and $750 for each suite booking. "It's coming at a time when people [consumers] are hesitant to book and yet advisors still need cash flow,” Aliberti says. “So, we wanted to be very sure they were taken care of now.”
An Evolving Product
How is Atlas Ocean Voyages finding a sweet spot within an increasingly crowded global cruise marketplace—filled with new small ships and expedition/adventure players, as well as lines increasingly going more upscale with their product?
It's been an evolution the past six to eight months. In 2019, Atlas started out as an upscale product but not all inclusive. But, now, it's using “All Inclusive All the Way” branding. The biggest perk within that is that all Atlas Ocean Voyages journeys include complimentary round-trip air travel from select U.S. and Canada gateways. In addition, fares also include prepaid gratuities, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, Wi-Fi, a free shore excursion in select ports on every itinerary, coffee and tea service, butler service in suites and more.
Travel Agent asked how the fares shake out, based on more "adds" in them. Aliberti says they're sometimes “slightly less” or sometimes about the same as what what guests would typically pay on a pure luxury line, but “from a product perspective, in most cases, we’re more inclusive," he says, pointing to the free air on every voyage.
Size-wise, passengers will sail on a new, luxury expedition-style ship with just 98 suites and staterooms, all with an ocean view and most with a private balcony.
Since travel advisors have not yet had the opportunity to sail on the new line, many ask Aliberti to describe it. He tells them “simple luxury” and “simple elegance,” not stuffy or staid. Yes, he says, guests will travel in style, relax and be pampered, but they'll also have fun. They can expect a socially engaging onboard aura, playfulness, a fast-and-loose style and heading ashore for bit edgier adventures (than the norm).
“We’re going to present more activity and adventures ashore unlike other cruise lines, and such edgier opportunities as body surfing through canyons, taking reasonable cliff jumps into the ocean, all done in a safe fashion but on a regular cruise,” says Aliberti. There's also a vineyard in Georgia for white water rafting.
With reservations reportedly on the rise, Aliberti says advisors can expect new prompts when calling the line’s Fort Lauderdale call center. "We're getting specialized calls," he says, so Atlas is adjusting those prompts to more closely route calls to the right person.
In addition, today, the line is holding a reservations department hiring fair at its Fort Lauderdale corporate headquarters. “We need so many more reservations agents,” says Aliberti.
Shipyard Construction Update
Starting next July, World Navigator will embark on its inaugural 2021 year, sailing seven- to 24-night itineraries in the Holy Land, Black and Mediterranean Seas in summer, followed by nine- to 13-night itineraries in the Caribbean, South America and Antarctica in winter 2021-22.
Given the delays that many shipyards have experienced during the pandemic, Travel Agent asked Aliberti if he anticipates any delay for World Navigator's delivery; he says that World Navigator’s construction at Portugal's West Sea Viana shipyard is on schedule for an on-time launch.
Sister ships World Traveller, World Seeker, World Adventurer and World Discoverer will follow through year-end 2023.
For more information, visit www.atlasoceanvoyages.com