Atlas Removes Air Fare, Shore Excursions; Delays Second Ship’s Start

After almost six months of operations, luxe-adventure Atlas Ocean Voyages is making some significant changes in its expeditionary product’s inclusions, based on guest and advisor feedback. It’s also delaying the start of voyages for its second ship, World Traveller.

First, on the pricing side, for bookings made starting on February 15, 2022, and beyond for departures from April 24, 2022, and onward, the line will no longer include airfare or shore excursions within its cruise fares. At the same time, Atlas will also lower pricing by about 15 percent on those fares. 

And separately, when World Navigator’s post-Antarctica voyages are completed, and following completion of the expedition vessel’s March 13 charter, the ship will “deadhead” to Lisbon, Portugal to begin its Mediterranean season as scheduled on April 1, 2022. The line is canceling any revenue voyages scheduled for this ship along the eastern coast of South America and for the transatlantic crossing. The one-time port visits were proving too challenging in terms of guest requirements for going ashore.  

In addition, Atlas delayed the start-up of its second ship, World Traveller. It will not begin voyages as planned in late July 2022; instead, it will go into service on November 1, 2022, in Antarctica. So, in winter 2022-23, World Navigator will operate nine- to 11-night voyages, while World Traveller will operate 11- to 20-night voyages

Learning and Adapting

“Since our first ship, World Navigator, launched in August 2021, we have learned a lot from our travel advisor partners and guests,” says Alberto Aliberti, president of Atlas Ocean Voyages, based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, the line’s headquarters. “And from their feedback, we are refining and realigning those aspects of the Atlas experience that they have told us they value most." So, the air ticket and shore excursion inclusions will be removed from the fares.

“As a result of these improvements, Atlas’ cruise fares will be more attractive, as well as provide greater choice and flexibility for guests,” he says. 

Speaking to Travel Agent on the phone last Friday, Alberti says that it successfully found clients who love the luxe-adventure concept. But, in turn, it also “found a client who doesn’t like to be told where to go and what to do.”  

Those luxe-adventure guests told the line: “I want to make my own flights, and go when and where I want, and arrive back when and where I want,” according to Aliberti. 

He says many desired to use air upgrades, had private air options or simply wanted a specific flight at a different time than the Atlas air arrangements. In addition, the guests often wanted to fly into a departure city and not stay only one night, but perhaps a few days prior to boarding the ship. 

So, he says, “we’re going to let them book exactly what they want.” That said, Atlas will still assist guests with booking air if they prefer that.  

In regards to the Atlas-chartered flights that Atlas is running from the U.S. to Argentina, those will continue through the end of this winter’s Antarctica season. But when the line starts its winter 2022-23 Antarctica season later this year, instead the Atlas charter will only run from Buenos Aires southward to Ushuaia, Argentina. Guests have emphatically told the line they want more time to explore Buenos Aires pre-cruise.  

In addition, for shore excursions, Aliberti says that the line was seeing “nearly exactly the same thing.” He says the line learned that “it’s impossible to tell a whole shipload of people which shore excursions they should take.” In addition, those group tours weren’t exactly the guests’ cup of tea.  

Many guests preferred to set up their own walking tour, visit with friends in a port destination, book their own specialized tour or set up a private car and driver. So, in turn, by removing those shore excursions, and lowering fares, guests will have more flexibility. 

At the same time, “we’ll focus more on private touring,” Aliberti tells us. The line plans to create new, small-group, exclusive touring options, as well as a more robust menu for private touring. Also, the small-group tours will have a much lower occupancy requirement to operate, assuring that more tours “actually go.” 

Aliberti stressed that Atlas still remains “all inclusive” for elements aboard its ships. Among those inclusions are prepaid gratuities, premium wine and spirits, international beers and specialty coffees, dining experiences and butler service in suites. In every stateroom, guests also enjoy binoculars to use throughout the voyage as well as personalized coffee, teas and bar service. Plus, every guest receives the line’s included emergency medical evacuation insurance. 

Commitment to Advisors Remains 

While inclusions and schedules have shifted, “what has not changed is our commitment to deliver excellent luxury adventures to travelers and our appreciation of our valued travel advisor partners,” Alberto adds. “That is evident with our current promotion of paying travelers $2,000 to incentivize them to book with a travel advisor.” 

Recently, Atlas Ocean Voyages announced a new recognition program, "Unified: In It Together." Travel Advisors can earn a $10,000 bonus for every five new bookings made through March 31, 2022, for any accommodation on all voyages. Atlas Ocean Voyages is also offering travelers a savings of $1,000 per guest—up to $2,000 per room—for making their luxe-adventure voyage booking with a travel advisor. 

As Atlas has navigated through its first six months of sailings, Aliberti says the line very much appreciates “those guests who were the early adopters and sailed with us. They get the "luxe-adventure concept and laid-back luxury,” as well as the fun aspects of the product. 

Another change on the horizon? Aliberti says the volume of business the new line received happened so quickly. At times, the guest experience pre-cruise suffered in terms of communications. 

“In defense of ourselves, though, all bets are off in a COVID-19 environment,” he says. Whereas pre-pandemic, in any pre-cruise environment, only a small percentage of guests typically would have questions for staff. Now, in contrast, with such complex entry and health/safety requirements for airlines, ports and countries across the globe, suddenly everyone is calling or has questions. So, Atlas is hiring a number of people to improve the pre- and post-cruise guest experience. Alberti promises a corporate announcement soon about a new management structure and says initiatives are being undertaken to improve the back-of-house operations and communications with guests. 

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