Before he became president and CEO at Azamara Cruises, Larry Pimentel sailed with paying guests on a real cruise to see what the brand was all about. After chatting extensively with guests as well as with travel agents over the past few months, he and his team have a fresh new vision for the brand. The result is a series of dramatic changes for agents and their clients.
First, Azamara Cruises is now renamed Azamara Club Cruises, a name that Pimentel says better targets an up-market clientele, and specifically baby boomer couples seeking an onboard club-like atmosphere.
The line’s new tag line is “You’ll Love Where We Take You,” a reference to a newly expanded destination focus. Pimentel says Azamara will slow down the ships to allow more late nights in port, more overnights in port and a more in-depth cultural and destination experience.
Pimentel and Edie Bornstein, vice president of sales and marketing, rolled out the new changes to reporters on an hour-long conference call Tuesday. The duo cited four new brand pillars: (1) Destination Immersion; (2) Extraordinary Guest Service; (3) Cuisine and Wine; and (4) Wellness and Vigor. On the service side, for example, Azamara will be putting its butlers through an “official” British trained butler school.
Limited itinerary changes for the line’s two boutique ships, Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey, have already begun starting with some cruises sailing in the second quarter of 2010. However, the most sizable itinerary changes will come in the third and fourth quarter of 2010 and throughout 2011.
New seven-night cruise itineraries will be combinable into a two- or even three-week cruise with non-repeating ports. So, clients can take a seven-night cruise or a longer 14- or 21-day cruise if they so choose. The goal is to offer longer, more in-depth experiences so guests may really take in the culture.
Azamara Club Cruises is also evolving into a more inclusive product, including some elements typically reserved for luxury products – such as free wine with lunch and dinner; complimentary specialty coffees, teas and bottled water; new destination-influenced entertainment; shuttle bus service to and from port communities; free self-service laundry; and housekeeping and dining gratuities included within the cruise fare.
Specialty dining in Azamara’s intimate Prime C steakhouse and the Mediterranean-influenced Aqualina will be complimentary for suite guests throughout their cruise.
The line will also roll out new tracks for activities, including hiking, biking, walking, golf and shopping/collecting. For example, with longer hours in port and more overnights, guests will be able to enjoy such immersive activities as shopping in Sorrento, being measured for a pair of hand-made leather sandels, and have the finished product delivered to their cruise stateroom.
Not surprisingly, Azamara’s pricing is already on the rise. Pimentel says it’s been steadily increasing and needs to go even higher to help cover the inclusive features being added. Describing the mood at Azamara “very optimistic” based on advance bookings, he says agents whose clients who booked 2010 voyages on the line will get terrific value, as their fares remain the same – but the inclusive perks of the voyages will increase.
Look for a “unique form of guerilla marketing” to help create brand awareness, says Pimentel, adding: “The agent community will see us on the road in a very big way.” Agents also will be able to participate in product Webinars, to meet one-on-one with the sales team, and to access new brand information at www.cruisingpower.com.
He sees good market differentiation between Azamara and Oceania or Princess, to name a few competitors with similar ships. “The hardware is similar, but that’s where it stops,” he says, noting that his line has a strong international mix of guests and “something magical happens when you get a mini-United Nations onboard.
A new brochure is being mailed out shortly to agents. Nearly every other page says “contact your travel agent,” says Pimentel.