|Seven Seas Navigator // All photos courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises |
Prestige Cruise Holdings has announced an order for a new 738-passenger ship, Seven Seas Explorer, for its luxury Regent Seven Seas Cruises brand.
Travel Agent and Luxury Travel Advisor talked with Frank Del Rio, Prestige’s chairman and CEO, last night for his perspective. You can read that story here: www.travelagentcentral.com/cruises/frank-del-rio-details-new-regent-ship-41545
Trade feedback began to flow to our offices today. Here is a sample of comments.
About Regent's Ship Order
Regent Seven Seas is Virtuoso's largest producing cruise line, according to Bill Smith, Virtuoso's vice president of cruise sales and exclusive product.
"As the luxury market is leading the cruise industry in the recovery we think the timing is perfect," he said, citing strong demand for luxury products and increasing yields in the luxury segment.
Smith noted there is a growing trend industry-wide on giving the clients specifically what they are looking for. He cited such premium examples as Celebrity's Solstice-class ships and its Modern luxury focus, the new Royal Princess just launched in June, and Norwegian Breakaway, which has a ship within a ship enclave for upscale clients and many razzle-dazzle features.
On the luxury side, "our members are very strong supporters of Regent," said Smith. The luxury line excels, said Smith, at providing Virtuoso members' clients with personalized service, uniqueness in itineraries and stellar product delivery.
Virtuoso sees a strong future for luxury products and services, according to Smith: "We see this carrying into 2014 and already into 2015…and the trend continuing."
|Seven Seas Mariner accomodations|
Alex Sharpe, chief operating officer, Signature Travel Network, noted that with Regent’s success with high occupancies and per diems, “it makes perfect sense that Regent is going to expand.”
Sharpe, who previously worked for Regent, called the order an exciting development for the industry, for Signature and for Regent. He also said other major luxury brands – Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Seabourn Cruise Line – are also poised to do well moving forward.
He pointed out that Regent, though, has always pushed the envelope with having the industry’s first all-suite, all-balcony ships, as well as bigger suites and more public spaces.
In addition, “if you take what Frank [Del Rio] and the team did with Marina and Riviera, two of the most beautiful ships in the industry, and consider they’re getting $400 a day on Oceania and $650 a day on Regent, you wonder what are they going to do when they build this?” he asked.
His take on the new ship? “It should be - and will be - almost unbelievably spectacular,” said Sharpe. Yet, he also said success will ultimately depend on Regent's product delivery, itinerary development, marketing and sales approach.
Sharpe does wonder about the impact of a 40 percent capacity increase for Regent without the day-to-day, detailed involvement of Mark Conroy, Regent’s former president. Sharpe, who previously worked with Conroy, is quick to acknowledge: “I’m just a bit biased” about Conroy’s trade relationship and marketing skills.
“They have their work cut out for them,” he said, referring to Regent’s need to keep per diems and occupancies up. He said that when Carnival Cruise Lines or Princess Cruises, for example, add a ship, it just isn’t as hard to absorb the capacity.
That said, “it’s pretty cool,” he said of the new ship order and what the line has planned.
Brad Anderson, co-president of Avoya Travel, one of the world's largest ocean and river cruise selling groups, said Avoya's affiliated agents are truly excited to see a new ship from Regent.
"This will create new opportunities for discerning luxury guests to explore the world," Anderson said, noting that "new ships are good for our industry and the travel agency community." He said the ship will be highly anticipated.
John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Leisure Group and president of Vacation.com, also says the new ship order is positive for Regent because in this marketplace, "it's important to have a new development within your product for guests to get excited about, and to keep repeat guests from moving to another brand that has a new offering.”
Travel Leaders Leisure Group represents such cruise-focused brands as Cruise Specialists, Cruise Holidays and others, and Lovell believes Regent's order announcement is "a huge endorsement of the travel agency distribution channel since it is the distribution that sells the vast majority of their product.”
How does he feel Regent has evolved over the years, and is it for the better? Lovell said Regent has done an admirable job in re-branding themselves away from the pack – and standing alone as a luxury brand. “Regent’s all-inclusive product is seen as a great value,” Lovell said.
He noted that they frequently compare the similarity in price but difference in price between their product and a suite on one of the premium lines. That, he said, illustrates the value of the whole vacation and not just price you pay to get onboard. He sees Regent as well-positioned within the luxury set that also includes Seabourn, Silversea and Crystal.
“This new [slightly] larger ship may open them up to being in a slightly different space,” he said. He also said the order will give agents something new to sell to loyal Regent customers and a chance to move other clients over for a different experience.
Customers like to be loyal to a product, he stressed, but added that clients also need to be kept interested.
“This is the first new Regent ship under the new ownership of Prestige Cruise Holdings and the leadership of Frank Del Rio,” Lovell said. “His Oceania ship, Riviera, received rave reviews when launched last year. All eyes will be on Frank now to see if he can top that as he builds ‘the most luxurious cruise ship ever.”
While Lovell believes it's good to put out the ship news now, he also acknowledged that 2016 is still far away: “A lot can happen in one year, let alone three. In the current market, I think it’s great to have something for agents to get excited about, but three years is still a long time away.”