ONSITE: Azamara President Gives Brand Update

AT SEA-Azamara Cruises has only been operating for three months now, but it's already gaining traction in the industry said Dan Hanrahan, president of both Azamara and its operator Celebrity Cruises. Hanrahan is aboard Azamara Journey's week-long Bermuda itinerary, with stops in St. George and Hamilton. Journey's sister ship, Quest, begins service in October. The much talked about new brand, positioned in the deluxe segment, sandwiched between premium and deluxe, was the brain child of Royal Caribbean International, the brand's parent company, to serve an "underserved market," as Hanrahan put it. The basis for Azamara, which was born out of Royal Caribbean's acquisition of Spanish tour operator Pullmantur (Azamara's two ships are former Renaissance Cruises vessels that were sold when the line went out of business), was to one, serve an underserved niche market and two, travel to exotic, off-the-beaten path destinations. At first, said Hanrahan, Azamara was to be a brand extension of Celebrity, until it was decided to create a totally separate brand. The process was daunting. "I was scared to death," Hanrahan unequivocally said. So far so good: Hanrahan said Azamara is already pulling passengers from luxury brands Crystal and Regent and even from Azamara's direct competitor in the segment, Oceania Cruises. Interestingly, Azamara is selling more 18-night itineraries than it expected, but that the 12-night varieties are catching up. After fulfilling its Bermuda contract, Journey will begin South American itineraries, and, ultimately, will operate a 114-day, 54-port world cruise, the actual terms of which have still not been announced, but Hanrahan said the details would be coming within the next two months. Quest will travel to 63 new ports of call, operating a European season next year followed by a season in Asia. Another hallmark of Azamara will be more overnight stays. Of course, building up the brand is a question Hanrahan often fields. He's curt on that point. "Yes," he said on acquiring or building more ships to pump up the brand. "Two ships are nice, but it would be nice to get to a bigger point." Actual plans have yet been discussed.

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