Raising the Bar

In the past few weeks, I’ve been on Azamara Club Cruises, visited Secrets Maroma Beach in Cancun and most recently, sailed on the new Oceania Marina. What delighted me about each experience? First and foremost: they all had consistently excellent culinary offerings. Time was, if you had signed up for a plan in which all the food and beverage was included, you were taking a gamble. Being able to order whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted it, came with a potential risk. Odds were, the roast chicken you received would be not so good and even the pizza that was available 24/7 might not be up to what you’re used to getting at home, and we all know bad pizza is tough to make.

Ruthanne Terrero
Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero

Azamara, Secrets and Oceania served up food that clearly used the best ingredients, but it didn’t end there. The dining options in each were well-thought-out and varied, and were meant to delight you with the best experience that could be found in your favorite Italian, Asian or Continental restaurants on land. I got to meet Jacques Pepin on the Oceania Marina, where he has a new bistro, for goodness’ sake.

Which brings me to service. All three brands also delivered service that was intuitive, attentive and, as a result, luxurious. On Azamara, I’d somehow brought an old BlackBerry charger with me by mistake. When I went to the reception desk to inquire if they by any chance had one I could borrow, a crew member called her colleague who immediately brought me his own charger. He told me I could use it for the week since he hadn’t quite figured out how to use his new BlackBerry yet. I felt I’d dodged a huge bullet, being away for a week without being able to easily communicate with the office, but this dose of human kindness made my voyage. Aside from all of the other good things that happened.

What’s interesting to me about the good things I’m writing about here is that all of the brands above are aggressively bumping up into what the ultra-luxury segment brands typically provide. They’ve decided that their mission is to delight the guest, even if that guest isn’t paying $1,000 a night to be there.

By investing in culinary they’re creating “wow” experiences that people will brag about when they go home. And by investing in their staff training, they’re ensuring guests leave with magical memories.

Personally, I think this competition with ultra-luxury is swell. The traveler will only benefit by the bar being raised by these upper-tier brands and needless to say, the travel agency community will benefit as well.

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