Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Seabourn's 2010-2011 Itineraries: You Got What You Asked For...And Didn't. (Read The Interesting Comments.)

If there is one thing I love it is controversy.  It is fodder for thought.  Motivation for writing.  And a basis for great discussion.  The reactions to the new Seabourn itineraries are very diverse and conflicting.  That may seem like a bad thing, but alas I think it is good.

A Shock to the Transatlantic System - I have heard, read and discussed with some of the well-seasoned Seabourners that they are very disappointed with the end of the triplets making transatlantic voyages as of April 2010.  While these cruises have uniquely become cliquish for the Blue Water Cruisers, they are also extremely costly for Seabourn (actually every line) and, frankly, not terribly popular with those outside the cliques. 

These Seabourners have become used to 175 passengers being waited on 24/7 for 12 days  for about $225 a day (or 50%-75% less than normal fares).  What is there not to love?!  On the other hand, Seabourn is faced with huge fuel costs, significant wear and tear on the ships (transatlantics are notoriously hard on ships), significantly higher per day costs to keep the guests happy, no ports to give the crew even a short break...and fetching only steeply discount the fares just to get people onboard. 

So now Seabourn will, on occasion, have the Odyssey making transoceanic crossings and, apparently from the comments, that ship's size will prevent the clique from taking it over.  I am not sure how that is a bad thing...unless you are of the opinion that you own the ship.  As for those few that now claim they will find a new line to cruise or that Seabourn doesn't appreciate them (ala Host Dan on Cruise Critic claiming he will be left with "nothing special") I say:  STOP ACTING SPOILED

Oh, that's right, Seabourn has spoiled you.  You have no idea what the Odyssey will be like (and I know many will soon migrate to her if the ship, not the ports, is the prime area of interest).  You don't know whether it will afford intimacy or not.  Oh, and by the way, would you please let me know what cruise line is going to offer you what Seabourn does on a 208 passenger ship and will on a 450 passenger ship?  So please, stop lying on your back, kicking your feet, in the middle of the internet "store". 

I am confident once your tantrums are over, you will settle down and remember what it is that made you so comfortable on Seabourn.  If not, so be it.  I am sure the passengers that have actively avoided a cruise because of the cliquish behaviors of some,might just now book them.

New Ports for Older Ships - Let's get some perspective here.  New ships are uniformly tasked with visiting the "tried and true" ports.  Why?  Because the vast majority of the cruising public want to go to these ports. 

Remember that most people have not been on a cruise ("I must go to Venice.") and that most somewhat experienced cruisers have only been on a few (usually Caribbean first and then once in Alaska or the Med).  Then there are those experienced past guests that many times do not get off the ship because they are there for the service, service and service. 

Without question, attracting new passengers is the first priority (over 80% of Americans haven't cruised!...more on this below!) and simply shifting your present passenger base to the new ship will leave any cruise line with empty older ships.  Up there as well is attracting experienced cruise passengers to try Seabourn.  (How many times I have heard, "If Seabourn only had balconies." or "I just am not comfortable on such a small ship, as I need more to do.").  That is not to say that the present Seabourn guests are third class.  To the contrary, Seabourn has made huge efforts to assure a consistency of product...elevating so many aspects of the cruise experience.

All that said, the thing I hear the most from truly experienced Seabourners:  "When is Seabourn going to have new itineraries?  I have been to all the ports."  As - you know I love him - Host Dan complains that the Seabourn Legend, Pride and Spirit have been "banished" I must ask, "Banished to exotic areas of the world?  I wish I was banished like that!  Heck, I have to pay to go to those places." 

The fact is that the triplets have been "stuck" because of demand for the "tried and true" (as explained above) and are now - finally - being set free; free to do that which they can do best:  Venture into Small and Exotic Ports Where Normal Cruise Ships Cannot Go.  If you look at the new itineraries you will discover that most of the ports have either never had cruise ships visit or they are far and few between, with less then prime infrastructure and underdeveloped tourism opportunities.  (I explained this a bit more in my October 23, 2008 post:  http://goldringtravel.blogspot.com/2008/10/seabourn-will-cruise-asia-year-round-in.htmlRemember you heard it here first!!!)  Seabourn has tried to address the needs of yet another group of dedicated and loyal Seabourners. 

Would it be perfect if the Odyssey or Sojourn could sail into these exotic ports?  For some yes, but for other absolutely not.  They love the smaller ships; something which pretty much remains unique. 

Worldwide Passenger Base Expanding- As a final point for now:  Seabourn may be an American cruise line, but the reality of it is there is huge world out there and people from all over the world are starting to discover and enjoy cruising.  Western Europeans have truly exploded onto the cruise scene in the past few years.  Eastern Europe is just starting.  Asia (and boy are there a diversity of cultures there) is but only marginally tapped.  The Middle Eastern nations are another group of people that have yet to really embrace cruising (and have only recently made a push into the true yacht market in a significant way).

Now let me throw a concept at you:  Close to Home Cruising.  Americans did it...and then said, "Enough of the Caribbean, I want to cruise Europe."  Don't you think these billions of people from Europe, Asia and the Middle East might be interested in cruising in their backyard first and then expand to other areas of the world...just like you did?  (Of course, just as you enjoyed chatting with pride to "foreigners" who have traveled to our part of the world, I am very confident you will greatly enjoy being on the receiving end of similar hospitalities!)

Now, think about all the wonderful people you have met on your cruises.  Think of all the cultures you have enjoyed.  Think of all the great service and food.  Now Seabourn can do it better; different in some ways, but better.