Monday, July 6, 2009

Azamara's New "Celebrity" - Pimental To Take The Reigns -UPDATED

Since its launch Azamara Cruise Line has been neither fish nor fowl.  It is a wonderful product, but has been stuck in sort of abyss between Celebrity (its premium brand "owner") and Oceania (an ultra-premium competitor operating virtually identical ships but with a much stronger brand identity). 

With limited marketing on top of that, I unfortunately have heard "What is Azamara?" much more than "Great Itineraries.  Great Price." Royal Caribbean (owner of Celebrity and, therefore, Azamara) has, obviously, also heard the same things and had decided to shake things up a bit.

Although not officially announced yet (now it is!), the word is that Larry Pimental, the former head of SeaDream Yacht Club, is going to be taking over the reigns (or, better, finally someone will specifically be taking them!) and will report directly to Royal Caribbean, while Celebrity will merely be providing the operational support.  He is now the President and CEO of Azamara Cruises.

While there is no question that operating a 648 passenger upscale ship is far different from the 100 passenger luxury SeaDream Yachts, Pimental also brings his experience as the head of Seabourn (when it was in its infancy) and the decision to bring in the ill-matched 748 passenger Seabourn Sun onboard.  As a result, there can be no question that Pimental "gets" the differences and understand how the product needs to be differentiated from both the luxury market and the 2,000 - 3,000 passenger cruise ship market.

I have listened to Pimental's energetic approach and almost gospel-like enthusiasm for SeaDream (before the financial problems of its owner caused a relationship-ending riff), so I have no question that he has some sort of vision and will be working hard to make it happen.  My concern, though, is how he will meld with a cruise behemoth when he has spent so many of the last years working in a boutique setting.

I am looking forward to the formal announcement and hearing what the vision is.