Monday, February 7, 2011

Seabourn Cruise Line - Just Wait...The Best Is Definitely Getting Better

A shudder was felt when Seabourn announced it was moving its offices from Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington.  A bit of a list was seen when it was announced the Pamela Conover would be replaced by Rick Meadows as Seabourn's President.  And, to be sure, some have been feeling Mal de Mar (seasickness) with its association with Holland America because, alas, there has been little time for everyone to find their sea legs and understand what that means.

While the thought of change is exciting for some, it generally is quite disconcerting for most.  That does not, in and of itself, make it a bad or destabilizing thing.  Change just needs to be understood and explained.  After some really good conversations with Seabourn's new (and not so new) top brass as late as this afternoon, I am confident in letting you know that the navigation charts have been located, courses for fair weather and following seas are being set and in fairly short order (though, to be honest, never quickly enough) it is going to be Champagne and Caviar at sunset...Oh, yeah, on Seabourn it already is.  Let's see, ummm...

Seabourn guests will be enjoying some real improvements to their Seabourn experience
which will enhance the already existing excellent one present on Seabourn's ships. 

I cannot get into all of the specifics, because (a) I am not allowed;  (b) because I don't know all of them; and, (c) some of them are being reviewed and tweaked.  But I can give you enough to whet your whistle.

First, the Past Passenger Program is going to be much improved.  No longer will you have to wait 140 days to be recognized with benefits.  In much less time one's loyalty to Seabourn will have its benefits and those benefits will be the richest in the industry.  Of course, I must add that if the benefits offered are not focused on what it is that Seabourn's loyal guests desire, the benefits will be worthless, so Seabourn is designing its new program from the ground up.  (In other words, for the skeptics out there:  It is not a Holland America program remade into one for Seabourn. Sorry, no coupon booklets.)

Second, Seabourn's itineraries are in the process of being changed for much of 2012 and 2013.  I can't give you any specifics (because I don't know any), but if you consider some of the more unique itineraries that make Prinsendam cruises so attractive, I think that sort of flavor (not copy cat) will be seen.  The issue with repetitive ports and shorter itineraries has been heard and is being addressed.

Third, Seabourn is committed to having the same sort of personalized support for top Seabourn travel agents  - like me - that allow for the individualized desires of my clients to be addressed.  In other words, it isn't going to be my dealing with a Holland America representative that is trained to support more mass (premium) market issues.  It is going to be a Seabourn representative who deals solely with Seabourn being right there to make my job of exceeding your desires easier.

OK then, why isn't this happening right now? 

If you recall, I have mentioned a few times that the benefit of this move is that Seabourn has been sorely lacking in back office support and software.  Well, it takes time to catch up.  The programs have to be reviewed, the changes proposed, the software modified, the data entered, everything tested and then, and only then, go live with it all.  This is not an easy or quick task.  (Ever get crazed just updating a software program on your personal computer or transferring your contacts from one phone to another?  Try that with an entire cruise line's system.)

Seabourn's new itineraries for later 2012 and 2013 are usually anticipated to be released about now.  They will be a bit delayed because of the foregoing.  So if you look at it one way, you can complain the change in management has caused problems...or, if you look at it more appropriately, you can say, "Seabourn is going to have new itineraries and waiting a bit for them to be confirmed will well be worth it!"  (I have written a bit in the past about how difficult it is to design itineraries, but will leave those details for another article.  Trust me, there is a lot to it.)

The truly difficult one to start up is the new Past Passenger Program.  While the benefits may be fairly set, the real issue is importing all of the Seabourn data into a new computer system...after modifying it to meet Seabourn's needs...while making sure that each past guest's sailing history is accurately noted.  (Remember I told you that Seabourn had a rather simple and antiquated reservations system?  Well now you know one of its shortfalls.) This is a monumental task because the records kept in A need to be combined with the records kept in B, then checked against each other before being entered into the new system that integrates the new Past Passenger Program. 

You may ask, why not start the new program sooner as a showing of Seabourn's commitment to making its "best in the business" experience even better.  The reason is actually very simple:  How many people do you want standing in a circle (square?) in Seabourn Square complaining they are not receiving the appropriate affinity level?  And how would Seabourn respond if its records are not integrated and double checked?  It is going to have its issues regardless, but the last thing Seabourn wants to do is rush something out that creates more ill will than good will.

Yes, it is disconcerting not knowing.  But it should be reassuring that Goldring Travel is on top of the situation and will continue to make sure that your cruise on Seabourn (or any other cruise line) is handled in the best possible manner so that your desires are not only met, but exceeded.