Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gene Sloan (USA Today): "Seabournization" of Viking River Cruises: Sounds A Bit Too Much Like My "Oceanification" of Regent Seven Seas Series...And What Is The Message, Anyway?

While imitation is considered by some to be a form of flattery, I must take issue with Gene Sloan, of USA Today, essentially lifting my phraseology, but not just because "Seabournization" is pretty much the twin sister to my term "Oceaniafication". 

The problem is...and I see it as one for Seabourn...is that the Seabourn brand is now being recognized for its hardware (ships); not its software (people - service and cuisine).  Considering my last few articles, you can most certainly understand why it makes me shudder.

But first, the terminology thing!  On June 30, 2008 I wrote an article, "The Oceania-fication of Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line" and since then I have written a series of articles using this term...as I watch Oceania surpass it sister in ship quality, cuisine and flexibility of options, with my most recent article being on March 7, 2012 "Oceania Cruises New, Creative, All-Inclusive Approach (The Oceania-fication of Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line - Another Chapter)". 

Now I appreciate that many in the industry read my articles and I, most certainly, take pride in that fact...because it means what I write is considered relevant and that, in turn, means that my clients and potential clients, are given real insight and information which allows them to choose the cruise vacation that truly meets their desires.  But I do get a little disturbed when I start to read or hear things that eminated from me or ThisIsMyYacht.com or Goldring Travel and it is not credited to me.

OK, enough of that. 

Now on to what the term "Seabournization" means.  I read Gene's article and I looked at his article's photos and Ralph Grizzle's video of one of the staterooms.  The Viking Odin is definitely a good looking river cruise ship, but I am not seeing how it can, in any respect, be measured up to a Seabourn standard in the public areas or the suites. (My goal here is not to criticize the ship because Viking is not making the comparison...which I think is both inaccurate and unfair...but the use of 'err ummm, "my" term.)

More importantly to me is that until now I have never heard Seabourn being first measured by its ships.  Even when the Seabourn Odyssey was being designed, the concept was to mirror - when possible - the triplets so that the people (guests, staff and crew) could feel "at home" and perform their jobs (whether that be vacationing or serving fine cuisine) in the same Seabourn comfort and style.  The Seabourn ships were, first and foremost, about the personal experience.

I appreciate that Yran & Storbraaten were integrally involved with the Seabourn Odyssey-class ships, but they also were with regard to the Oceania Marina, Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam, Regent Seven Seas Voyager and Navigator, etc. They are excellent at what they do.  But someone using their prior works to brand another of their most recent work is, well, as unfair to Viking River Cruises - who is proud of its new ships in their own right - as it is to Seabourn.

Let me explain it this way:  I met with one of the Business Development Directors of Viking River Cruises while I was attending the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference in Miami last week.  I have known him for years.  We ran into each other at a cocktail party and carried on after.  He was incredibly enthusiastic about Viking and its new ships and never...and I mean never...compared them to Seabourn in any way.  Oh, I should mention he worked for Seabourn for over five years.

Congratulations to Viking River Cruises on its new ships.  They are not Seabourn and are not "Seabournized".  They are what they are...and something you just might want to look into if you are looking for a river cruise.