But my attendance at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami Conference this year - always an incredible place to learn and network – has brought me clarity and, strangely, peace.
For over a decade I have – with great enthusiasm – endorsed, and even grown with, Seabourn. It has, until now, always focused on the “Software”: Customer Service, Staff, Crew…Exceeding Expectations…even while building new ships.
Unfortunately, now with Seabourn’s move to Seattle complete, Seabourn is – curiously- focusing on the “Hardware” (and, as you will read, not just new computer systems)…and Marketing with less than easily understood offers which promise more than is perceived by its customers they will receive.
How can I say this…and be so bold?
Follow me down the path to clarity, if not peace:
Over the past three days, I have seen and met with so many of my “old” Seabourn friends who didn’t follow Seabourn to Seattle (mostly because they weren’t asked). It has really brought home the contrast between what was and what I see the new management of Seabourn is installing. But I still needed to assure myself that my perceptions were not emotional ties to my friends and that I was merely frustrated by a learning curve that the Seattle folks have to climb.
As I have long said, the folks at Silversea (Ken Watson, Christian Sauleau and Steven Tucker) are true gentlemen, Larry Pimentel an enthusiastic and sharing person (even if as “in your face” as I can be!), the technical heads at Carnival Corp. (from the person in charge of sustainable energy to the Vice President of Corporate Shipbuilding) engaged “partners” and the list goes on. All of them have made time to chat or even socialize with me.
But, alas, who is missing from this list? Seabourn.
That’s right: Seabourn.
On Friday, I had a difficult one hour plus telephone call with President Rick Meadows (also attended by Senior Vice President John Delaney, and others) focused on my demanding – yes demanding – that Seabourn guests be treated as “guests” and not “passengers” and that “giving them only what they paid for” and changing rules and new policies retroactively, will undercut the years of loyalty “old” Seabourn had built up because “exceeding expectations” is Seabourn’s in DNA; not a mass market philosophy sworn a year ago to never be implemented. (Was I being talked to honestly and there was just been a shift in approach? I don’t know.)
But when you take those away and you no longer have “Seabourn”, but a different cruise line.
At the end of the call Rick Meadows told me he, unfortunately, would not be attending Seatrade. Well, guess who was one of the first people I saw at Seatrade? Rick Meadows.
Not to worry, he was there with Stein Kruse (Seabourn’s CEO and the head of Holland America)…and Rick didn’t even politely and properly introduce me. I pretended Rick didn’t misstate his schedule and left them.
So as I walked the Conference I heard grumble after grumble about Seabourn and, of course, Seabourn was nowhere to be found: Not on a panel; not hosting a table at the annual charity event; nowhere. Someone suggested I speak to Stein Kruse, so I sent him an email and the response was shall we say “disappointing”.
And then it hit me! Eric, this isn’t about you at all. It is about the “new” Seabourn being lost at sea.