Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Silversea's New President of the Americas - "I want to be the most expensive cruise line, and I want to be the best."

There is a great interview with Ellen Bettridge, Silversea Cruise's new President of the Americas in Seatrade Insider that I found both refreshing and motivating because of its honesty, forward thinking and focus.

One area Ellen spoke about that I know needs addressing is essentially, "What makes Silversea the best luxury cruise line...and what is it that makes it 'luxury' to begin with?"  This is a question that I think all of the supposed luxury lines need to address...and need to do it sooner than later.

Seatrade quotes her stating, "The focus is on ‘selling value’—the value of choices, of small ships, of butlers in all the accommodations. ‘Luxury is choice,’ Bettridge said, pointing to the choice of mattresses on board, pillows (nine kinds), bath amenities (Bvlgari, Ferragamo, hypoallergenic) and even scents in the suites. There are many dining choices, too, from the casual hot rock cooking at The Grill to Relais & Châteaux’s elegant Le Champagne."
But at the same time she acknowledges that many lines have recently gone more inclusive.  These include cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises and Compagnie du Ponant, and, while not noted in the article, the Premium lines including Azamara Club, Celebrity and Oceania have added alcohol beverage packages to the existing prepaid gratuities packages...with Oceania also now having shore excursion packages.  (Paul Gauguin is also more inclusive.)

With Regent Seven Seas and Seabourn also presented as competition (though interestingly Seabourn was the one luxury cruise line not mentioned by name in the article) I am very interested to see what Ellen brings to Silversea in the way of changes.

What I do know is that people that purchase a cruise primarily because everything is "free" or "included" are not generally the luxury client sought after.  They are not looking for "value" in the sense of "luxury", but dollars and cents.  Regent Seven Seas has done a great job marketing to this group who, in reality, get the same or less than what one would receive on a carefully planned Celebrity cruise...other than less people.

Possibly most importantly - and clearly politely thumbing her nose at Regent's "free", "free", "free" concept, Ellen is looking to unashamedly be the most expensive cruise line because (a) There really is nothing wrong with bragging rights - many folks actually find value in it; and, (b) There is nothing wrong with paying a premium to be on the best cruise or stay at the best hotel or wear the best watch.

So while I pull my hair out (what little is left) at the cut rate pricing strategy Seabourn has engaged in - which to me undercuts its pedigree and onboard experience (as one time bargain hunters exploit the bar, restaurants and service...and then leave to never return) - I am hopeful that Silversea's new focus on being exactly what it was created to be (shall we call it, Politely Elitist?) will cause the Luxury sector to get back to what it does so well.

I am not ready to take a blind leap, but I am most certainly excited to keep a sharp eye on where Silversea Cruises is headed.

By the way, I have a small group sailing on the Silver Expedition's October 18, 2013 Panama Canal and Tropical Expedition Cruise.  If you are interested...and maybe some of the changes will be in place by then...call me at (877)2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.