Monday, November 12, 2012

Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend Are Staying With Seabourn

Ed. Note: The Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend were sold three months after this article was written (February 2013) to Windstar Cruises, but are staying with the fleet until 2015 (the Pride until 2014). You can read the article here.

I have been a bit quiet of late having endured the wrath of Hurricane Sandy and the November Blizzard, but Goldring Travel is back in full operation.

While I know I still owe a couple of articles on the 2012 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Pride, I did want to address some inaccurate information posted on Cruise Critic (can you believe it? LOL) about the Seabourn triplets:  The Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend.


The Seabourn Triplets are going nowhere.  They are staying with Seabourn for the foreseeable future.

How do I know this?  Well, let's just say that I recently had some very interesting discussions about possible renovations to the ships and also the reason for the long delay in the release of the Seabourn 2013-14 Cruise Brochure.

Trust me...and I think I have earned that (especially compared to the history of misinformation posted on Cruise Critic).  There are serious discussions about how to renovate the triplets and the best use of them.  And those discussions also included the rumors and the practicality of not selling the ships.

Practicality of not selling the ships, you say?  Why, yes I do. 

First, a cruise line could never economically build similar ships again.  It is just too expensive based upon the return you could expect.  That is why cruise lines (Seabourn, Silversea, Oceania, etc.) have all gone to larger new-build ships.  There is no need to go through the economics of it because that has been done before.  But let's emphasize that once the "yachts" are gone, they are gone forever.  And Seabourn would want to give up these irreplaceable ships because why????

And that brings us to the second point:  Competition.  The triplets are unique and, knowing they cannot be economically replicated...and they do have a loyal following and cruising abilities (more on that in a minute)...why would Seabourn want to sell these ships to its competition?  SeaDream Yacht Club has two of the even older and smallest former Seabourn ships (the former Sea Godess I and II built in 1984 and 1985).  Assuming SeaDream could even afford them (I'm not so sure about that!), what would probably occur is a shift in the same passenger base...so why give those passengers to SeaDream?  What other cruise line might want them?  Possibly one could be sold to Orion Expeditions, but then it would have a ship with double the capacity it presently operates creating all sorts of issues for its remote, eco-friendly, expeditions.  But that would be but one...and potentially create unneeded confusion in the marketplace.

Do you know how much it costs to obtain a customer vs. retaining a customer?  For Seabourn to send away its triplet-loyal and more exotic itinerary customers and then have to try and win them back to sail in a different class of ship would be an economic travesty.  By the way: Seabourn's ship with the highest Customer Satisfaction ratings is the Seabourn Legend.

Third, operationally Seabourn owns the ships outright so they are not as expensive to own as a new-build or newly purchased ship.  As long as they are profitable refitting them - and there already has been some substantial refitting below decks - makes great economic sense.  While some like to say they are a bit "long in the tooth", the fact is that they don't build them like the triplets are built.  There is lots more steel and structure in them than the new ships...so they last.  Now, while it is true they could use some upgrading, that would not change if they were sold...and it would, in fact, be a bigger expensive for any acquiring cruise line.  (For example, SeaDream would have the burden of paying for them, and not only refitting them, but shaping them to its product, remarketing them, etc.)

I digress to make a point on the triplets' age:  I am tired of hearing how the ships are showing their age.  Perspective:  I can - and do - walk on brand new cruise ships and see many defects, deficiencies and design flaws.  (Remember my complaints about the Silversea Silver Spirit with poorly designed suites and public spaces with poor accessibility and a lack of bathrooms?)  The lines of Seabourn Pride (which I just spent 14 days on) are some of the most beautiful at sea.  Does the varnish/teak work need some TLC?  Yes.  Does there need to be a bit more care in painting so that the finish is more yacht-like?  Yes.  Would new beds/suite furniture, shower heads and a better entertainment center/television be great?  Yes.  A nicer Veranda for casual dining?  Sure.  OK, what else do you have esthetically?  Not much really.

Fourth, one of the hallmarks of Seabourn is its ability to visit ports that other ships simply cannot.  The sale of the triplets would decsimate this valuable moniker. Oh yes, there are other small ship cruise lines, but they cannot do what Seabourn does. For example, SeaDream's ships are designed so that they cannot sail longer or exotic itineraries and Windstar is limited by its mast heights, depth and speed.  Compare the diversity of the 2013-14 itineraries for the Seabourn triplets versus any other cruise line and you will see what I mean.  (That does not mean other cruise lines don't have some great itineraries.  They do...and some are better than Seabourn's itineraries for the Odyssey-class ships.)

Fifth, why would Seabourn want to limit itself? It makes no sensewhile the present Seabourn management eliminated "The Yachts of" Seabourn, the fact is that the triplets really do give you more of a yacht than a cruise ship experience.  I, for one, am all in favor of Seabourn marketing the triplets as "The Yachts of Seabourn" and the larger Odyssey-class ships as "Seabourn"...related, but different.  (I actually mentioned this to Pam Conover when the marketing for the Odyssey was first discussed.)  There is a danger in offering only one flavor of ice cream and the cruise lines are very aware of this.  Pick any other major cruise line and look at their stable of ships.  Not one has only one class of ship.  Not Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Crystal, Oceania, Celebrity, etc.  .

So now, the 2013-14 Brochure delay.  That was hugely frustrating for me and most every travel agent...and many Seabourn guests.  The reason was - other than it just seems that the present Seabourn management takes longer than any other cruise line to get some things done - is that Seabourn wanted to include its new Antarctica sailings in the brochure.  Other than hearing it from the top, I know that the 2013 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise is on November 13, 2013 on the Seabourn Quest (Rio to Buenos Aires...if you might be interested!)...and then there was nothing.  The Seabourn Quest has no further sailings so initially I could not market "my" cruise with any extension or back-to-back option.  (I know now the reason was that Seabourn had yet to finalize its commitment to Antarctica.)

But...and this to me is a big "but" for all those making up stories:  The triplets had their itineraries published online long ago!  (It must mean that those pontificating the wrong information on Cruise Critic don't look at Seabourn's website!)

So with all that said, I think there should be some finality in the status of the Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend.  At least as final as things can be in the world of the cruise business.