Jason Montague became CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) in September 2016, following a storied career at Prestige Cruise Holdings, where he oversaw the integration of the three Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) brands in 2014 as president and chief operating officer. Now, he finds that his job is simpler.
“The biggest change that came with becoming CEO is the fact that I am now able to focus 100% on RSSC,” says Montague. “My main responsibilities are the oversight of sales, marketing, passenger services and revenue management, as well as the development of itineraries and the onboard product experience.”
Montague’s new role comes at an auspicious time for NCLH brands. This March, they made their first few visits to Cuba, following an access agreement covering the group and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. While tourism in the area has been enormous since former US president Barack Obama’s celebrated ‘Cuban Thaw’, the island’s lagging infrastructure lacks the necessary amenities at airports and hotels to accommodate the surge of visitors. But with luxury rooms to house them and expedition managers to guide them, cruise lines are uniquely placed to take advantage of this burgeoning tourist market.
“We are tremendously excited to be the first luxury cruise operator to have sailed to Cuba and we are fortunate that all three of our award-winning brands in the NCLH portfolio have been approved by the Government of the Republic of Cuba to operate cruises to Cuba from the US,” says Montague. “There is strong global demand to experience Cuba and cruising is the best way to see the island’s nine UNESCO heritage sites, rich cultural and historical sites, and warm, welcoming people. All sailings comply with Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury under ‘people to people’ exchange requirements, to help ensure that all guests have an enriching experience.”
RSSC has different business considerations to other cruise operators, comprising as much journey as destination. “The luxury market is an extremely competitive arena and one that has potential for huge growth over the entire world,” says Montague. “But guests in the luxury sector are very loyal, so our focus is to attract those customers that are new to RSSC, or even new to cruise. Developing and improving the product is key to this.”
According to Montague, it’s an ongoing project, but RSSC has already made some key developments to enhance its all-inclusive luxury offering.
“Most recently we launched Seven Seas Wellness, a programme aimed at holistic wellbeing that pairs a new collection of wellness-themed excursions with a curated selection of rejuvenating, signature Canyon Ranch SpaClub services,” he says. “We’ve also gone in-house with our entertainment team to deliver astonishing new shows developed by a theatrical dream team of writers, directors and choreographers with extensive Broadway experience. The onboard culinary offering has also changed with our flagship restaurant Compass Rose now offering a revolutionary new menu that provides guests with an endless combination of dishes to choose from. Guests can customise their dining experience each evening.”
Since the launch of RSSC’s Seven Seas Explorer in July 2016, bookings have surpassed all expectations, which led NCLH’s president and CEO Frank Del Rio to suggest last year that the January cost-per-night of the Regent Suite may extend to US$15,000. “Seven Seas Explorer’s voyages are practically sold out till 2018,” says Montague. “The response to the ship has been phenomenal. Feedback from both guests and travel partners has been overwhelming, which is a testament to the designers, builders and, of course, the exceptional crew who work tirelessly to ensure that the service and experience matches the opulent onboard surroundings.”
“We made a bold statement when we launched ‘The Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built’ and I’m proud to say that she has more than lived up to expectations,” Montague adds. “There have been some great comments about the new décor in the suites – particularly that they have new modern, lighter feel. Similarly, the public spaces have been praised for the balance struck between comfort and design. It’s great when I run into the crew as they take great pride in the ships and can’t stop raving about Seven Seas Explorer and what we have done with the rest of the fleet.”
At the beginning of April 2017, it was announced that RSSC had placed a €422 million (US$543 million) order for a sister ship to Seven Seas Explorer to be built by Fincantieri and delivered in 2020.
“There is huge opportunity and demand for more capacity in the luxury market – cruise lines continue to build new ships at a phenomenal rate to keep up with demand,” Montague comments. “The positive response we received – and the extraordinary demand generated by Seven Seas Explorer, including record-breaking booking volumes – reinforced our decision to expand the fleet with an additional ship that mirrors the same high standards of luxury. You can expect many of the high-end features and amenities that have led to Seven Seas Explorer being hailed as the most luxurious ship ever built.”