This article was first published in Spring/Summer 2018 issue of the International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
If Richard Vogel had to choose just one highlight from 2017, it would be acting on Pullmantur Cruceros’ decision to leave France at the end of 2016 and go back to its roots by focusing all its efforts on two core markets: Spain and Latin America.
“Up until then, we operated four ships and had three source markets (Spain, France and Latin America) and two brands (Pullmantur Cruceros and Croisières de France),” says Vogel. “Although we never had any problems filling the vessels dedicated to the French market during the summer, it was difficult to attract the number of French passengers we needed out of season. In short, it was a complex situation that prevented us from being truly efficient and effective. Now, Pullmantur Cruceros offers a tailor-made product for Spanish and Latin American guests. Naturally, we still have North American, German, Polish or Turkish guests sailing on our ships, but they are choosing us because of our Spanish way of life onboard.”
In addition to refocusing its efforts on Spain and Latin America, Pullmantur has made several updates to its ship deployment rosters for 2018. Like other cruise companies, Pullmantur has been looking at the potential of Albania as a cruise destination. Although it’s largely undeveloped, Vogel believes Albania could offer an opportunity for cruise lines to move away from political hotspots and predicts that the destination could develop along similar lines to Montenegro, which has recently gained in popularity. However, Albania has yet to feature on Pullmantur Cruceros’ list of itineraries. Instead, the line is making history in the Arabia and the Middle East.
“We recently announced an addition to our portfolio – ‘Dubai and Legends of Arabia’ – which is a new route for the 2018-2019 season that will take in the United Arab Emirates and Oman,” says Vogel. “This is a milestone for Pullmantur Cruceros as it’s the first time we have ever sailed in this part of the world. We’ll embark in Dubai and stay overnight, then our passengers will visit Abu Dhabi, Khasab and Muscat in Oman, and Fujairah. It’s an itinerary that combines the history and tradition of Arab culture with avant-garde modernity.”
The line will also launch the new ‘Journey to the Polar Circle’ and ‘Secret Places of the Mediterranean’ itineraries in 2018. “The first is a 14-night voyage that will take guests along the Norwegian coastline to the remote islands of Svalbard,” Vogel says. “The second will let passengers discover the Mare Nostrum, arriving at the Italian peninsula to visit Portovenere and Cinque Terre, Piombino, the medieval city of Siena, and Portofino.”
All three new routes are part of the Pullmantur Cruceros Exclusive Destinations product offerings. “This sub-brand includes itineraries designed for passengers to experience intense holidays both on land and onboard, with the option of excursions and onboard themed activities that complement the route,” comments Vogel. “We will also continue to sail in seas throughout northern Europe and around the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Atlantic.”
Pullmantur Cruceros has also invested more than €50 million in 2017-2018 to renew the technical systems onboard its vessels and install the latest technologies. “This will help our operations to be more efficient and environmentally friendly,” explains Vogel. “We’re also improving cabins and communal areas. For example, Sovereign recently left Navantia’s shipyard in Cadiz, Spain after a three-week dry dock, while her sister, Monarch, passed through Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas this May.”
Deployment updates and fleet improvements are just two of the factors that are helping ensure Pullmantur stand out in the small-ship market, according to Vogel. The other, he adds, is that the company offers a tailor-made product to key source markets of Spain and Latin America.
“Our main onboard language is Spanish, while the timetables and entertainment have been chosen to reflect their behavioural habits and tastes,” explains Vogel. “Gastronomy is also important and for this reason, renowned Spanish chef Paco Roncero, who has two Michelin stars, has worked with our onboard team to design the culinary offering. Our guests enjoy all-inclusive gourmet cuisine – knowing that they will only have to pay for optional services when they are onboard is undoubtedly key to enjoying a relaxed holiday.”
Another important aspect for Pullmantur Cruceros is onboard service. “Our crew members are the heart of Pullmantur and they do everything they can to look after our guests, right down to the minor details,” Vogel says. “Last but not least, guests like our extensive range of proposed routes which, thanks to the compact size of our vessels, can take in boutique ports that are inaccessible to larger ships.”
Vogel predicts that the cruise industry will continue to be in a healthy position in 2018, attracting more guests and introducing new ships.
“Companies will continue to listen to their passengers in order to better adapt their product to market demands and continue to innovate,” he says. “We’ll have to keep a close eye on some movements that look likely to limit the number of tourist arrivals in certain cities, as well as the geopolitical situation, which is key to planning for future seasons. As for my priorities, the main goal is keeping the pace of 2017, which brought us one of the best years ever for Pullmantur Cruceros, and to continue to further develop our product by focusing on digitising our business and always being curious about our customers’ behaviour and desires.”
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