With two more ships due to leave the fleet, Seabourn is reinventing its itineraries, as director of deployment and itinerary planning Timothy Littley tells Susan Parker
It is too early to say where Seabourn Cruise Line’s newbuild will sail on her delivery in mid-2016. All that Timothy Littley is giving away is: “We have some ideas but we really have not delved into the details yet.”
What has been very much in focus when it comes to itinerary planning is the departure of the 208-passenger Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend in the first quarter of 2015 (Seabourn Pride having already left for Windstar Cruises this May) and the itineraries going forward.
With creativity and a “lot of brainstorming” the brand is continuing to position itself as small, luxury and worldwide. Whether with six or three ships, Littley asserts: “Europe has always been and will remain the centre of Seabourn planning.” Although the itineraries will not change much, there will be less capacity in certain places. “Going from six to three ships really meant we had to contract our deployment somewhat,” explains Littley, adding: “We are pretty much going to everywhere that we have done before but not as much.”
This year, for the first time, Seabourn has operated a season in Antarctica on 450-passenger Seabourn Quest. “It has been a very successful inaugural season for us,” says Littley. “We had great positive feedback. I think we have created a bit of a niche.” That niche Littley describes as “exploration as opposed to expedition,” explaining that it is more of a luxury product than previously on offer in the region. “Seabourn really changed the game in Antarctica because of its verandahs,” he notes. The brand is keen to expand this in the coming years, looking beyond to places such as the Northwest Passage, with Robin West employed as manager of expedition and planning.
Wanting to offer all that was possible with the six ships, as well as focusing on one ship in South East Asia, has led to creating itineraries that can be joined together to form the ‘extended exploration’ brand, which goes live this year.
The concept has evolved over the last couple of years so that back-to-back ‘collector’ cruises can be combined to form voyages of between 28 and 120 days without repeating content. Examples include a 35-day Amazon and Brazilian exploration and a 36-day Baltic and Atlantic voyage. This November, Seabourn Sojourn departs Barcelona for Singapore via South Africa on a 116-day voyage.
The feedback for this product has been “phenomenal, especially from our loyal guests and world cruise guests,” says Littley. “The bookings have been very strong on our premier voyage. Having three ships, this is essentially what we will be doing. We can still cover so much of the world.”
A major factor of planning these days is balancing costs such as port and fuel with revenue derived in a destination. Whether in an Emission Control Area or not, Seabourn is employing the same ethos to cut fuel costs. “We are reducing speed and distances, removing outliers from the itinerary.” But as Littley explains, the extra fuel cost in the Baltic is balanced with it being a “very, very compelling region where the yields are very, very good.”
Nevertheless he says: “Cruise destinations need to be alert and wary of the cost of getting our ship to the destination, as well as the cost of the destination. There are some destinations we will avoid due to inappropriately high port costs.”
This article appeared in the Itinerary Planning Special Report. To read more articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.