Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” The sentiment behind this quote from American business executive and philanthropist Sheryl Sandberg is one that Barbara Muckermann has wholeheartedly embraced throughout her more than 25-year career in the luxury industries.
“The objective of any leader is to make themselves redundant; once you have established a strong team, your role becomes less directional and more focused on supporting effective communication and collaboration,” she says. “I believe in leading by example. You can only be an effective leader if your relationship with the team is based on trust. And you can only build trust if you put yourself on the level of the team by supporting them in their decisions. That’s why I focus on building my team’s confidence and passion and encouraging them to work collectively.”
Muckermann reinforced her commitment to following this philosophy when she transitioned from her long-term role as chief commercial officer of ultra-luxury operator Silversea Cruises to the brand’s president and CEO on 1 January 2023. However, while Muckermann now considers herself to be the “keeper of the Silversea brand”, she is acutely aware that she cannot implement the company’s ambitious vision and evolve the pioneering initiatives set out by her predecessor, Roberto Martinoli, alone.
“Working closely with Roberto taught me that a company requires people with complementary talents to achieve success,” she says. “For example, Roberto’s deep knowledge of the sector from his former career as a marine engineer complemented my experience in luxury marketing, branding and sales, and this enabled us to achieve great things and elevate Silversea to where it is now. We have the best team of people in the industry, and they all share my passion for innovation, so I’ll leverage their collective talents to build on our legacy of success.”
More than two decades of working in the luxury sectors, and time teaching luxury brand strategy at several universities, has also shown Muckermann that listening to customers is another fundamental factor for driving success.
“My experience has taught me that our guests’ evolving needs must drive the evolution of our brand,” she says, noting that this tenet inspired the launch of Silversea’s S.A.L.T. culinary programme in 2021 and the Otium wellness programme in 2022. “We’ll continue to listen carefully to our guests to innovate in the future and remain at the forefront of the industry.”
Silversea’s main aim is to keep growing its market share and strengthening its position as the leader in ultra-luxury cruising without compromising on its pricing strategy, according to Muckermann. “In the short term, we’ll continue to optimise our itineraries, products and prices, while tailoring our offering to meet our guests’ needs and interests, providing them with variety and choice as the only cruise industry player to cover over 900 destinations across all seven continents.”
One of Silversea’s priorities for 2023 – and beyond – will be to keep scouting new locations to create increasingly innovative itineraries.
“After the past few years of restrictions, people are eager to explore again,” says Muckermann. “Luxury travellers continue to seek something different, moving away from material goods and towards once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And this is where Silversea excels.”
Generally, Silversea has noticed a growing trend for longer voyages to remote destinations, such as the Arctic, the Galápagos and Antarctica. “We have just conducted an important scouting trip in Antarctica for this very reason,” says Muckermann. “We already offer our fly-cruise programme, Antarctica Bridge, for passengers who want to skip the Drake Passage when cruising in the region – another first in the ultra-luxury segment.
“We resumed sailing in Asia in December 2022 and are now registering strong demand from our guests to return to that region too.”
Silversea celebrated another first in January 2023, when Silver Shadow departed Sydney, Australia, for an arts-inspired world cruise that will take guests to 66 destinations in 34 countries across five continents.
“This marks the first time in our history that a world cruise has departed from the southern hemisphere,” says Muckermann. “Our 2024 and 2025 world cruises are set to follow this success thanks to innovative new concepts and itineraries. We’ll also be unveiling our 2025-2026 itineraries collection this year – watch this space for something very exciting!”
Another of Silversea’s priorities is to maintain its aggressive shipbuilding strategy. The fleet comprises five ultra-luxury expedition ships, including Silver Origin and Silver Endeavour which started service in 2022, and six classic ocean cruise vessels, including the new Silver Moon and Silver Dawn which also debuted last year. The 100-guest Silver Origin is the first of Silversea’s ships to be purpose-built for a specific destination and currently sails in the Galápagos Islands, while Silver Endeavour was acquired from Crystal Cruises and extensively renovated to incorporate the Silversea hallmarks of luxury.
“We have introduced pioneering vessels tailored to sail in particular regions or on specific itineraries,” says Muckermann. “Silver Endeavour, the most luxurious expedition ship in the world, has had huge success with her Antarctica expeditions and we are looking forward to her inaugural Arctic season from June 2023.
“We’ll continue to take this approach with Silver Nova and Silver Ray, which are set to join the fleet in 2023 and 2024, respectively. Silversea has taken an all-new design approach to ensure they are ideally suited for ocean cruising.”
Silversea’s new Nova-class ships will boast an innovative new design, some of the most spacious suites at sea and a range of high-end public venues. The ship class is expected to utilise a trio of power sources, including fuel cells, battery technology and dual-fuel engines running primarily on LNG. A first for the cruise line, the ships’ horizontal layout and asymmetrical design will offer guests all-new outdoor spaces for an unprecedented openness to the destination, as well as a natural flow between venues on entire decks.
“The Nova-class ships represent a milestone in our strategy to build the perfect ship for every itinerary, with their array of venues enhancing the guest experience to a new level,” says Muckermann. “Pushing boundaries in ultra-luxury travel, they will enrich the social aspect of cruising to unprecedented levels, while their openness to the destinations they visit will offer guests a new way of connecting with the world.
“We’re incredibly grateful to [parent company] Royal Caribbean Group for enabling us to grow and enhance our fleet; we wouldn’t have been able to do so at this unprecedented rate without its support.”
Like many in the cruise industry, Muckermann is confident that there are signs of growth in the sector. Her appointment as the first woman to lead Silversea and the first European to helm one of Royal Caribbean Group’s three wholly owned brands, marks what is another important milestone in diversifying the industry.
“It’s a fascinating time to be part of the cruise world, particularly the ultra-luxury market as it evolves and attracts new, discerning travellers,” she says. “I’m proud of what Silversea has accomplished as a sector leader in the past few years, with many women taking on pivotal roles within the business – both onboard and shoreside. The cruise industry has evolved and today we have perhaps more female CEOs than at any time in our history. I hope my story will inspire many more women to consider a career in the maritime industry.
“I’m proud of where the industry is heading and, as part of one of the world’s largest cruise companies, Silversea is perfectly placed to spearhead its evolution. I’m honoured to be at the helm during what promises to be an incredibly exciting time for both Silversea and our industry as a whole.”
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.