How Azamara is moving onwards and upwards

Azamara is making the most of opportunities to grow as an independent brand. Patrice Willoughby tells Michele Witthaus what’s new at the company

How Azamara is moving onwards and upwards
Azamara offers late-night stays in destinations such as Marseille, France, to give guests more time to explore local attractions

Since its purchase in 2021 by Sycamore Partners, Azamara has been investing in a range of activities and initiatives to improve the guest and crew experience on its ships, optimise operations, and boost profitability.  

“We are consistently looking at new ways we can improve, enhance and expand every aspect of the company,” says Patrice Willoughby, chief sales officer international at Azamara. “With an extensive record of investing in and elevating brands like Azamara, Sycamore is helping us drive the next phase of growth, while maintaining our high guest engagement, personalised service and the Destination Immersion ethos we are known for.” 

One of the key investments to date has been the purchase, refurbishment and launch of Azamara Onward in May. The ship will sail ‘Country-Intensive’ itineraries, which are designed to allow more time to explore a single country’s hidden gems. “Driving forward the future of Destination Immersion programming and experiences, half of Onward’s voyages will be ‘Country-Intensive’ itineraries, with 85 late nights and 21 overnight stays in multiple cities across Europe, as well as three new land explorations,” explains Willoughby, adding that in 2023, Azamara will offer more of these highly focused voyages than ever before. 

Over the past year, the brand has also been working to increase consumer awareness of its Destination Immersion offerings, launching its biggest digital campaign to date, ‘Change the Way You Sea’, in February 2022. “This cross-platform campaign includes print, digital, social media and TV, encouraging guests to dive deeper into destinations by learning, exploring and interacting with cultures and giving travellers more time to connect with the places they visit,” says Willoughby. 

“Along with our new head office in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighbourhood, we have also announced a host of new executive appointments that will support vital functions of the company and help drive forward growth,” adds Willoughby. The new arrivals include Captain Nico Corbijn (head of marine operations), Laura Krejci (chief information officer), and Rafael Pagliuso as general counsel.  

“Now that Azamara Journey has joined her sister ships in service, we have the full, four-ship fleet in action for the first time ever, allowing us even more opportunities to immerse guests in smaller ports and hidden gems around the world,” says Willoughby.  

To further boost the overall guest experience, from booking to sailing, Azamara has also introduced a series of new partnerships. It has teamed up with Starboard Cruises to provide a destination-tailored retail programme that offers guests experiential, cultural and artisanal touchpoints reflective of each destination, such as Māori carvings while sailing New Zealand or hand-spun wool knitwear in Norway.  

Set to launch in the first quarter of 2023, Azamara’s new partnership with Versonix Seaware will simplify the booking experience for agents and guests, making the process as seamless as possible. “This best-in-class reservation platform maintains a customer-centric and revenue management-driven solution, allowing customers to achieve consistent and successful results every time they book with us,” says Willoughby. 

She acknowledges that the pressures of Covid-19 have tested the resourcefulness of the brand. “Looking back over the past couple of years, we’ve certainly had to navigate a lot of challenges, from responding quickly to travel restrictions to reacting to the emergence of new variants, but our priority has always remained the safety of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit.  

“Another big challenge was having our crew away for so long. In the last year, we’ve spent a lot of time to have the crew get comfortable back in the ship environment and feel confident executing the new health and safety protocols. We’ve built in a lot of time for training as well to ensure everything was flawless when welcoming our guests back onboard.” 

With the entire fleet now back at sea, Willoughby says: “We are excited to continue to meet our guests’ expectations, develop new land and destinations products and packages, and work closely with our partners around the world to help guests ‘Change the Way they Sea’ with Azamara.” 

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2022 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.

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Michele Witthaus
By Michele Witthaus
15 November 2022

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