How Scenic Group is creating a sense of exclusivity

Claudius Docekal tells Rebecca Gibson how the boutique size of Scenic Group’s ocean ships enable it to deliver itineraries with unique destinations and authentic and luxurious onshore experiences

How Scenic Group is creating a sense of exclusivity

Scenic Group

Scenic Eclipse offers unique underwater experiences in its six-passenger submersible

When people describe a luxury cruise, they tend to focus on the ship’s elegant interiors, high-end amenities and fine dining restaurants, but often underestimate the crucial role the destinations and onshore excursions play in creating an overall luxurious experience.

However, for a growing number of guests, the opportunity to visit off-the-beaten-track destinations and enjoy exclusive experiences is a differentiating factor when choosing a cruise.

“Guests want to discover destinations that are more authentic than places on the popular tourist trails,” says Claudius Docekal, vice president of ocean deployment at Scenic Group, which includes Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours and Emerald Cruises.

“Of course, they still want to see iconic destinations, but we balance these voyages by including charming villages where they won’t be surrounded by dozens of tour buses,” he adds.

According to Docekal, having smaller vessels that accommodate a limited number of guests provide Scenic Group with more destination options. “It allows us to explore unique places that larger yachts have to avoid, particularly because these communities are much more open to welcoming 100-200 visitors than they are to being overrun by thousands of tourists for a few hours each day,” he explains.

Many of the tourist attractions and places offering unique onshore experiences – such as a visit to a chef’s kitchen or an artist’s home – are more welcoming to small, intimate groups too.

“It’s easier to deliver authentic and personal experiences to small gatherings of guests,” says Docekal. “We organise activities that enable small groups to explore the destination up close, often on foot, rather than travelling by tour bus, where they may only catch a brief sighting of local monuments as they drive past. Thanks to the smaller size of our vessels, guests in these groups have likely already interacted with each other onboard, so onshore experiences will feel more inclusive and personal.”

Scenic focuses on including exclusive experiences when developing itineraries for Scenic Eclipse, which it refers to as the ‘world’s first discovery yacht’ and was purpose-built for expedition cruising, which was purpose-built for expedition cruising.

“Scenic Eclipse is a Polar Class 6-rated vessel, so we focus on finding expedition destinations in the polar regions, although we also like to show off its striking superyacht lines in some of the world’s most iconic yachting ports too,” says Docekal. “Some of the highlights of the ship’s first year of service have included a very successful operation that covered the Arctic, including Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland and the Northwest Passage, as well as popular Antarctica sailings. We’re looking forward to a robust 2022-2023 Antarctica season.”

Demand for Antarctica itineraries has been so strong that the brand will base a second ship, the new Scenic Eclipse II, in the region in the 2023-2024 season, with both vessels sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina. Docekal believes demand has been largely driven by the fact that Scenic Luxury Tours & Cruises not only offers traditional expedition activities, but also helicopter and submersible tours.

“Scenic Eclipse carries two low-noise, six-seat helicopters and a six-passenger electric submersible to enable guests to gain a unique overhead or underwater perspective of the destinations they are visiting,” he says, noting that her sister ship will too. “They’re very popular with guests, so we must select destinations where we can easily offer these activities.”

Similarly, Emerald Cruises’ itineraries are developed to ensure that guests can make the most of the marina platform at the stern of its ocean-going yachts.

“We want to provide guests with the option to take a break from onshore discoveries and instead enjoy jumping directly off the yachts into the water for a swim or to try using some of our water toys, such as Seabobs, paddleboards and snorkelling equipment,” says Docekal.

The brand’s newest vessel, the 100-guest Emerald Azzurra, debuted in March 2022 with an eight-day inaugural sailing from Aqaba, Jordan, to destinations in the Red Sea. The yacht then embarked on a series of sailings in the same region, before repositioning to the Mediterranean and Adriatic Coast for the summer. In 2023, it will primarily operate itineraries in the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, Adriatic Sea, and the Mediterranean.

“Emerald Azzurra’s size means it can offer a unique and luxurious small-ship cruising experience, visiting ports and harbours that are only accessible to small yachts, such as the beautiful citadel of Korčula in Croatia,” says Docekal. “There has been strong demand, with almost all the voyages quickly selling out.”

In summer 2023, Emerald Azzurra will be joined by sister yacht Emerald Sakara, which will begin service by cruising to Southern Italy, the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, the Greek Islands, and nearby destinations. Both vessels will sail Emerald Cruises’ first-ever winter Caribbean itineraries from November 2023.

“The luxury ocean yacht cruises will sail to 15 new islands and countries in the Caribbean, including Isla Tortuga, an uninhabited islet where guests can get up close to a wealth of marine life such as angel fish, stingrays and sea turtles,” says Docekal. “Forward bookings for the 2023-2024 sailings in the Caribbean and Adriatic have been particularly strong, and we look forward to seeing this trend continue.”

While destinations are the biggest draw for many cruise guests, Docekal notes that sea days are a vital component of every itinerary too. “The most interesting part of itinerary planning is finding a way to provide our guests with a good balance between time and experiences off the ship and time to relax onboard our luxury vessels,” he says. “We’ve learned that the latter is a very important part of our guests’ holidays, so that’s why we elevate our luxury onboard options, including the spa, our bars and multiple unique dining options.

“On Scenic Eclipse, for example, adding sea days for personal revitalisation gives guests a far more relaxed and complete six-star, ultra-luxury experience, allowing time for them to attend lectures, briefings and explore the onboard amenities. Plus, the stunning Senses Spa and fitness studios enable guests to enjoy a mini spa holiday as part of their cruise.”

With both Scenic Eclipse II and Emerald Sakara set to join the fleet in 2023, Docekal is optimistic for Scenic Group’s future growth. “These new vessels will allow us to continue offering the destinations that have proven popular in the past in order to attract future guests. Doubling both fleets by 2023 will also allow us to simultaneously satisfy the desires of our loyal customers by giving them new destinations and even more in-depth itineraries. There are some really exciting destinations in the works.”

This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
06 December 2022

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