Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.: heading for new horizons

Roberto Martinoli explains to Sandra Speares how the acquisition of Silversea Cruises will help it to grow its luxury and expedition cruise business

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.: heading for new horizons
Silversea’s luxurious onboard interiors, high-quality cuisine and adventure shore excursions have made it popular with guests

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2018 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Privately owned luxury and expedition cruise operator Silversea Cruises shocked the industry last June when it revealed that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) would acquire a 66.7% equity stake in its business. The acquisition, which was approved in July, sees Silversea owner Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio retaining a 33.3% stake and is part of the brand’s plan to grow its business sustainably.

“Manfredi Lefebvre has been looking for the right partner to support the accelerated growth of the cruise line for a long time and chose RCL as it shares his vision for Silversea’s future,” says Roberto Martinoli, who will remain Silversea’s chief executive. “RCL considers Silversea as the jewel in the crown of the luxury cruise industry and it plans to cherish, support and grow our brand and reputation through its own financial and operational strength. Silversea will remain an independently managed brand; Manfredi Lefebvre will continue to lead the long-term strategy and our senior executive team will stay the same.”

According to Martinoli, the new partnership will have multiple advantages for both brands. “RCL and Silversea expect to identify synergies in supply chain, purchasing power and other economies of scale going forwards,” he says. “Thanks to RCL’s financial and operational strength, Silversea will be able to grow at an unprecedented pace and capitalise on the burgeoning demand for ultra-luxury, small ship, and expedition cruising. We’ll also be able to communicate our offering to RCL’s large guest base.”

Another main advantage of the partnership will be the new Project Invictus, a multi-year initiative that will take Silversea’s ultra-luxury offerings to the next level. Enhancements, which will range from product upgrades to ship revitalisation programmes, will be implemented across the fleet. Silver Whisper, which was already scheduled for a refit in December 2018, will undergo a more comprehensive renovation and have her guest suites partially refurbished. Meanwhile, Silver Wind’s planned dry dock will be more extensive than initially anticipated.

“In line with Silversea’s brand positioning, we’re working on enhancing the overall guest experience,” comments Martinoli. “Silversea is not only about luxury cruise ships; we’re the pioneer in the so-called ‘travel deeper’ concept. Our mission is to enable our guests to experience the authenticity of our wide selection of destinations [more than 1,000 on all seven continents] in ultimate comfort.”

Silversea’s new Silver Moon and Silver Dawn will launch in 2020 and 2021 as planned. “We’re very excited about their arrival, following the success of their sister Silver Muse,” says Martinoli. “Silver Muse is, without a doubt, the best cruise ship within her segment in terms of culinary variety and quality, and we want to further enhance this on Silver Moon. Our marketing team is working on some very attractive and innovative concepts.”

Noting that Silversea practices the concept of ‘whispered luxury’, Martinoli adds: “I’ve asked my team to explore using unconventional materials for Silver Moon’s interiors, asked my team to explore the usage of different materials, not the conventional ones. We always say that we ‘whisper’ luxury at Silversea, don’t ‘shout’ it. Our interpretation of luxury centres on the finer, personalised details that amplify each voyage for our guests and make them feel at home. We want our guests’ experiences to stand out, not our ships’ adornments.”

Martinoli expects Silver Dawn and Silver Moon to be as popular as Silver Muse when they debut. “Guests love Silver Muse for a combination of reasons, but primarily her outstanding onboard service and eight restaurants, which offer 26 food concepts,” he explains. “She is beautiful and encapsulates Silversea’s idea of luxury: her interior design is up-to-date, yet not too modern nor too cold. Her soft colour palette and simple take on luxury have been so widely appreciated by our guests that we have decided to adopt the same colour scheme for the rest of the fleet. Although the three Muse-class ships will be similar in design, we don’t simply ‘cut and paste’ interiors – bringing innovation to the cruise industry is one of the aspects that I love most about my job.” 

 Silversea’s Project Invictus enhancement programme will also help the line meet the evolving demands of the luxury and expedition cruise markets. “Nowadays, the desire for material commodities has, to some extent, been replaced by a yearning for authentic experiences,” comments Martinoli. “Rare, beautiful moments are the currency of exclusivity. For many of our guests, the concept of luxury is one of personal enrichment; knowledge, memories and experiences define indulgence. This understanding bears influence on our cruises across the world.” 

The desire for personal enrichment is also changing Silversea’s itineraries and shore excursion programmes. “Silversea designs unique experiences that enable our guests to travel deeper into destinations in ultimate comfort, particularly for our destination-driven Silversea Expeditions business,” explains Martinoli. “From traditional land diving ceremonies in Vanuatu, to exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Camp Leakey (an orangutan rehabilitation centre in Borneo), the experiences on offer with Silversea Expeditions are unparalleled. Most of our guests want to travel to remote destinations – such as the Northeast Passage, Bangladesh and the sub-Antarctic South Sandwich Islands – to escape and to develop aspects of themselves. In safe conditions, our expert team of expedition leaders enables our guests to travel deeper like no other cruise line.” 

In what ways have guest expectations, stricter environmental legislation and other factors changed the expedition cruise offering over the past 10 years and how has Silversea adapted to this?

“We were pioneers when our concept launched 10 years ago, and our initial concept is still modern, although we are fine-tuning it to meet emerging environmental legislation and other rules,” says Martinoli. “Over the past decade, we’ve increased our fleet of ships and the number of destinations we sail to, and we inject new destinations and experiences into our offering every year.” 

Consequently, Martinoli is confident that Silversea’s expedition offering will continue to remain popular with guests well into the future, despite increasing competition in the market.

“Expedition cruising is certainly booming, with an unprecedented number of new ships currently on order,” he remarks. “We set the bar for luxury expeditions and many others are now following the trend. We firmly believe that there’s still room to grow this segment, which is why we just successfully relaunched Silver Cloud after a major refurbishment. She’s now the most luxurious expedition ship afloat and guest feedback during her inaugural Antarctica season surpassed our expectations. We’re now in a consolidation phase with four expedition ships in service, but we’re always looking at interesting opportunities to continue growing.”

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Thursday, January 24, 2019