Silversea in America

Ellen Betteridge illustrates line's US marketing strategy
Silversea in America

By Bill Becken |

Strategic marketing is by no means the domain of the larger cruise lines alone. Silversea Cruises’ ultra-luxury, all-suite fleet comprises only six vessels (all less than 30,000gt except the Silver Spirit, the most modern, launched in 2009). But the Italian company, headquartered in Monaco, last year appointed a new president for the Americas, Ellen Bettridge, who has a clear strategy for increasing the line’s market share.

For 20 years, she was a travel marketing whiz at American Express, where she initially served as a frontline travel agent. She seems the perfect ‘shot in the arm’ for Silversea, a line that, renowned for its quiet, genteel voyages, finds itself competing within a relentlessly dynamic and evolving luxury market.

Bettridge’s tack can be summed up in two words: expedition cruising. So far, Silversea has struck success with its expedition vessel, Silver Explorer. Having last year acquired the Ecuadorian company Canodros, a Galapagos specialist, it also plans to dispatch the Canodros vessel, Galapagos Explorer (rechristened as Silver Galapagos) to the fleet later this year.

“Expedition cruising attracts a new type of customer – families, a younger demographic, a mix,” says Bettridge. Such guests, she says, are proven to cruise repeatedly on Silversea in subsequent months and years. “The industry has lately experienced some pretty stiff price competition,” says Bettridge. “We needed a strategy that was simply not based that way.”

Late last year, the company completed a relatively fleeting drydock for Galapagos Explorer. A more elaborate refitting is scheduled for September. Then, late that month, Silversea will offer a year-round schedule of seven-day expeditionary voyages on Silver Galapagos in the Galapagos archipelago.

Despite the new focus on expeditionary cruising, Bettridge wants the world to know the line still offers its traditional plentitude of choices, both in amenities and itineraries – and otherwise aspires to become the world’s most exclusive, even expensive, cruise line.

Not surprisingly, such a strategy also relies on new deployments and ports of call. The fleet will be visiting several new ports in the Mediterranean, Africa and South America in 2013-2014, says Bettridge. These include the town of Soller de Majorca, in the Balearic Islands, the Greek island of Chios, the ancient city of Melilla on the Moroccan coast, Almería in southern Spain and Kavala on Greece’s northern coast. This year, Silversea also plans several voyages along Africa’s west coast, including two 18-day voyages that Silver Wind will ply between Las Palmas and Cape Town.

Silversea is also developing South America as a destination. “In 2014, we’re dedicating four ships – Silver Cloud, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper and Silver Spirit – to explore South America on 12 different itineraries,” says Bettridge. As part of this programme, guests can choose, by sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, to completely circumnavigate the continent by combining five Silver Spirit voyages into one 66-day Grand Voyage.

Finally, in 2013, Silver Explorer is offering the line’s first-ever expedition cruises to Canada’s Hudson Bay. And in 2014, that vessel will sail the famed Northwest Passage for the first time. Silversea will also offer new expedition voyages to the Russian Far East, Japan, the South Pacific and French Polynesia.

Aren’t these rather dizzying changes for a line that has had something of an elite private-college ambience onboard? Hardly, says Bettridge. “Luxury is all about choices. Our clients choose choice – choice among luxury amenities; choice of new friends and companions among our cosmopolitan guests (only about 60 per cent of whom actually hail from the Americas); and choice among a broad range of exotic destinations and shore excursions. My intent is to see Silversea offer cruises that are the best on any scale, regardless of price, and to help all involved be as comfortable as possible – whether they are buying or selling these incredible cruise experiences.”

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