TORONTO — To say it’s an exciting time for Seabourn would be an understatement.
Not only is the cruise line fresh off its hugely successful ‘Extraordinary Expeditions Roadshow,’ which took place in top North American markets, including Toronto, in February, March and April, it’s also on the verge of launching its second purpose-built, ultra-luxury expedition ship, Seabourn Pursuit, this August. Its summer debut will certainly help Seabourn on its quest to becoming an expedition leader, having launched its first expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, which is identical to the Pursuit, in 2022.
Of course, the 600-plus travel agents who attended the roadshow learned all about the company’s new foray into expedition cruising, which Steve Smotrys, vice president of Global Sales, says has garnered very positive feedback from both agents and guests.
“With our new expedition ships, Seabourn will offer a true ultra-luxury expedition product with no compromise, unlike anything else on the market today,” he tells Travelweek. “It’s easy for other brands to offer elements of luxury, but an authentic ultra-luxury product is one that extends throughout everything a ship does. We believe that no one else does it better than Seabourn.”
Including a Toronto stop on the North American roadshow was essential to spreading the word about new expedition cruises and growing the company’s presence in the coveted Canadian market, Smotrys adds.
“Canadians love cruising and we’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm of the travel advisors here. Their interest in Seabourn expedition expands beyond just learning about the product to understanding how we stand out in the marketplace so that their clients get the best expedition experiences,” he says.
In this Q&A, we ask Smotrys about Seabourn’s future plans in expedition cruising, how the company is working with Canadian travel agents, and any new offerings that they should keep an eye out for.
Travelweek: Can you tell us a little about Seabourn Pursuit’s 2023 launch and inaugural voyage:
Smotrys: “Beginning Aug. 12, 2023, our second purpose-built, ultra-luxury expedition ship, Seabourn Pursuit, will sail five voyages in the Mediterranean before embarking on two voyages across the Atlantic and through the Caribbean. On Oct. 10, 2023, the ship will arrive in Barbados from where it will begin its expedition journeys, taking guests to remote corners of the globe. Seabourn Pursuit will head south for expeditions exploring coastal South America, the Amazon, and Antarctica into late March 2024.
“Following its inaugural Antarctic season, the ship will head to the South Pacific and Australia, which will include the line’s first exploration of the Kimberley region in northern Australia between June and August 2024. The iconic Kimberley, with its red sandstone gorges, rivers, waterfalls, wildlife, and aboriginal stories, is the ideal setting for a truly, world-class expedition experience. In addition to the Kimberley, Seabourn Pursuit will visit Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and sail to the South Pacific from Chile to Melanesia between March and October 2024.”
Travelweek: Expedition cruising has become extremely popular in recent years, with several cruise lines entering the field. Are you worried at all about the market being overly competitive?
Smotrys: “Seabourn is entering this new market with two compelling ultra-luxury expedition ships and extensive operational experience that will appeal to travelers, especially those who may typically choose a land-based experience. These new ships are going to be game changers in the luxury expedition cruise category because they were designed by leading travel experts with deep levels of knowledge in expedition, fine dining, and luxury cruising. Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit are equipped to provide a myriad of experiences from Zodiacs, scuba diving and even submarines, and they are built to explore hard-to-reach corners of the world.
“Our 10 years of experience in operating our program in Antarctica and our Ventures by Seabourn program has reinforced that this is a natural extension of the existing ultra-luxury cruise experience Seabourn offers rather than a separate product. So much activity is packed into each voyage, making it easier for the travel advisor to ensure their clients will be well cared for with many life-expanding moments. The ships and our world class expedition team will deliver amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences to any guest who chooses to sail with us.”
Travelweek: What else is new that travel agents should know about?
Smotrys: “Seabourn has just released extraordinary worldwide itineraries to explore the Caribbean, Asia and Arabia between fall 2024 and winter/spring 2025. Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will take guests on more than 40 unique sailings to hidden harbors, marquee ports, and must-experience destinations, including new stops and ports Seabourn has not visited in five years, such as Isabel Segunda, Puerto Rico; Santa Marta, Colombia; Port Antonio, Jamaica; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Kaohsiung and Magong (Makung), Penghu Islands, Taiwan.
“Seabourn has just opened booking for its first-ever ‘Grand Africa Voyage.’ Departing Nov. 30, 2024, Seabourn Sojourn will circumnavigate the continent and sail more than 17,000 miles during a 90-day, roundtrip adventure departing Barcelona, Spain. The journey will offer a world of experiences for guests, visiting 44 marquee and off-the-beaten path ports and cities throughout 26 countries, with six overnight stays on the itinerary.
“The 2024 Grand Africa Voyage will feature a blend of historically profound destinations such as Alexandria, Cairo, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; luscious, tropical paradises such as the Seychelles and Bom Bom Island; lands with breathtaking, diverse landscapes and wildlife such as Kenya, Madagascar and Zanzibar; and culturally rich destinations such as Cape Town, Morocco and Mozambique. In addition to renowned destinations, guests can discover Africa’s lesser-known gems such as Luanda, the ‘Paris of Africa,’ and Cape Verde, the ‘Gateway to the West’.”
Travelweek: What’s selling the most for summer 2023?
Smotrys: “Antarctica is on the must-visit list for many travellers, and therefore, it is one of our most popular destinations. It truly feels out of this world, and you must visit Antarctica to fully understand the awe and majesty of the destination. For many, there is no greater place on Earth.
“Another destination proving to be very successful is Scoresby Sound, located on the east coast of Greenland. Scoresby Sound is the world’s largest fjord system, couples with the Greenland icecap pouring into the fjords through endless glaciers, making this truly one of the most spectacular scenes in the world.”
Travelweek: Seabourn has a new President at the helm – Natalya Leahy. How will her leadership style impact the direction Seabourn will take this year and beyond?
Smotrys: “Natalya is an accomplished leader who brings a wide variety of diversity of leadership experiences working in large global organizations and iconic consumer-centric brands in companies and organizations, such as Procter and Gamble, Coca-Cola, and United Nations. She spent the past seven years supporting Seabourn in various capacities, including her roles as Chief Financial Officer for Holland America Group and Chief Operating Officer for Holland America Group. She was a part of building the success of Seabourn and supporting the brand, as well as leading the restart of cruise operations, and she values the importance of listening to our trade partners, guests and team members to develop strategies supporting their needs.”
Travelweek: How is Seabourn working with Canadian travel agents this year?
Smotrys: “Recently, Seabourn has doubled down on its support for the market. We now have a dedicated National Account Manager based in Toronto, helping support the dual branded business development managers with their Seabourn accounts. Travel advisors have access to Seabourn travel advisor rates to experience Seabourn firsthand including 50% off select voyages, and even more reduced rates once they complete our Seabourn Academy Graduate training course. We also provide limited time offers of bonus commissions as extra incentives, and we offer limited ship tours in Vancouver and in the Maritimes.”
For more information go to www.seabourn.com.