Seabourn’s success story

AT its launch last month, Seabourn’s state-of-the-art Seabourn Encore was heralded by the line as the most luxurious cruise ship to take to the seas yet. And it’s hard to argue. Guy Dundas explains.

Listening to guest feedback preparing to sail aboard Seabourn Encore’s christening cruise from Singapore in early January, it’s obvious the line must be doing something right. With some customers on a waitlist to secure a cabin years in advance, the demand for the ultra-luxury, yet highly intimate, ocean cruise product is abundantly evident.

At a capacity of 600 guests, Seabourn Encore ticks all the boxes. A ratio of 1:1.4 guests to staff, bespoke cuisine, unique experiences, a highly elegant, all-suite product, fully stocked mini-bar with preferred choices, no tipping required, and perhaps most importantly, personalised service, are paramount for the industry-leading Seabourn.

Industry pundits suggest the luxury line has moved away from its true small-ship status, with Seabourn Encore carrying about 24% more people compared to its existing fleet of three 450 passenger vessels, Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest. While still based on the Odyssey-class ship shell, the capacity increase on Seabourn Encore was achieved by adding an extra deck and widening the ship, enabling Seabourn to shuffle, expand and fine tune public spaces, ship-wide.

travelBulletin chatted with Seabourn President Rick Meadows in Singapore ahead of the christening ceremony to understand the line’s formula for success, and to identify what sets Seabourn apart from other luxury cruise lines.

“It’s a whole series of individual attributes that work together as opposed to one single thing,” Meadows said. “Service, the culinary experience and the depth and breadth of the destinations that we go to, are all core pillars of our business. As are the onboard activities that we offer, such as the Seabourn Conversations, and our approach to entertainment. All of those activities and areas are very important to who we are.”

Crew pride themselves on knowing the names and drink preferences of all guests within hours of stepping aboard a Seabourn ship using customer profiles to provide extraordinary levels of personalised service.

Meadows said collaborations with high-profile specialists in their respective fields ensured Seabourn stood out from the crowd. The Seattle-based company has a partnership with three-star Michelin chef Thomas Keller, debuting The Grill by Thomas Keller aboard Seabourn Encore. Another alliance involves acclaimed mixologist, Brian Van Flandern who has created a unique cocktail menu that combine fresh produce and botancials from destinations visited. There’s also a pact with musical maestro Tim Rice who has created a new production show for the line, an arrangement with spa and wellness guru Dr Andrew Weil who has pioneered a fleet-wide mindful living program for guests, as well as a tie-up with Molton Brown for an exclusive collection of Seabourn Signature Scents.

“The inclusiveness of the experience and the fact that the bar is open — from a guest experience, it creates a club-like feeling. You can sit down with another couple and you don’t have to think about who is going to be buying the drinks,” Meadows told travelBulletin.

“It’s not just one thing. It is so many things that differentiate the cruise and the brand that make it really unique. We’ve been the leader in ultra-luxury cruising in my view from the very beginning. If you go back to Seabourn’s roots, we’ve been on that journey for nearly 30 years,” he elaborated.

And for Seabourn Encore the bar has been raised even further. Six years since its last ship launched, Meadows enlisted highly acclaimed hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany to “evolve” the design of the ship’s interior from tip to tail. Tihany’s mission, in his own words, was to make the 40,350-tonne ship “sexier” than its fleet-mates, with no sharp corners but retaining much of the same layout so past guests “still felt at home”.

Encore’s layout is stencilled on the Seabourn Odyssey-class of ship, inheriting hallmarks such as Seabourn Square, the Observation Bar at the bow, the Grand Saloon at the stern and a marina for zodiac and kayaking activities (now on Deck 2). Aside from the feeling of more space throughout, some of the new additions include The Grill by Thomas Keller, a new sushi-themed diner aptly named Sushi and The Retreat — an extravagant, pay-per-use, shaded, rooftop venue featuring a private step-up whirlpool and 15 cabanas, each equipped with sun lounges, HD flat screen televisions, a stocked refrigerator and more.

“We know the Encore is going to be a very successful ship. There is no doubt. We’re not only seeing that in consumer demand but we are seeing it in the response from our guests, and there’s only been two voyages so far,” Meadows said.

Seabourn Encore made her maiden visit to Australasian waters in late January, will return in December 2017 offering five 16-day voyages, and is earmarked to return to our waters over the 2018/19 wave season.