The newly independent Azamara adds the 4th ship, increases land travel and teases loyalty updates

The May naming ceremony of Azamara Cruises’ 684-passenger Azamara Onward is more than just a new ship to be added to the line’s fleet. It’s a celebration of the company’s independence. The company, which was once part of Royal Caribbean’s portfolio, was sold to Sycamore Partners, with plans to capitalize on the small cruise line’s focused approach to flashy onboard amenities as an independent niche player in the cruise industry.

It competes in the same space as other upscale lines like Oceania Cruises, but hasn’t grown at the pace it would have liked under its previous owner. President Carol Cabezas shares her thoughts on the company’s growth plans, its major expansion with a fourth ship and potential plans for its popular but small loyalty program.

Where will Azamara be in ten years, newly independent?

Azamara is still searching for his “endpoint”. We’re taking things slowly to ensure growth is strategic, especially as things emerge from the pandemic. There will be more ships, but there are no plans to announce that yet. While some things may change, the focus on destination immersion remains the same. These include longer stays in each port than many cruise lines, more overnight stays in ports, and the company’s famous Azamazing Evening experience (a free gala event for all passengers at an iconic location on each cruise).

A major push at the moment is the review of plans for pre- and post-cruise activities. These land based voyages are part of the Azamara portfolio but often include famous destinations close to our ports of call such as Machu Picchu in Peru or additional safaris in parts of Africa. The company had a whole catalog of trips planned to be sold just before Covid-19, but nothing ever happened due to the pandemic. The company is currently exploring ways to relaunch these offerings in a way that is relevant to the new way of travelling.

How do you decide what changes to make on board?

Azamara teams think long and hard before making any changes when a new ship is added to the fleet. This is part of an overall strategy to target a broad but loyal audience and increase engagement on board. Azamara Onward features the new Atlas Bar in place of the library, which is getting rave reviews. The head of hotel operations came up with the idea after seeing something similar in New York. The craft cocktail bar serves dramatically crafted drinks with light bites. Its sleek design, with large windows overlooking the pool and surrounding countryside, is a huge hit, and it’s free for premium drink package purchasers. Depending on the feedback from the guests, the concept will be extended to other ships.

Azamara Onward will also feature four new signature shows, a new chef’s table in one of the signature restaurants and an expanded onboard orchestra.

Does Azamara intend to expand his goals?

Yes. Few cruise ships have sailed to West Africa before and it is now one of our very popular itineraries with intrepid and cosmopolitan guests. It sold out quickly. The addition of a fourth ship is not as important to Azamara to expand destinations as it is to increase the frequency of our existing itineraries. Adriatic and Mediterranean cruises are in high demand, and now each season there can be more of them in each destination.

Azamara has the largest number of unique ports in Greece of any cruise line in the industry and this helps attract a lot of business. Itineraries go beyond the standard ports of Santorini or Mykonos and visit smaller islands that many travelers have yet to visit. Having more time in port at unique cruise destinations draws many travelers to Azamara.

During the Monaco Grand Prix that year, Azamara had two ships and was the only cruise line to do so. It gave guests the opportunity to be part of this major sporting event without having to pay for a hotel. It fits well with Azamara’s focus on immersion in the destination.

How is the world cruise selling?

That topped every metric, and it was unclear how popular that would become out of the pandemic. The only blueprint to date has been the 2018 World Cruise. In comparison, Azamara’s next world cruise will be boarding four times as many guests for the full 155 days as in 2018. The company has also put individual segments up for sale, and that has held up really well Sold to people who want to do a world cruise for a few weeks.

Will there be major changes at Sycamore Partners?

No, they have made it clear that they want to maintain and expand this niche in the cruise sector. Small ships and longer lay times bring people back again and again. The newest addition to the fleet, Azamara Onward, features more ocean-view staterooms. The well-known “White Night” party on every cruise also remains, with an extravagant buffet on deck with live entertainment. Self-serve laundry, included tips, and free house liquor, soft drinks, beer, and wine (two white and two red rotating daily) also remain popular perks.

What changes are coming to the loyalty program?

There will be some changes as the company departs from the same platform that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have used and builds its own. This means the reciprocity of the Elite benefits will not continue, but it also gives the brand an opportunity to create a new program from scratch. Considering the company is smaller for loyalty program members (no more exchange benefits on other lines), Azamara Circle members can expect some new benefits to enjoy on Azamara cruises. These are still in the works.

People are totally loyal to Azamara and will not lose any points they have accumulated. In fact, there is a British couple who sailed over 500 nights with Azamara alone and attended Azamara’s naming ceremony in Monte Carlo. To attract such fans, the company must be doing something right.

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