Azamara Club Cruises‘ newest luxury ship, Azamara Pursuit, will be deployed to Australian waters at the start of the 2021 summer season, as the company continues to respond to demand to the company’s third largest source market.
The 690-passenger Azamara Pursuit was only officially christened amid much fanfare in early September in Cherbourg, France.
Speaking in Sydney tonight (Tuesday, 23 October) at a travel industry event, Azamara’s Chief Operating Officer Carol Cabezas confirmed the cruise company would operate Azamara Pursuit on a number of sailings in the Oceania region and will return to Japan as part of its Winter 2021 Collection (December 2020 through April 2021), which will go on sale on 7 November 2018.
“Australia is a key market for the brand,” Cabezas said, adding that Japan has “been so popular” it made sense to return.
“Pursuit will becoming to Australia in 2021 as well. It’s very exciting because this season will mark our fourth season in the Australia and New Zealand market. We love coming here; we love all of our Australian guests that come on board our ships. We will have had all three of the ships visit this area,” she said.
Speaking exclusively with LATTE at the event, Cabezas said Azamara want to provide the different teams onboard the ships an opportunity to engage with guests in a new market. “Journey has had that opportunity, Quest now has that opportunity and so we had to find the right time to now bring Pursuit to do that as well.”
Cabezas said Azamara guests create strong relationships with the leadership teams on the company’s fleet, which now numbers three sister ships.
“They’ll follow the different captains and the different hotel directors. It’s actually a piece of information that we put on every voyage on our website: this is the date, these are the locations that will be visited and this is the Captain. We had to, because the guests want to know,” Cabezas explained.
Although full itinerary details are yet to be disclosed, Cabezas said the summer period would span the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021. Traditionally, members of Azamara’s loyalty scheme, Le Club Voyage, are given a 24-hour preview of the program before a wider release to the public.
In 2015 and 2016, Cruiseco chartered select Azamara Club Cruises’ departures while in Australasian waters.
“It was a fantastic partnership which Larry [Pimentel, Azamara’s CEO] had with the leader of Cruiseco [Phil Hoffmann from Phil Hoffmann Travel]. We haven’t repeated it and it’s not because we don’t want to; the opportunity hasn’t really presented itself, but we welcome working with the Cruiseco team. We have some great travel partners here,” she said.
Cabezas did rule out a circumnavigation of Australia in the Winter 2020/21 program.
“We’ve looked into circumnavigating, but there wasn’t as much interest in doing the full circumnavigation, particularly because people want to have a taste of New Zealand. If we do a circumnavigation, it just doesn’t permit the New Zealand piece as well, so that’s why we’ve chosen to do a collection of ports the way we have, focusing in one particular area with New Zealand. The appeal of having New Zealand is such a draw that we can’t miss it,” she revealed to LATTE.
Cabezas suggested that because of the smaller size of Azamara’s ships, obtaining berthing space in Sydney and other cities in the region was not an issue.
“Typically we are able to get spots. When you talk about more of the unique locations that we go to, they are so happy to have Azamara there because they know that the client that we are bringing to them is interested in understanding their culture and they are very curious about the food, the wine, the people, their customs. They feel that the guests we are bringing to them have a genuine interest in learning and being enriched and so they are happy to give us berthing space. We really haven’t had a challenge getting berthing space in a lot of places.”
Quizzed by LATTE if expedition cruising was a path Azamara would consider going forward, Cabezas said: “We’re not really looking into that right now. It takes a very different kind of vessel. You need a double hull; it needs to be an ice-class vessel. For us, at the point in time that we are right now, it would take away from the core of our business and what we are doing so well. So not for the moment. I wouldn’t totally discard it for the future, but we are focused on destination immersion right now.”
This week Azamara revealed a new partnership with Cox & Kings to create City Stays, initially in five locations, sold as a complete package with select cruises. The City Stays are three nights/four days in duration.
“Each of the packages are built that way, because if you go any shorter, you’re not getting enough of the very unique experiences that we want to deliver. If you go too long, you might lose some of the audience that’s interested,” the Azamara executive explained. “The City Stays are all built that way. It’s currently five locations: Barcelona, Singapore, Miami, Rome and Venice.”
She told LATTE Sydney “will probably make the list in the second version” of the program.
“We wanted to see how the market reacted to it. It is still early days. But what we’re really looking to do is have a very turn-key type of product, built by experts in that field, so our travel partners have a very easy way of saying, ‘Hey, I know that you want to have a taste of a city before you get on your ship, here’s something I can offer you,’ and the travel partner gets to have their commission on that component as well.”
Cox & Kings were an easy choice for Azamara to align with on the City Stay packages.
“We always want to partner with a high quality collaborator and so that’s why we are dealing with Micato Safaris. They are the leader in safari. Orient Express, that’s a phenomenal rail experience. So when we said we wanted to design these experiences pre- and post- [cruise], Cox & Kings are known for creating the most differentiated type of experience. They were the ones asked to take care of the Dalai Lama; that speaks for itself. If the Dalai Lama is wanting to travel with Cox & Kings, then that’s probably a good partner to take care of our guests as well.”