MSC Cruises poaches Seabourn exec for new luxury brand

Chris Austin among five new senior members to join Italian cruise line

MSC Cruises has named five senior members of the management team for its new luxury brand, including Seabourn’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Chris Austin.

In addition to Austin will be Sarah Doyle, Thatcher Brown, Sacha Rougier and John Stoll.

The new brand is being led by CEO Michael Ungerer, who was appointed 18 months ago.

“The leaders of the new brand bring more than 100 years of combined knowledge and expertise in the luxury, hospitality and cruise sectors. Together they will create a luxury and lifestyle travel experience as distinct as it is trailblazing, exceeding the expectations of both discerning cruisers seeking something different, those new to cruising and nextgenlux travellers curious to start,” Ungerer remarked.

MSC revealed its plan to develop a stand-alone luxury cruise brand in 2018. The yet-to-be-named division will comprise four ships, the first of which will be delivered in 2023 by shipbuilder, Fincantieri. Subsequent deliveries are slated for 2024, 2025 and 2026.

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The new recruits and their roles

Chris Austin, Chief Sales Officer

Austin was most recently SVP Global Sales and Marketing for four years at Seabourn Cruise Line where in 2019 he received the accolade of ‘Cruise Ambassador of the Year’ from the global luxury travel agency network, Virtuoso. He previously worked for almost 20 years leading sales for the luxury brand portfolio at Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Sarah Doyle
Chris Austin

Sarah Doyle, Chief Marketing Officer

Most recently Vice President Marketing at Bacardi Limited Europe, Doyle previously spent six years at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, initially responsible for brand partnerships across the luxury brand portfolio, then as Global Brand Director for W Hotels Worldwide where she opened six global properties. Prior to her career in hospitality, for 10 years Doyle oversaw American Express’ Platinum and Centurion cardmember programmes at Momentum Worldwide.

Thatcher Brown, Commercial and Strategic Advisor

Brown most recently was President of Dream Cruises and Managing Director of Crystal Cruises Asia at Genting for four years. After starting his career at Fairmont Hotels and Resorts where he spent six years including the role of Executive Director Brand Marketing and Business Development. Brown also worked at the Jumeirah Group luxury hotel chain for nearly five years, including the position of VP Brand Strategy and Marketing.

Sacha Rougier
Thatcher Brown

Sacha Rougier, Head of Itinerary Planning and Shore Experience

Rougier was Managing Director of Cruise Gate Hamburg for nearly six years and managed the completion of two new cruise terminals, overseeing a 73 per cent increase in passenger numbers. Previously she was Business Development Manager for five years with the Port of Marseille.

John Stoll – Destination Experience Advisor

Stoll worked as VP Land Programmes for 17 years at Crystal Cruises and was previously Director Land Programmes at Silversea Cruises for more than five years where he created award-winning shore excursions.

John Stoll

Ungerer added, “As momentum builds towards the reveal of our vision, our top team will continue to grow, with further highly talented and experienced appointments in people, product and culinary roles.

“We’re getting ready to share our vision of luxury ocean travel with our trade partners when we will present our fleet, showcase our luxury vessels’ innovative designs and demonstrate what I believe will be a best-in-class guest experience for existing and future clients.

“With sustainability forming a crucial part of our DNA, we’ll also show that our new luxury ships are equipped with the latest and most advanced environmental and maritime technologies available.”

The first luxury ship will have a gross tonnage of 63,900 gross tonnes and feature 461 suites, all with ocean front balconies or terraces.

Lead image: MSC Splendida top deck 

Michael Ungerer
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