Swan Hellenic intent to forge ties Down Under

Cultural expedition cruise line expecting Aussie cruisers to fill new Kimberley program

Swan Hellenic will rely almost entirely on the Australian market to fill its Kimberley sailings in 2023 – and beyond – the cruise line’s SVP Global Sales and Marketing, Alfredo Spadon has revealed exclusively to LATTE.

In Sydney on Thursday [15 September 2022] during a whirlwind triple city, six-day inaugural visit, Spadon said he was encouraged by the local travel industry and the feedback received for the reborn brand. He was clear that there is plenty of work to do.

“We are starting from scratch. Ground zero. Everything is still new,” Spadon told LATTE.

Spadon’s visit last week coincided with a Swan Hellenic roadshow in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, where he was joined by local brand representatives from Cruise Online and an experienced Kimberley expedition leader from New Zealand, who spruiked the five-star cruise line and the destination. He also met with numerous potential partners to heighten awareness of the brand locally.

Aerial view of the Hunter River, Kimberley, Australia © Bruno Cazarini

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“We’ve had meetings with tour operators, with wholesalers, with cruise specialists, with networks. It’s been very interesting.”

“Everybody is extremely interested in the product and the reaction from trade partners has been phenomenal,” Spadon said.

“The travel advisors who attended had a fantastic, positive reaction,” he said of the feedback from the showcase.

Swan Hellenic 2.0 was reborn a little over two years ago. The born-again line evolved from its English heritage as a cultural expedition-focused cruise operator after the brand was acquired by CEO Andrea Zito. Swan Hellenic’s first ship under Zito was the SH Minerva, which commenced operation in Antarctica on 29 December last year. (The name of the ship pays homage to the original cruise line’s vessel). A sister-ship, SH Vega, launched two months ago from Tromsø on 21 July. A third vessel, SH Diana, is slated to enter service in mid-2023 in the Mediterranean.

Confirmed by LATTE earlier this year, SH Minerva will operate four rotations on an 11-day Kimberley itinerary between Darwin and Broome in July and August 2023, followed by an 11-day voyage from Darwin to Cairns on 13 August.

Alfredo Spadon, SVP Global Sales and Marketing, Swan Hellenic

“We are proud to be bringing Minerva to this region because Australia, New Zealand are very important markets in terms of cruising,” the Italian cruise executive told LATTE.

“In terms of contribution from Australia, we are focused completely on the Australian market for the Kimberleys.”

“We have pumped up yachts. That’s what I call them. I have also learned from these past few days that the demand for the Kimberley for the Australians is absolutely huge,” he explained.

SH Minerva operated a successful inaugural season in Antarctica in early 2022.

“My personal feeling is that we can have a very big contribution out of Australia for the Kimberley which we will promote. We are expecting a very strong uptake,” Spadon remarked.

Beyond the Kimberley, Spadon believes the Australian/New Zealand market has strong potential for sales in other parts of the world that Swan Hellenic sails.

“Talking with partners here I now understand how important the cruise industry is. We want to be part of that two ways.

“One way, to have the product presented in the market, to fly out and experience our products on the Mediterranean Sea, on the west coast of Africa, on the west coast of Europe, in the north, in Svalbard, the Arctic. Secondly, there is also a big opportunity to create this emotional traffic out of Australia on the Pacific and Australian cruises as well.”

“With an office here, we have made a big commitment to this region. We would like to become an important top-of-mind player in the Australian market in terms of cultural expedition cruises,” Spadon said

Anthony Cassar, CEO Cruise Online and Alfredo Spadon, SVP Global Sales and Marketing, Swan Hellenic

Such is the commitment to the region, Spadon told LATTE the Kimberley “should” be in the future season release, expected to be launch next month.

Currently, all bookings for Swan Hellenic made from Australia and New Zealand will come through Cruise Online’s Sydney-based office. LATTE understands there is a potential that future local partners will likely be able to access Swan Hellenic’s live inventory via an online API.

Not luxury

While referred to as “five-star”, Spadon insists Swan Hellenic is not a luxury cruise brand.

“Swan Hellenic is sophisticated elegance. It’s a high-end product at the absolute top end, but we did not want to call it luxury as luxury has so many definitions. We have beautiful vessels with a fantastic Scandinavian design – very bright.

For us, expedition cruising is all about the destination and our guests will always feel an enormous connection to where they are. We have huge windows on the vessels so that it is impossible not to stay in contact with the destination,” he explained.

Spadon noted Swan Hellenic’s launch during the middle of the COVID pandemic, to Antarctica, and having to deal with supply chain issues, was clearly not ideal.

“For the first season, for a startup company, we are absolutely not unhappy,” he said.

More on this from Spadon in LATTE Cruise next week.

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