As Seabourn Cruise Line, the Seattle-based luxury line, celebrates its 30th anniversary, the core values that it was built on are “still at the heart of everything we do,” Chris Austin, Seabourn's senior vice president of global marketing and sales, told Travel Market Report.
Austin joined Seabourn in the beginning of 2017, after eight years with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. He considers Seabourn to be “the world’s finest luxury resorts at sea,” and has taken the elements he believed to be most successful in the hotel world and brought them over to the line's ships sailing the oceans.
“This is all about guest experience,” Austin said. “I think there’s an incredible amount of similarities between the two. You could enter the cruise industry and have many people tell you it’s completely different and you can embrace that. My focus is that it is the same industry – they’re floating hotels.”
What makes Seabourn different than other luxury lines? For Austin, it’s something found onboard.
“That level of intuitive and personal service. Some guests have said that it’s almost clairvoyant. We truthfully differentiate in service,” he told TMR.
The staff’s attention to detail creates these “Seabourn moments,” Austin said, things that “go way beyond” a typical housekeeping or wait staff.
There is also equal dedication to what’s happening onboard and onshore.
“Everyone has a different Seabourn moment each day, whether it's having housekeeping call you by your name or remember drink orders specifically,” he said, noting that bartenders wouldn’t just remember that your drink is a gin and tonic, but it’s a gin and tonic made with Tanqueray 10 with a slice of grapefruit as garnish.
“Our come-to-market positioning is extraordinarily worlds apart – the onboard and onshore experiences are equally important,” he said. “We put a lot of focus on the onshore,” including a heavy focus on major World Heritage Sites through its partnership with UNESCO.
For travel agents, Austin also promised a continued commitment to the trade.
“Back to its roots, I’ve always seen Seabourn support the travel professional and I personally am a supporter of the travel professional,” he said.
Last year, Seabourn organized its North America sales organization to make sure that there’s “not a single travel professional in North America that doesn’t have a connection to us.”
“For me, if we can help any travel professional close that extra sale, drive that top line, give them the tools, the education to be able to do so, then together we’re partners and we’ll both be very successful,” he said.
New this year
Seabourn has almost doubled its fleet in the past 18 months — and it will finish 2018 with a total of five ships, all of which share a “lovely familiarity,” Austin said.
Seabourn Ovation will make its maiden voyage on May 5, debuting as a sister ship to Seabourn Encore, the line’s other big addition that made its debut in 2017 and started sailing in January.
All five ships will be the same size, giving them the ability to travel into the same ports around the world. This year, the line will visit a total of 470 ports in 103 countries.
Also this year, Seabourn will continue its return to Alaska; the line came back to sail Alaska in 2017, for the first time in 15 years. On those sailings, Seabourn will always have 11 or 12 expedition leaders available to lead guests and answer questions at Seabourn Conversations in the ship’s grand salon during sailings.
Seabourn Journeys, the line’s pre- and post-cruise, land-based tours, can also be added to any sailings and customized. The experiences, which could be as simple as a private car and driver, score travel agents a 14 percent commission.