Silversea operates in the ultra-luxury sector. For people who are new to the industry can you please explain what the ultra-luxury cruise sector is all about?
Ultra-luxury cruising sits at the pinnacle of the cruise sector – it is defined by a few crucially important factors including suite only accommodation, high space ratios, high ratio of passengers to crew and the boutique size vessels of less than 600 guests. On a more personal experience level, many regulars talk about how important it is to have ‘like-minded’ co-travelers – we refer to this as the ‘people like us’ factor. Price largely dictates the crowd. Generally ultraluxury guests demand high quality and variety of dining as well as all-inclusive tariffs similar to the experience of travelling on a private yacht where no money changes hands! In our marketing and sales efforts, we always try to position Siversea away from other cruise lines as people continue to have a fixed idea of what cruising is and what price they should pay. Silversea is actually more aligned with luxury brands and the world’s top hotels than other cruise lines.
There are mixed views on how the ultra-luxury sector has performed over the past couple of years here in the UK. What is Silversea’s experience?
We are optimistic about the current state of the market. Generally across cruising there is growth of around 5-6% here in the UK. In 2011, the luxury sector represented 1.5% of the UK cruise market and despite difficult economic conditions PSA figures showed an 8% increase in passengers in this sector. We have a very good level of advance sales for 2013 – currently we are 30% ahead of the forward booking position on last year.
The ultra-luxury sector is sold by select agents who successfully focus on this sector. For agents wishing to get into the sector what advice could you provide?
Don’t focus on price. This sector needs to be promoted for the world-class standards provided by Silversea and some other cruise lines. I really believe that agents who concentrate on quality of service on board and unique destinations offered, such as Silversea sailing into some of the small ports because of the size of our ships, will be more successful in the longer term.
How would you best describe the Silversea Cruise experience?
Silversea’s voyage programme features all seven continents and over 450 ports of call – more than any other cruise line. Our intimate ships can access secluded harbours that the big ships can’t reach, often sailing into the centre of the towns and cities where we call. Offering exclusive access meaning that we offer one-of-a-kind experiences that surprise and delight guests – like sailing through Tower Bridge into the heart of London or docking next to the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. Silversea is also the only luxury cruise line to offer a specialised expedition brand featuring the 130-guest Silver Explorer and the newest addition to the fleet (starting October 2013) Galapagos Explorer II. Silver Explorer offers highly specialised voyages to some of the world’s most remote and sought after destinations.
What is generally included in the Silversea fare structure?
Silversea’s all-inclusive fares cover just about everything, including the seamless convenience of roundtrip economy air and transfers on over 80% of our voyages. Our suites are also some of the largest at sea, featuring luxurious amenities that can be customised to the guests’ individual preferences. Select wines, champagnes, premium spirits and speciality coffees as well as bottled water, juices and soft drinks are complimentary in all bars and lounges. The bar in each suite is also stocked with a guest’s preferred beverages including wine and spirits. Silversea has a staff-to-guest ratio of nearly one to one and is also the only cruise line with butler service in every suite. Onboard gratuities are included in every cruise fare assuring a level of service motivated only by a desire to make sure guests are getting all they need.
In the UK what would be a typical Silversea guest profile?
Our guests are well educated seasoned travellers and we are seeing that when it comes to culinary and dining, the provenance of what they are consuming is very important. Most guests are in the age range 50-65 but we are seeing many extended families travelling together these days, which pulls the average down. The repeat guest rate is 65%.
Silversea also offers an Expedition product. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and the type of guest this product is best suited for?
Expedition cruising is expanding and the Silversea expedition product is an area that we are continuing to grow. It is an area where we have seen great success since the launch of the Expedition programme in 2008 with the introduction of Silver Explorer to the fleet. Before Silver Explorer was launched there was nobody offering a genuine expedition programme but at the same time providing five star standards of accommodation, service and cuisine. We already offered a wide range of destinations but recognised an increasing trend in luxury travel for authentic and unusual experiences. Continued demand in this product has also led us to add a second ship to the fleet. Currently operating as Galapagos Explorer II, this 100-capacity ship will join the fleet in September 2013 and from January 2014 will operate year round Galapagos itineraries.
You have the Silver Cloud and Silver Wind each carrying up to 296 guests and the larger Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper each carrying unto 382 guests. Your newest ship the Silver Spirit is much larger and carries up to 540 guests. Is the larger ship a natural evolution for the line as it can offer far better guest experiences?
Silver Spirit offers the distinctive luxuries plus enticing enhancements including Stars Supper Club, an Asian-themed restaurant, an expansive 8,300-square-foot spa, a resort-style pool, four whirlpools, and the largest suites in the Silversea fleet. It was a great addition to the fleet however, it is not our intention to grow with larger and larger ships. We know that our customers really like the size of Silver Spirit which has proved extremely popular since her launch.