RCCL presidents tackle over-tourism, luxury, female leadership

Editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, far left, and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. CEO Richard Fain, far right, moderated a panel of RCCL presidents, seated: Mark Conroy of Silversea, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo of Celebrity and Larry PImentel of Azamara.

Editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, far left, and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. CEO Richard Fain, far right, moderated a panel of RCCL presidents, seated: Mark Conroy of Silversea, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo of Celebrity and Larry PImentel of Azamara.

FORT LAUDERDALE — Cruise line presidents from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. brands took on the subject of over-tourism, the evolution of luxury cruising and female leadership during a panel at CruiseWorld.

Regarding over-tourism, they said that in the general travel industry, cruise lines are a small part of the phenomenon — but a highly visible one.

“Our reality is, perception rules,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president of Celebrity Cruises. “There are these big white ships pulling in and it’s a lot of people at once.”

Larry Pimentel, president of Azamara, said that 25 years ago there were only 1.4 million outbound travellers from China; today there are 150 million. “India is also coming,” he said. “By no means is this only a cruise issue; it is an industry issue.”

And Mark Conroy, managing director of the Americas, for Silversea Cruises, said that overreacting to over-tourism could be overly damaging to some local residents in destinations such as Venice.

“Tourism is the largest employer in the world overall,” Conroy said. You can’t just shut it down. If you banned all tourism into Venice, there’d be a big unemployment problem there.”

Silversea redefining expedition cruising

Conroy said that 10 years ago when he was working for a rival company he thought that Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre was crazy to bolt an expedition arm onto a luxury brand.

“I thought he’d lost his mind until I saw the per diems from the expedition business,” Conroy said.

Silversea, as a top-tier luxury brand, also brought a different concept to what was then more of a rustic product. At that time, Conroy recalled, “You had to sacrifice your lifestyle to go on an expedition.”

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But when Silversea renovated its two oldest ships, the Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, it decided to transform them into expedition vessels but with the space and amenities of a luxury ship.

Conroy said that one of the unintended consequences was that the larger ship had faster speeds than most expedition ships.

“We can cross the Drake Passage [to Antarctica] in 28 hours instead of two days,” Conroy said

In defining the “luxury” appeal of his Azamara brand, Pimentel said that value plays a bigger part than in traditional luxury brands. As a department store, Azamara would compare to Nordstrom, he said.

“We’re not Saks Fifth Avenue.” As a car, we would be more like a Lexus.”

A woman in charge

The panel followed the CEO Conversation between Royal Caribbean Chairman Ltd. chairman and CEO Richard Fain and editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, and Fain returned to the stage to co-moderate the panel of presidents.

Lutoff-Perlo, who was named the president of Celebrity five years ago, and Fain asked her what was is like to be one of the few women to run a cruise line. She said at first, she took it for granted.

“When I was appointed I didn’t think about my gender at all,” she said. “But then when I was appointed, to the rest of the world apparently it is a really big deal.

“The great part is the part I can do to pay it forward” to other females in the industry, she said. 

A tale of two cruise lines

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Two European businessmen created two different cruise lines in the 1990s. Both have been successful in their own terms, but one formula for success has a lot more scale than the other one.

The two lines are Silversea Cruises and MSC Cruises. Silversea was formed in 1994 by building two new ships straight out of the gate for the luxury market. It was marketed primarily, if not exclusively, in North America.

MSC took a different route. Created from the leftovers of the Lauro Lines in 1995, MSC operated used, some would say very used, tonnage. Like Carnival Cruise Line, it deployed its older ships to cater to the mass market. It was marketed primarily to Europeans, with a few winter itineraries in the Caribbean.

Silversea’s first newly built ship, the Silver Cloud, was a thing of beauty. It was instantly competitive with other luxury vessels.

MSC’s first newly built ship didn’t arrive until a decade after the Silver Cloud was delivered and it was a takeover of an option that couldn’t be exercised by the Greek line Festival Cruises when it went into bankruptcy.

Since launching, Silversea has acquired a fleet of nine ships, with two more vessels on order.

With the delivery of the MSC Seaview, MSC has 15 ships in its fleet, with another nine on order through 2026.

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Last week, Silversea and Royal Caribbean announced an agreement in which Royal will get a 67% equity stake for $1 billion. Silversea gives up its autonomy as a private company in exchange for continued growth and investment in its brand.

MSC is investing in its own future with a $10.5 billion newbuild program, and its autonomy is not in doubt.

MSC took a slower, less glamorous route to success but in the end, it is the company that stands independent.

Two major differences steered MSC and Silversea towards different outcomes. The first is that MSC Cruises was a side project for MSC chairman Gianluigi Aponte, whose main business, container shipping, made it easier to secure the financing that kept MSC’s order book growing.

The second is that MSC operates in the low-price, high-profit segment of the cruise business. Catering to the mass market may not be where the glamour is, but it is where the money is. The finances of both MSC and Silversea are private, so it is perhaps unfair to say one is more profitable than the other.

Three Inaugural Calls for Dover in May

Three Inaugural Calls for Dover in May

Viking Sun

The Port of Dover saw three first-time cruise calls in May, highlighted by the Viking Sun and also including the Deutschland and Zenith.

The ships were greeted in true Dover Cruise style with a water salute from Dover Tugs Doughty and Dauntless, the port said.

In addition, the first bank holiday weekend saw the historic Western Docks at full capacity for the first time since 2016 with three cruise ships berthed together.

There was also a call from the expedition vessel, the Silver Cloud. The ship’s guests¬†enjoyed a unique kayaking experience to view the iconic White Cliffs up close.

Holland America Line’s Prinsendam arrived in port on the Royal Wedding day on Saturday, May 19 to a celebratory great British Street Party in Cruise Terminal Two.

“Complimentary tempting food and drink were provided along with musical entertainment from the talented Nick Bosworth on piano and keyboard. Life-size cardboard figures of the Royal Family were positioned in the terminal where guests enjoyed taking selfies with them creating unique holiday memories. It was marvellous to see the affection passengers from all over the world have for our Royal Family,” the port said.