In the short story “Rip Van Winkle” by John Irving, the character wakes up to a greatly changed world after sleeping for twenty years. This story serves as a great metaphor to remind our past-past guests who sailed on Azamara Cruises in 2007, 2008 and most of 2009 to “wake-up” and return to the NEW “Azamara Club Cruises.”
I’ve been discovering comments from those past guests on some cruise message boards stating their intention to vacation with us again due to the favorable comments and feedback they’ve noticed on the internet and from their friends and family. So many good things have happened since our initial launch in 2007 and I want to bring all of Azamara’s first-generation of past guests up to date.
Azamara Cruises was re-branded in December 2009 with a revised name – “Azamara Club Cruises” – as a “boutique cruise line of distinction” with a newly refined focus, and a series of new attributes designed for “upmarket,” experienced and affluent travelers. Both ships have undergone a $17.5 million revitalization with new European bedding and soft goods, flat screen televisions, new veranda decking and furniture, and wireless internet service in all staterooms and public areas.
The term “CLUB” was added to our name to send a number of messages. It differentiates Azamara from the rest of the industry and the “sameness” of the other cruise lines with identical ships. It serves as the platform that will allow the personalization of our relationships with our guests and over time will create the feeling of belonging to and the exclusiveness of a private club. Finally, it communicates the promise of a high standard of service that is expected by an affluent consumer.
In April 2010, our cruise tariff became “MORE INCLUSIVE” and now includes gratuities for waiters, bar staff and cabin stewards, complimentary specialty coffees, bottled water, soft drinks, boutique wines at lunch and dinner, free self-service laundry, certified English butler service for suite guests and shuttle service to and from ports, where available. By doing so, this creates a “club-like” atmosphere that can make each guest feel truly special by eliminating their worry about tipping and by reducing the number of times that their onboard account would be charged for “extra” services. Also, because of the different point of views about tipping in international markets, we bring parity to our staff about this important issue.
Finally, we added a new Tagline to our brand – “You’ll love where we take you” – to reinforce our destination focus of offering more overnight stays and more time to explore. We call this core element “Destination Immersion.” In 2011 alone, we visit 187 ports and 58 countries, with 45% of our port visits featuring overnight or late night stays (8pm or later). Also, in some destinations two-night stays are becoming more common, giving passengers three days of touring along with opportunities for night touring. Also, “You’ll Love Where We Take You” is another way to mention the many “places” we can take our guests emotionally – a satisfying experience of feeling welcomed and pampered from the consistent and impeccable service delivered by our staff and the opportunity to experience new, exclusive regionally-inspired cuisine and world-class boutique wines.
At this time in March 2011, I would describe to you that Azamara Club Cruises is in a unique, NEW and exclusive product category of its own that delivers a distinctive, one-of-a-kind cruise experience. I consider it to be a “crossover” product that we categorize as “Upmarket” that bridges the gap between the experiences delivered by the premium/deluxe category and by the ultra luxury cruise lines such as Seabourn and Silversea.
Most importantly, many of our past guests consider our value proposition to be the best. Generally our “more-inclusive” fares average 15% below those offered by our competitive set. Bottom line, you will receive more for the money you paid. Like many have commented online, “if they don’t raise their fares soon it will be a miracle, because they are a bargain.”
So all you “Rip Van Winkles” out there – wake up and open your eyes to a NEW Azamara Club Cruises!
We look forward to welcoming you back onboard again!
Chief Blogging Officer*
Azamara Club Cruises
(*CBO is an authorized and compensated representative of ACC)