Fans of the finer things in life seem to gravitate to the world of cruise vacations for some obvious reasons. Exploring the world while enjoying good food and wonderful service alone keeps them coming back for more. On big ships, there seems to be something for everyone and a wide variety of people find a way of travel that works. Still, big ship operators are always refining what they do. Evolving it over time. Keeping it interesting.
Generally speaking, as ships go down in size, we find a more focused experience. Smaller ships simply don’t have the space for much of what defines big ship cruising. So they turn to engaging their guests in other ways. Right about here is where we run into an area that all cruise lines operating ships of all sizes have in common; what they do must always evolve for them to do well.
On Azamara Club Cruises, we enjoy a destination-focused cruise line that sends their ships around the world on unique itineraries. Making connections at destinations is their thing and they do it well. Partnering with top luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent to handle their off ship guest experience made sense too. We know that A&K’s massive worldwide infrastructure brings opportunities for travelers that are just not offered by anyone else. This was not a case of ‘farming out’ their tour program so they did not have to deal with it. This was a smart move at the right time for Azamara as it competes with an increasing number of less-than-large ships. A common take away from sailing with Azamara: The destinations got us here, the people keep us coming back” in a nod to the personal service experienced on board.
The Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise series has cast a steady spotlight on their culinary efforts, always a highlight of any Seabourn cruise. Bringing aboard guest chefs and scheduling a plethora of food- and wine-themed events throughout the sailing added grand buffet of experiences for Seabourn Guests to choose from. They liked that idea and came back for more. Still, Seabourn is never satisfied to stay constant and is likely to set the next trend in their own unique way that others cannot copy. The others will try in a variety of ways but they won’t be Seabourn. This is a cruise line that has clearly defined their space in the luxury travel segment then moved on to define the ‘ultra’ in ultra luxury, a tag that fits like the white gloves worn by their service staff.
In both of the above cases, these are cruise lines that respect the good job they do at all times, a couple ways. First, they never ever rock the boat on existing programming. All of the above commentary on ‘evolving to do well’ does not mean throwing long time fan favorites overboard. Quite the contrary. Rather than abrupt turns in direction, well-focused cruise travel organizations see those popular elements of what they do as a base from which to build.
A good example of this comes from Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, a cruise line we have covered in the past, from a variety of angles. Onboard Hapag-Lloyd’s luxurious Europa 2 is an interesting art collection that fits the ship very nicely. Europa 2 has over 800 original works of art displayed on board, some of which have been especially created for specific places on the ship. To highlight that feature, something passengers may or may not be interested in, Happag-Lloyd is offering a special sailing titled Europa 2 art2sea: A Cruise Devoted To Art
Onboard will be renowned art experts. Featured along the way will exclusive museum visits. To bring a new dimension to the ship’s art focus, Hapag-Lloyd will collaborate with Weltkunst art and lifestyle magazine as the ship sails from Montreal to New York this September.
Guests can look forward to lectures and discussions with knowledgeable experts. Ashore will be guided visits to galleries, museums and exhibitions. On the cruise route from Montreal to New York, guests will also be inspired by the colors of the glorious Indian summer, as well as by the cities on America’s East Coast.
Renowned experts such as Dr Lisa Zeitz, editor-in-chief of Weltkunst magazine, Axel Rüger, director of the Van Gogh Museum, Thole Rotermund, art dealer and art historian, and Carola Persiehl, a gallery owner from Hamburg, will hold inspiring lectures and discussions with guests who are interested in art and will provide an exciting look behind the scenes of the international art world. The highlights of the program include exclusive visits to exhibitions, galleries and museums on shore – for example, to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, which reopened at its new location in 2015. The artist Rupprecht Matthies, whose works can be found on the EUROPA 2, will also be accompanying the cruise, along with an on-board artist who will be drawing live portraits.
Sound good? Too bad. The Europa 2 art2sea: A Cruise Devoted To Art cruise from Montreal to New York in 2016 is already fully-booked. Still, having proved so popular, there will also be an art2sea themed cruise operated in 2017 in collaboration with Weltkunst. The move by Hapag-Lloyd to add this themed voyage highlights much of what they already do by taking it a bit further. We look for that trend to continue and have seen the effect on other lines as well.
This is not (scary) change but (bold) evolution of what cruise lines are already doing. We want this.