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A NEW DIRECTION
AND
A NEW NAME FOR
AZAMARA

With a new man at the helm
Azamara Club Cruises charts a different
course

by
Richard H. Wagner
  In July 2009, Larry Pimintel became the President of Azamara Cruises; a
luxury line began in 2007 by Celebrity Cruises as part of the Royal
Caribbean family of companies.  Pimintel brought with him considerable
experience in the up-market segment of the cruise industry having
previously headed Cunard Line, Seabourn Cruise Line and Seadream Yacht
Club.  Recently, he met with the media to discuss his plans for the line and
to announce that the line would now have a new name.
     “Before I decided to join [Azamara], I booked on the product, paid for
the product and looked at it from a guest’s perspective.  Boy, was that a
learning laboratory!  I learned [the guests’] likes and dislikes and learned to
refine the product to provide what we now call Azamara Club Cruises.”
     What Pimintel found was a line that operated two small ships that
traveled to 54 countries around the globe.  While the majority of the guests
were from America, a very substantial percentage came from some 60 other
countries.  “On an Azamara ship, you start your international voyage, the
minute you step aboard.”
     While impressed by the product, Pimintel saw ways for the line to grow
and play a more substantial role in the Royal Caribbean family, which has
long been known for its emphasis on large ships.  “We will be growing in a
smaller ship category.  That is exciting because there is a place for ships
that can go to unique destinations that the big boys can’t get into.  I think
we have expanded and will continue to expand the bandwidth of clients that
our corporation serves.”
     The name Azamara is a composite word derived from “Aza” meaning
blue and “Mar” meaning sea.    “After a great deal of thought and research,
we came to the conclusion that adding ‘Club Cruises’ after the name
Azamara was not only appropriate but highly effective for a number of
reasons.   It implied: I belong; it implied membership; it implied an affinity
to explore culture, which this product will do very effectively.  It also was
kind of a priceless expression.”
     With the new name came a new tag line - - “You’ll love where we take
you.”  It “is indeed what Azamara’s number one goal is for each of our
guests that will be aboard one of our two vessels, the Azamara Journey and
the Azamara Quest.”
     The new Azamara Club Cruises will be built upon four “pillars.”
     The first pillar is: “Destination Immersion.”  While sister company
Royal Caribbean International is moving in the direction of making the ship
the destination, Azamara is placing emphasis on the places the ship visits.  
Cruises on the Azamara ships will be “slowed down” so that there are more
overnight stays and late night departures.  This will allow guests more time
to learn about life in the various ports and to interact with locals.  “Our
idea there is to present a destination experience that is uniquely
immerscent.   We will provide it culturally and from an activities
standpoint.”
     The ships will not be offering “off-the-shelf” tours but rather such
things as reservations at exclusive local restaurants and visits to vineyards
where guests can meet with the people who actually make the wine.  “We
will have an activity track, which will have golf, biking, hiking and
walking.  We will have a cultural track, which will be cuisine-oriented - -
one, two, and three star Michelin restaurants that guests can go to.  And, by
the way, they love to shop, so we will have a shopping and collecting
series.”
     The second pillar is: “Extraordinary Service”.  Pimintel believes that
the Azamara ships are already providing service that is beyond the norm
and it will only be necessary to make few enhancements.
     One such adjustment is that more services will be included in the fare.  
Gratuities for the housekeeping and dining staffs will be included.  There
will be no extra charge for coffees, soda and bottled water.  A
complimentary wine will be poured at lunch and dinner.  In ports where
they are available, shuttle buses will be complimentary.
     In addition, guests staying in the suites will have the services of butlers
trained at an English butler school.  Guests staying in other categories will
have a concierge service.
     Another change will be the introduction of Azamara’s own loyalty
program for repeat passengers.
     The third pillar will be: “Cuisine and Wine.”  This is another area
where Pimintel is building upon an existing foundation.  As he noted: “We
have over 8,000 bottles of wine in these ships.”  In the future, “we will be
offering excellent festivals at sea - - tutorials in the food area, in food and
wine, food and fine art, food and fashion, food and fitness.”
     The final pillar will be “Wellness and Vigor.”  Azamara plans to
enhance its existing spa and wellness programs.
     One bold step that Pimintel has taken is to increase fares.  “The rates
are indeed coming up.  They have been increased over 20 percent and you
will see them increase more.”
     This move stemmed from the conviction that Azamara’s existing fares
did not reflect the true value of an Azamara cruise.  In addition, with even
more features and services to be included in the fare in the future, there is
even more justification for raising rates.
     While Pimintel noted that raising prices “in the current economy has to
be something people have to be mindful of,” he believes not only are the
price increases justified but that such price increases are necessary in order
for the line to achieve the return on capital needed to grow the line.  “We
have been able to fill the ships pretty well but at the wrong rate.”
       “We do not think raising prices will harm us.”  Each of the Azamara
ships has a capacity of 694 guests - - less than the capacity of two of the
lifeboats on Oasis of the Seas,  Thus, the line only needs to sell about
45,000 tickets a year.  Azamara’s target market is people with annual
incomes of $300,000 or more.  Even in harsh economic times, there will be
a sufficient number of affluent people worldwide who will not be deterred
by a price increase from purchasing a product if they feel it is valuable.  
“We don’t need everybody to purchase it, we just need enough people.”
     In a concession to the times, however, Pimintel is not labeling Azamara
as a luxury product.  With all of the public criticism of conspicuous
consumption, “there are people who just step back and say ‘that is not for
me.’  So we absolutely intend to be a value product in the industry.”   
      Azamara Club Cruises does, however, face competition from luxury
brands.  The line it is most often compared to is Oceana Cruises.  Both
Azamara and Oceana operate ships that were part of a nearly identical set
of ships that were built for Renaissance Cruises.  When Renaissance went
out of business, three of these ships made their way to Oceana, three to
Princess Cruises and two to Azamara.
     “The folks at Oceana have done a very good job . . . .  The globe is
three quarters water and there are an awful lot of places for us to go.  We
think they will continue to be successful and we certainly intend to be
successful with our brand.  I think our programming will de different and
they have their unique programs.  There is a place for all of us.  We are
distinctly different.”
     “Going forward, Azamara Club Cruises will be a unique product.  We
are not claiming to the best or better but rather different.”





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