'Cruisers undeterred by size, despite Concordia'

The boss of boutique cruise line SeaDream does not believe the Costa Concordia tragedy will persuade customers to opt for smaller ships.

The boss of boutique cruise line SeaDream does not believe the Costa Concordia tragedy will persuade customers to opt for smaller ships.

Following January’s disaster, agents reported a rise in customers asking about the size of the ships they were booking.

Paul Smith, owner of Quartz Travel, said he had noticed a clear trend towards smaller vessels. “You can see that people are moving away from the bigger ships,” he said.

“Customers are saying they don’t want to be on a bigger ship because they don’t want to be stuck in a big crowd if they’re trying to get off the ship in an emergency.”

However, Bob Lepisto, president of SeaDream, which operates two 112-passenger ships, said he believed this trend would be short-lived.

“It’s not a major issue. Cruising is so incredibly safe. I don’t think people will trade from bigger ships to smaller ships because of Concordia, because it typically means having to trade up,” he said.

“You can’t have five-star for three-star prices. There is a real difference to being on a smaller ship compared with a larger one.”

Speaking to TTG in London last week, Lepisto also revealed plans to extend SeaDream’s Amazon cruises for 2013, after the line’s inaugural voyages to the region earlier this year proved so popular.

SeaDream’s Amazon sailings for 2012 had sold out “very quickly”, he said.

The line is now planning to sail 20-day voyages from Barbados to Iquitos in Peru next year - the only cruise line with international guests able to sail on the upper-Amazon due to its smaller size.

There will also be seven and 10-day voyages on offer on the upper-Amazon; with SeaDream II sailing round trips from Iquitos down to Santo Antonio do Ica in Brazil.

Other new routes for the line’s two vessels next year include Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia.

Meanwhile, Lepisto insisted that the UK remained an important market for the line, despite its slowdown in recent years. “The UK market is good, but it’s not the fastest growing,especially compared with Australia and Brazil, which have really grown in the last 12 months,” he said.

“But the UK is still the most important market for us after north America. The UK is 10% of our business and it has a particularly high repeat factor,” he added.

Get thousands off a SeaDream cruise:
Lepisto stressed the importance of UK agents in bringing customers to the line, but said he wanted agents to experience the product as customers, rather than on a fam.
The line is subsequently offering TTG agent readers a special rate for a cruise on May 5, 2012 sailing from Monte Carlo to Rome for $1,127, compared with the normal price of $8,327. “We want agents to explain to customers what it’s really like to cruise with us,” Lepisto said.
Interested agents should call reservations on 0800 783 1373 and quote the “TTG offer”.

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