Seabourn’s Extraordinary Expeditions Roadshow rolled into Toronto on 12APR, attracting more than 80 advisors as well as media including Open Jaw, to a waterfront lunch and learn session.
“I've just been so excited by the enthusiasm of the travel advisors in Canada, their interest in Seabourn expedition, not only to learn, but to understand how we're different and how we stand out in the marketplace so that they can bring that to their guests,” said Mark Spillane, Director, Expedition Sales.
The Toronto show was the 11th of 12 expedition cruise roadshows for the Seabourn crew, who met with advisors in Vancouver last week.
“It’s been really nice to open people's eyes, because I think there's an interest in this,” said Jen Martin, Director, Product Development, Expeditions. “The response we get is that people are excited to learn and understand it better.”
“We launched Seabourn Venture last year, and Seabourn Pursuit is due in August of this year,” Spillane said. “With all that newness, sometimes the travel partners, our travel advisors or their clients, think of Seabourn as new to expedition, when we're very much not new to expedition. We started going down to Antarctica on Quest in 2013. So, we have 10 years of operational experience.”
Advisors told Open Jaw they’re eager to book expedition trips.
“I’ve booked a lot of Expedition cruises for our more adventurous clients,” said Kyla Gardner of Expedia Cruises. “They want to step out a little and try something new.”
They also unveiled two exclusive offers for agents for their next Seabourn Expedition booking. Travellers receive a $300 USD per suite shipboard credit and advisors get a 5 per cent bonus commission if they book by 31MAY, 2023 and apply the code VR.
Seabourn’s all-inclusive expedition ships carry a maximum of 264 passengers and offer spectacular zodiac cruising and landings. Each ship has 24 zodiac boats and eight double kayaks. They also have a 26-person team of wildlife experts, scientists, historians and naturalists.
Their expedition ships also carry two custom-built expedition submersibles, which Martin said can take guests to places no person has been before.
Despite Seabourn standards of hospitality and luxury cruising, Martin said the focus is on the destination, not the ship.
“The idea is to make sure everybody gets an experience,” she said. “And by having a large team you can provide that.”
Expedition cruising is a bit of a nebulous term, and not everyone, including travel advisors, fully understands, explains Martin.
“They’re not familiar with what that term actually means and how to explain it to their clients,” Martin said.
“We’re showcasing how we are taking the proven luxury experience of a Seabourn voyage and putting that on a smaller expedition ship, but not compromising on the expedition side,” Spillane said. “We have the full expedition teams, and they have vast experience in these destinations. We're kind of combining that together so you have an uncompromised luxury expedition.”
Shane Buksh, Director, National Accounts, North America, said the Canadian market is a little softer than some other countries.
“The reason I think is mainly that Canadians seem to want to do Europe. They think of expedition trips and they think cold weather. So, for the Canadian market we really wanted to focus a lot more on the warmer weather destinations like the South Pacific and the Kimberley in Australia.
“Antarctica has been very well promoted in Canada because so many advisors have been there this year,” Buksh said with a smile. “I think everyone is on Facebook, putting up pictures of penguins.”
The company also has bumped up its Canadian sales team, “so there’s a lot of presence in Canada that Seabourn hasn’t had in the past,” he said.
Buksh is based in Vancouver, as is Fiona Schoneville, who looks after Seabourn and Holland America. Lori Patterson is a business development manager based in Toronto. Maxine Gundermann is based in Toronto and is senior manager, national accounts.
“We need to start having more BDM’s who are solely focused on Canada,” Buksh said. “Right now, I'd say the Canadian market share is maybe 5 per cent, where the U.S. and UK are about 40 per cent each.”
“But Canadians love cruising, and Maxine is fantastic. She’s really on the ball and really promoting it. With the team we have in Canada, I think you're starting to see a lot more presence than Seabourn’s ever had.”
Expedition cruising is an increasingly popular form of travel, officials said.
“I think that in the luxury segment, these guests are well travelled,” Spillane said. “They’re looking for something that they've never done or seen before. There’s a demand to go farther, to go deeper to explore and get closer to culture, in some of these destinations.”
“I also think that we're getting more people that are working wealthy, that are still wanting to travel a lot that have the money and the time to go,” Martin explained. “There's also a younger population that have more money than they used to, and they're not interested in the traditional cruise model. And either it's a remote destination, or it's a ship that offers them something that's a little more active.”
“I think the word is getting out about expedition. And companies are figuring out that this is a way to diversify a product that they might already be offering and will appeal to a different kind of client. If you have the same client with the same kinds of trips over and over, that's not sustainable for a long time. Expedition offers you a completely different client base.”
Seabourn’s luxury product sets it apart from other expedition trips, Martin said. But she said it’s also a lot of smaller things that set Seabourn apart, such as the free Helly Hansen parkas and the use of Swarovski binoculars on board the ship.
Spillane also loves the heated Gear Locker in every suite, which allows guests to have a warm parka or boots or dry, warm socks when they go out for an excursion. He also said Wi-Fi is available almost all the time, which allows guests to stay in touch with family and friends, or get some needed work done.
Martin said Seabourn expedition trips take place around the world.
“At this point, we've just launched itineraries that will go across the South Pacific. So, we're going from South America, all the way to Northwestern Australia, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia and Melanesia. We're going down both coasts of South America. We're going down the west coast of North America, we're going across the Northwest Passage. We're in the Arctic in Iceland, Canada, Greenland, and Norway. We're doing the British Isles and Ireland. And we're doing some sort of softer expeditions that are coming up the coast of Europe and North Africa.
Seabourn Pursuit was to debut in OCT but will be ready in AUG. Spillane said Pursuit will sail in the Mediterranean before heading to South America and then Antarctica.
Not only does Seabourn have expedition cruising, but their Ventures by Seabourn program offers expedition offerings on ocean ships.
“Alaska is probably our biggest market for this, but we have this in Northern Norway and southern Greenland. We have this along the coast of South America and into the Amazon. It's our traditional cruise, but we have a small expedition team on board so that we can offer excursions that are expedition focused,” Martin said. “We may go someplace and offer this tour and a Zodiac cruise with the expedition team. In Alaska we do Zodiac cruises, we do kayaking.”
Buksh said Seabourn is offering 10 and 11-day Alaska cruises that go in and out of Vancouver, making it very attractive for Canadians. Those trips take place in June and September, he said.
There’s also a Canadian dollar at par promotion for Alaska, he said.
Buksh said Seabourn also is bringing in a Grand Africa trip, a 90-day excursion from Barcelona to Cape Town and back.
Seabourn's phone number for advisors is 1-866-827-5254, and its advisor website is www.goseabourn.com.