Cunard shies away from the 'luxury' label

By Johanna Jainchill

InsightSOUTHAMPTON, England -- Cunard Line has become the latest brand to move away from traditional categorizations of contemporary, premium and luxury.

" 'Luxury' is an overused word," said Peter Shanks, Cunard Line president, speaking onboard Cunard's brand-new ship, the Queen Elizabeth. "I'd rather define our experience by better explaining exactly what it is. We don't want to put ourselves in a box; we would rather explain the details."

Shanks told reporters that Cunard was not a premium brand or a luxury brand.

"We are unique," he said. "We offer the top of the ship, Queens Grill and Princess Grill, which offer some of the largest accommodations and some of the most intimate dining at sea. ... On the other hand, if you take an outside balcony cabin on this ship, that's great value for the money."

He explained that the top-of-ship passengers want to enjoy the theater, planetarium and bars, which are open to all passengers.

Shanks is not the only cruise executive to stop using such designations. Prompted by the recession, even the most high-end lines began replacing words such as "luxury" and "exclusive" with terms such as "value" and "experience."

When Larry Pimentel became president of Azamara Club Cruises last year, he changed that line's designation from "deluxe" to "upmarket."

In an interview last week, Pimentel said he realized that "for some people [the Azamara experience] is luxurious, and for others, they could have gone on a more luxurious product."

They decided that "upmarket" best described Azamara, which he said is "not midmarket, not leader price, it's just upmarket."

But Pimentel, like Shanks, said the cruise experience cannot be defined in such terms.

"I'm not sure any of it's relevant," he said. "You really have to get across to the agent and the consumer what makes the product different, special and unique. If you do that, you win, and if you can't, you lose."

To view a slideshow of the Queen Elizabeth, click here.

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