Carlson renames cruise line Regent Seven Seas

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NEW YORK -- Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chairwoman and CEO of Carlson Cos., made it official last week: She waved a wand (literally) and named the firms cruise business Regent Seven Seas Cruises, leaving behind the previous name, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises.

Carlson is merging two upscale businesses, the cruise operation and Regent International Hotels, under a common brand. The company said it chose a name most suggestive of luxury.

Radisson Seven Seas has been pondering a name change for several years. One might ask why the new name and the merger hadnt happened sooner. We earned our way into this, Nelson said. 

Picking up her thought, Jay Witzel, CEO of Carlson Hotels and Carlson Cruises, said that by building a luxury cruise business from the ground up, Carlson proved to itself that it should bring together the brands under the Regent name. Carlson has operated the five-star Regent hotel chain since 1997.

It has been a journey, Witzel said.

Mark Conroy, newly named president of the Regent business on land as well as at sea, said the cruise line is in a position to help in the development and growth of the hotel business, which has eight properties but will open nine more in the next two years.

In its early phases, by contrast, the fledgling cruise line benefitted from its association with the Radisson hotel business, said Conroy, who was president and CEO of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises.

In conjunction with the realignment, Carlson announced a fleetwide upgrade to the Regent ships and stepped up the firms commitment to the global luxury market.

Over the next 18 months, Witzel said, travel agents and customers will see enhanced suite design, decor, amenities and technology. Regent also will roll out or expand products and services on its four ships.

Physical changes, described as a multimillion-dollar investment, will include upgrades to all soft goods in guest suites and public spaces. New technology will encompass flat-screen TVs, DVD players, clocks and, in top-category suites, iPod music systems.

Also, high-speed wireless Internet access and cell phone service will be available on the ships. Work will begin first on the Seven Seas Mariner on April 18.

The cruise line had previously rolled out, in a soft launch last year, its Regent Travel Concierge program, designed to help passengers customize their experiences. Guests can choose from a variety of Concierge Collection land trips, but they may also arrange -- in advance of travel -- tour and hotel arrangements or dinner reservations. 

The line also had previously launched its Circles of Interest program, which enables cruisers, on select departures, to join small circles of travelers who share a common interest. The group shares workshops, classes, lectures and customized tours led by experts on the featured topic.

Carlson said the Circles concept will be expanded with 10 themes in 2006: antiques, jewelry and shopping; art design and museums; the environment and marine life; exploration and wellness; families and friends; food and wine; history, archaeology and literature; the performing arts; photography; and romance.

Nelson said the company is committed to the growing global luxury market, and I think of it as redefining luxury.

For Regent, Nelson said, the meaning of luxury comes down to three things: choice (offering the broadest possible range of options), access (often on an exclusive basis to atypical attractions) and intimacy (a personalized experience).

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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