MIAMI -- A new cruise line is in the works that will use former
Renaissance Cruises vessels and will be led by former Renaissance
CEO Frank Del Rio and Joseph Watters, former president of Crystal
The new outfit is Oceana Cruises. The company has reached an
agreement with Cruiseinvest, the owner of the remaining Renaissance
ships, for a long-term charter agreement with purchase options for
up to three of the Renaissance vessels: the R1, R2 and R5.
Watters will be the chairman and head the line's West Coast
office in Los Angeles; Del Rio will be CEO and be headquartered
Oceana will offer guests an "upper-premium" cruise experience,
operating in a niche similar to the one Renaissance used to
The R1, renamed the Regatta, will be the first to debut, said
Del Rio. The ship is tentatively scheduled for a July launch.
Cruiseinvest will have an equity stake in the venture, in
exchange for giving Oceana financial "flexibility" during its
startup phase, said Morten Arntzen, chief executive of American
Marine Advisors (AMA), the New York-based advisor to
Arntzen declined to provide further financial details, saying
only the transactions "are on line with the price expectations we
Arntzen added AMA was "confident" that there is a market for
"Nobody's come in and replaced the product that the old
Renaissance had ... before they got too big and slipped a little
Del Rio said the company's reservations center would open by
early next year.
In a statement last week, Watters said the new line will "work
closely, and well, with the travel agent community."
"That means everything that agents want it to mean," Del Rio
told Travel Weekly during a phone call from Paris. "Agents will
welcome the Oceana product."
Del Rio said he was not worried that Renaissance's checkered
past with retailers would cast a shadow over the new cruise
Meanwhile, one travel agent, Janice Fishbein of Jazzsea Cruises
in Mandalay Beach, Calif., is advertising -- and taking guest names
and addresses -- for the Regatta's 14-day western Europe inaugural
cruise that will sail from Barcelona, Spain, to Dover, England.
Prices on Fishbein's Web site start at $1,899 for an inside
cabin, although she said she was not yet taking deposit money for
Agents, she said, can reserve some of her blocked space on the
cruise by e-mailing [email protected].
Del Rio said the line was considering several changes to the
vessels, including new teak decks, an evening tapas bar in the
Panorama buffet eatery and a new blues and jazz club in place of
the top-deck Horizon lounge.
Fishbein said she -- and her clients -- were big supporters of
the former Renaissance Cruises.
As soon as she heard the news from Del Rio, she said, she
reconfigured her Web site, www.jazzseacruz.com, and her sales efforts to
focus only on Oceana.
"I know how honest and straightforward Frank and Joe Watters
are," she said. "I want this to be successful."
Other travel agents, with less information about the new cruise
line, were more measured.
"I'm wondering if there's a need for another cruise company,"
said Jock Goodrich, director of travel development for New
York-based Protravel. "Is it oversaturating the market?"
Nevertheless, he said he was open to the possibility of selling
the niche line.
"I think [we're] going to see what they're going to do," he
said. "Pricing, itineraries ... what will the ships do?"