Since it was founded in 2007, Azamara Club Cruises has had two ships, 690-passenger vessels initially built for Renaissance Cruises. So the announcement that in 2018 it will add a third R-class ship, P&O Cruises' Adonia, was big news for the line's loyalists. Azamara CEO Larry Pimentel spoke with cruise editor Tom Stieghorst about how the newly named Azamara Pursuit will change the line's outlook.Q: What is the significance of this new ship to the brand?
A: The significance for the brand beyond the obvious 50% growth is a validation of the concept that we have developed and pioneered, and it is also a very strong nod that the board is supportive of brand growth. That's in addition to product that will be added to places we haven't been.
From an agent's point of view, it's more product. Because one thing I heard from agents after the announcement was that we are pretty full.
Q: With more capacity, will prices drop?
A: From a business perspective, you always hope that's not the case. You hope you can get the same pricing as the other two ships.
One of the realities of this is, the vessel is delivered to us in March. Her first revenue voyage is in August. That's not a lot of selling time. So I expect the Azamara Pursuit will actually be favorably priced because Day 1 when it goes on sale the entire ship will be open. Normally when you're delivering a new ship you have two-and-a-half to three years to take reservations. In this case it's months, so that usually brings prices down.
Q: What changes will you make to the ship?
A: Essentially, the vessel will be refurbished. From bow to aft, every single stateroom will be dramatically redone. It won't look anything like that current ship. The hull will change colors. The public areas will change the feel and look, and there are venues that we have that they don't.
Q: Were you hoping for a new ship rather than a used one?
A: Let's just say that I was eager for either. I think we have a really solid concept. On Azamara Journey and Quest the size of the ship is right, so I was very pleased to be able to get their sister ship. There are many pluses, things like spare parts. We have three ships that essentially use the same technical equipment. To be quite candid, we have three of them and if there was an opportunity for a fourth, we would be interested.
Q: What new itineraries can you do with a third ship?
A: Three ships gives you an opportunity to go to places you can't go with the others because of the transitional voyages. There's a lot of water to cross, and those don't do too well from an economic standpoint. Three ships means less repositioning. It allows us in the same year to be many more places.
Q: How did you pick the name Pursuit?
A: That was one of the items we agonized about the most. I had a notion that I wanted the team to select a name that had not been used for other ships. The names had been used by so many lines when we did name searches. Then we had to have our legal department clear the name to ensure we could use it in a multitude of countries.
We landed on Pursuit. I must admit I like it.
And I like it more than ever today because the comments in email and social media were stunning. I would say the guests love the name.
Q: For the upcoming Caribbean season, how will you change the itineraries that visit storm-damaged ports, if at all?
A: For our fall cruises on Azamara Quest, we are removing our calls to Dominica, Tortola, Virgin Gorda and St. Maarten, which all sustained heavy damage from recent hurricanes. Depending on the itinerary, we substituted these destinations with calls to ports such as Bermuda, Antigua, Martinique, Nevis and Basseterre, St. Kitts.
We are continuing forward with our calls to St. Barts, Key West and St. Thomas, where we have calls in December.