Interview: Nichola Absalom, Scenic brand manager

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We chat to Nichola Absalom, brand manager at Scenic, about the upcoming Scenic Eclipse — the ‘world’s first discovery yacht’


Cruise Adviser: What will Scenic Eclipse bring to the luxury market?
Nichola Absalom Our goal with Scenic Eclipse was to open up the private Discovery Yacht experience so that our guests could discover regions previously only visited by a fortunate few. There’s nothing on the market at this level that does that, so we’ll be bringing unique experiences to guests while they travel in luxury and safety.

How does it differ from other Scenic offerings?
This is our first six-star ultra-luxury mega ocean yacht that will cruise the oceans of the world; from the tip of the Arctic to Antarctica and beyond. Built for just 228 guests, it will feature 114 all-verandah suites, from the spacious 32 sq m Verandah Suite to the truly luxurious 233 sq m two-bedroom Owner’s Penthouse Suite, and offers something that is simply not available anywhere else. Although our signature brand of all-inclusive will mean guests will enjoy the superior level of inclusions they are familiar with from our river cruises, Eclipse, which has been three years in the planning, is the pinnacle of luxury ocean cruising.   

What will regular Scenic customers recognise?
Scenic’s signature brand of all-inclusive luxury means guests will enjoy a superior level of inclusions – all meals (no surcharge for any on board dining venue), complimentary top-shelf beverages all day every day, butler service with an almost 1:1 guest-to-staff ratio and on board entertainment and lectures in the 240 seat theatre. As with all Scenic cruises, all tips and gratuities are included as is complimentary wi-fi, expert local guides for included shore excursions, a choice of included Scenic Freechoice activities to personalise the guest experience plus Scenic Enrich special events.

Can you tell us more about the helicopters and submarines?
Scenic Eclipse will take guests to places previously thought inaccessible with two onboard helicopters and a seven-seat submarine, adding a whole new dimension of wonder. These twin-engine helicopters will take guests beyond the horizon, while the custom-built submarine provides optimal sightseeing to a world below the surface. Supplements will be charged for use of these and prices will be available in our series of mini brochures, released in August 2016.

READ: Pearl of the Danube: Europe with Scenic 

Are you looking further afield for your river offerings, too?
In the last year Scenic has significantly invested in its fleet and in the range of destinations it covers. In 2016 alone we have launched the Scenic Azure on the Douro river, the Scenic Spirit on the Mekong, The Scenic Aura on the Irrawaddy and three new ships onto the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers (Scenic Jasper, Amber and Opal). 2017 will see major renovations to our ships located on the French rivers, including a rebuild of three Scenic Space-Ships in France and the launch of an onboard cooking school plus new Freechoice activities, Scenic Enrich experiences and a number of new combination cruises.

Scenic Diamond in Bordeaux plus Scenic Emerald and Sapphire on the Rhône and Saône in the South of France, will be rebuilt for 2017 opening up public spaces and reducing the number of guests to 155 (78 cabins) but not staff numbers; offering guests an even more personalised level of service than ever before. The redesigned ships will all feature two 47 sq m Royal Owner’s Suites on the Diamond Deck – the biggest suites on European river cruise ships, larger wellness centres and gyms plus a vitality pool.

One of the most exciting new elements of these ships will be the exclusive Scenic Culinaire experience. One of the onboard dining venues has been transformed into a private cooking emporium offering tailored cooking classes. The dedicated space will feature cooking stations, a cheese and wine cellar, fresh ingredients will be sourced from local markets and our cooking instructors will introduce guests to regional recipes based on the regions we are cruising through. Scenic Culinaire features a real-time camera and screen to ensure each participant can see every cooking move in detail. Plenty of sessions are scheduled throughout the cruise, however with exclusive numbers, guests are encouraged to register their interest early.

How has Eclipse been received so far?
As we launched Eclipse in conjunction with our 30th anniversary, it heralded a new direction for Scenic and, as such, we’ve received an unprecedented amount of coverage from both the consumer and trade partners and press. I think everyone has been very excited to hear about the world class innovation and unique safety features that Eclipse boasts. The arrival of Eclipse in August 2018 is an exciting time for the luxury cruise market and opens up a world of opportunity and adventure that has never been possible before.

How can agents find out more about Eclipse and Scenic in general?
A series of Eclipse mini-brochures are currently in production where we will be offering air-inclusive packages from the UK. These will be available in August. We have a dedicated section on our website with detailed information on Eclipse plus full itineraries and preview cruise only prices. We also have a dedicated agent portal where agents will find information on Scenic, current incentive schemes, contact information for our Regional Sales Managers, marketing material and brochure request links.

Is there too much capacity being added too quickly to the luxury sector? What effect might this have?
I think we need to determine what the word ‘luxury’ actually means. There are many marketing messages claiming products are ‘luxury’ when in fact they fall very short of the mark in terms of product delivery. This can dilute the demand for true ‘luxury’ products and services which leads to overcapacity. We have seen this across the board this year with discounts of over 50 per cent being marketed in abundance. This has a detrimental effect on all tour operator margins. We are confident that the introduction of Scenic Eclipse with strong USPs and clear differentiators will not add to this problem.  In many cases only the supremely wealthy or explorers and adventurers could’ve travelled to the Antarctic hinterland or have ventured below the surface to witness Polar wildlife in their natural habitat, but now we are making these experiences accessible.

This interview first appeared in our Luxury guide 2016. Click here to read it in full

Anthony Pearce

Anthony Pearce is the co-publisher of CRUISE ADVISER. He can be contacted on anthony@cruise-adviser.com 

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