There’s no denying it, ultra-luxury cruise sector is a crowded house. Crystal, Regent, Seabourn, Scenic and Silversea all have orders in with the shipyards. They have all, in various ways, promised to change the definition of luxury cruising. From more space per guest in vast suites on board, to helicopters, submarines and all kinds of various gadgets to help you when off it.
Silversea’s new vessel, the Silver Muse, espouses a more genteel, old money kind of luxury, from the heart of the continent. But, for an agent wanting to sell more luxury holidays, what are the real differences between it and its moneyed competitors? We sat down with Enzo Visone, Silversea’s CEO, to discuss the sector, the company’s new ship and why the trade remains so important to the company’s growth and future plans.
Cruise Adviser: How would you define luxury in cruising?
Enzo Visone: Firstly, I would say that ‘luxury’ isn’t the right word as it is probably the most misused word in any industry today. The excessive misuse of the word luxury has blurred boundaries between what is luxury and what isn’t. The reality is that luxury is something that is exceptional, unique, that goes beyond people’s expectations and has an image that also goes beyond the potential value of what the product is.
CA: How would you say Silversea differs from the other brands out there?
EV: I believe we are very different. Firstly our main competitors are American, have a predominantly American product as well as a 90 per cent of American clientele. In my opinion ‘ultra-luxury’ was not born in the US, it was born in Europe. In most product categories, luxury comes from either Germany, France, the UK or Italy and I believe luxury fits more of the European profile. Silversea is a European based company and we are by far, if not the only, cruise line within the ultra luxury segment that is truly international.
CA: How important is the UK market?
EV: The UK market is very important to us and I believe we are very important to the UK. In that upper segment within the UK we are unrivalled.
In that upper segment within the UK we are unrivalled
CA: How important is food & drink within the ultra-luxury sector and what challenges does this pose for you?
EV: I think food and drink is always important for demanding clientele. It is part of that social segment of the market. It is one of the reasons why you not only have to provide first-class cuisine but you have to be consistent. One of the greatest challenges is consistency.
CA: How do you think Silver Muse is going to redefine luxury moving forward?
EV: One of the reasons I think Silversea has achieved the success it has is because we have never been complacent. It’s a segment of the market which we believe we created, although as I always say to all of my staff, it’s hard enough to become number one but its even harder to remain at number one. Complacency is something that does not exist at Silversea and everything we do we strive to improve it, and that is the key to success, never believing that what you have delivered is the best, you can always do better.
CA: So you must learn from your mistakes, but also learn from your competitors?
EV: Absolutely, you can always learn from your competitors. You have to learn from from your guests, competitors and from other industries. You must never be closed within your own world.
The trade is fundamental to our business
CA: Talking of other industries, do you find you are targeting traditional cruise customers or are you moving into the ultra-luxury segment of other industries?
EV: If you offer the right product and service then you are not restricted to a certain segment of the market. If you’re good, you’re good.
CA: How important is the trade to Silversea?
EV: The trade is fundamental to our business. It has been a significant contributor to Silversea in the past and still is to this day. I believe it will be so for many years to come. It’s something that we cannot neglect as they are our business partners, if we do well then they do well and vice versa.
CA: How can they do better, what would you suggest that they should do to sell more Silversea
EV: I think the challenge in this fast paced competitive world there is insufficient time to get to know one another and to get to know each other’s products. At Silversea, I think the more we learn about the trade’s business models the more we can be constructive to help them get their sales. At the same time we probably have to do more to educate the trade on our product and the differences of our product and our competitors. The unique offerings that we have, such as being the only player in expedition cruising, and again maybe that’s something that we have to sell better.
CA: As other cruise lines try to come into the expedition cruising, will you have to develop what you’re doing with that side?
EV: We’re doing very well in the expedition segment and I think our product has not only been recognised by our guests but we are the only cruise line that has the Royal Geographic Society, and the reputation of the RGS is untouchable on a global basis. A society such as the RGS wouldn’t associate themselves with a company like Silversea if they didn’t believe that we were a serious player in providing a real geographical experience.
CA: Have you got anything up your sleeve for the coming years?
EV: I do actually and its one of the reasons why I have a lot of sleeves, but I don’t believe in bragging. We’re studying a lot of things and have a lot of projects and I’m the type of person that announces things only when they’re done.
CA: Are you deviating away from the smaller ship concept? The Spirit and Muse are significantly bigger than Wind and Cloud.
EV: Yes and no, we needed to increase the size from Cloud and Wind due to the increase in demand over time, and the extra extra space required for facilities that are requested. There are always certain characteristics of Silversea that we will never lose and as a result of that there will always be a limit in the size. Our ships are like country clubs, the atmosphere is very convivial and that is something that we will not lose on the Silver Muse. Will we build a 1,000 passenger ship? The answer is no. Will we build a 750 passenger ship? The answer is no. We will remain below 600.
CA: Why should people cruise and if taking their first cruise, why should they take Silversea?
EV: Why should people cruise? It’s a wonderful way to travel, cruising enables you to see various destinations while only unpacking once. It’s actually a very cheap form of vacation, because on Silversea where the product is all inclusive, you can eat 10 times a day if you want, have 10 cases of champagne in your suite, it’s all included in the price and it can provide you with a saving. If someone goes to a city, stays in a first-class hotel and eats out every day, the overall bill will be much higher than on Silversea.