The acquisition of two new ships - the Sky Wonder (ex-Pacific Sky) and Blue Moon (ex-Delphin Renaissance. ex-R7) - has boosted Spanish tour operator Pullmantur's annaul cruise passenger capacity to nearly 160,000 - a 31 percent increase over 2005. But its growth course is far from over, Johan Tyren told Cruise Industry News.

Tyren, who is Swedish, helped spearhead Pullmantur's cruise division, and handles sales and marketing relations for the company outside Spain. He said that Pullmantur currently accounts for 60 to 65 percent of the Spanish market, second only to IBEROJET CRUCEROS, the company's primary competitor, which has two ships, and an annual cruise passenger capacity of 60,000. "We are living in a growing cruise market, and we will grow with that market," Tyren said, adding that in the next five years he could see Pullmantur with a 10-ship fleet.

Recent Expansion

Pullmantur currently owns six ships - though the company charters out one seasonally and one year-round.

The Sky Wonder, which will be delivered in May, will sail from Venice and Athens until early October. Winter 2006-2007 deployment is still pending.

The ex-Pacific Sky will require minimal refurbishing, he added, such as signage and decoration changes. "We have to 'Pullmantize' her," Tyren said, "to make her our own."

The Blue Moon, which will also be received in May, will be sailing Baltic cruises in the summer from Copenhagen and Helsinki. "We will have a winter itinerary for that ship also," Tyren said. "We are working on that right now."

Pullmantur may deploy more capacity in the Baltic in the future - pending how well this season turns out, according to Tyren.

The Holidav Dream will be the only vessel sailing 12 months out of the year - out of Havana, said Tyren.

The Oceanic will be in the Western Mediterranean sailing from Barcelona from March until December, before being laid up in January and February.

The Pacific (ex-Pacific Princess) is chartered to Brazilian tour operator CVC for year-round service n a three-to-five year deal, while the Blue Dream (ex-R6) is chartered on an annual basis for the winter season, but sails in the Western Mediterranean the rest of the year. Pullmantur is not involved in any of the marketing for the ships positioned in Brazil.

"The high season for us is mainly the summer," Tyren said. "Winter does not work as well for us. Therefore, it makes sense to position a ship somewhere that has a high season in the winter."

Specialized Cruise Product

Pullmantur is about catering to the Spanish speaking passenger, Tyren explained, adding that in the past, while there have been attempts, such as Fiesta Marina, a Carnival subsidiary in the 1990s, no one has really succeeded.

Tyren said that pretty much anything and everything onboard the Pullmantur fleet has a Spanish flavor. And the trend among Spanish passengers today is higher standards - specifically with regard to food and shore excursions. "When we go to Rome, the ships are practically empty. Out of 1,000 passengers, 800 go on excursions," Tyren said.

As for how Pullmantur differs from cruise lines such as Costa Cruises and Msc Cruises Line that also cater to a Spanish clientele, Tyren said that without as many nationalities onboard its ships, it is significantly easier to design a national cruise program and ship experience. The company has no immediate plans to expand beyond its 95 percent Spanish clientele, however. "As long as we are filling the beds we have we are satisfied," Tyren said. "If we branch out to other markets, we may dilute the product."

Giant Steps

Pullmantur's entry into the cruise market dates back to the late 1990s, when the company sold cruises on the Seawind Crown out of Aruba. By the turn of the century, Pullmantur was looking to make a change, Tyren said, and in 2001, the company purchased the Oceanic from Premier Cruises Line, because "we didn't want to rely on a third party anymore," he noted, and began implementing every facet of the cruise experience independently. There are a total of 60 employees involved in Pullmantur's land-based operations. And all hotel and marine operations onboard are handled exclusively by the company. Cruises, however, are only sold through travel agents, Tyren explained. "Pullmantiu has been making giant steps since the beginning, and we see nothing but great things to come," he added.