Orient Lines is about to be re-introduced, planning to start taking reservations in August and with the first cruise slated to sail April 15, 2009, according to Wayne Heller, president and CEO.
Heller acquired the name, the client list, “even the phone number, everything, except the Marco Polo,” the line’s original ship, from Star Cruises for an undisclosed amount. “We have been working a couple of years on this project,” he said, “but could not come to terms on the ship.” Meanwhile, negotiations are underway for another vessel, which Heller said he expects to announce shortly. That ship will be in the 600- to 800-passenger range.
At press time, the new Orient Lines has 19,000 square feet of office space in Celebration, FL, with a phone system to be installed on Monday and be operational by Tuesday. Computers are also arriving on Monday with a New Vision reservation system.
In mid-July the company had no employees, but expects to have 40 to 50 in-house, plus six regional sales representatives, as it builds up its organization.
The existing Orient Lines website will be edited and used until a new website is launched later this fall, which will also allow direct bookings before the end of the year.
“We will put our mark on Orient Lines over time,” Heller said, who has a long track record in cruise travel, with his wife Judy as his partner, having founded CruisesOnly and later Travel Services International.
“I have done everything in cruise travel, except to own a cruise line,” he said. “My dream is have a niche company – or companies.
“Our ship will accommodate between 600 and 800 passengers, not thousands like the new ships.”
“There is not a lot of competition in this niche. There are not many ships that carry less than 1,000 passengers at affordable, high-value rates, and offer enrichment programs,” he said.
Heller’s business model promises to make money with one ship sailing 30 cruises a year, spending summers in Europe and in Antarctica in alternating years.
“When a second ship is introduced, we will have more flexibility,” he added.
The new Orient Lines product will be along the lines of the original Marco Polo, Heller said, but with upgraded dining.
Heller said he is open to acquisitions and sees what he called “lots of possibilities over the next three to five years to add ships and/or brands.”
(Excerpted from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly, Fall 2008)