The expedition market, which has had its casualties over the past few years, has a new player. SeaQuest Cruises Limited has been formed to target the "new" expedition cruisers - those who want the comforts of an upscale ship combined with the active participation associated with an expedition cruise.

SeaQuest has been formed through the acquisition of Salen Lindblad Cruising by Frontier Cruises, and Frontier's subsequent re-organization to market both the Frontier Spirit and Caledonian Star under the SeaQuest banner.

Positioning

Whereas Salen Lindblad Cruising had been associated with "extreme expedition", according to David Gevanthor, President of SeaQuest, the new line will offer high quality passenger service not normally found on traditional expedition ships, along with active participation that is associated with an expedition cruise.

Both ships will have their bar and lounge areas expanded, therefore offering more evening entertainment. In addition, room service will be offered and the capacity of the Caledonian Star has been reduced so that all passengers can be accommodated at one seating.

Expedition Features

However, Gevanthor pointed out that the line is looking to expand the market but not lose those who seek the major premises of exploration cruising. These major factors include the use of zodiacs and therefore the independence of any infrastructure ashore, as well as expedition leaders, now being termed "regional experts." Gevanthor said that SeaQuest features in-depth exploration of off-the-beaten track destinations, and "stretches the envelope of where to take passengers."

Gevanthor also said that the Frontier Spirit was designed as a true expedition vessel. The ship has a longer cruising range due to its small consumption of fuel and water, and can cruise about 35 to 40 days without services. He also added that the storage capacity allows for 30 days at sea and the ship is the highest class ice-cutter.

The structure of the Frontier Spirit has been planned around accessibility of zodiacs. Gevanthor noted that some cruise lines which offer "soft adventure" cruises have added zodiacs as an afterthought, but zodiacs are integral to the Seaquest experience and can be in the water in two minutes.

Marketing

Gevanthor also said, "the nature of our communication will be radically different."

"Most cruise brochures attract people by putting images into their minds ," said Gevanthor. "Ours will be a more studied, journalistic view of what new explorers are looking for," he continued.

Gevanthor explained that SeaQuest's "New explorers" are more sophisticated, well-read, and experienced travelers. Therefore imagery is less important to them and detailed information plays a greater part in their travel decisions.

The major problem Gevanthor saw with traditional expedition lines is that they marketed to people who matured in the 1960s and '70s, and did not look to widen their market as this group aged. While this age group felt travel was a reward for a life well-lived, the new explorers see travel as an entitlement which is part of their upscale lifestyle.

Gevanthor said SeaQuest's passengers are in their late 40s to early 60s, and are more physically active. These experienced travelers tend to travel as couples and are well-educated. He also said that while many have an average annual household income of $100,000, income is not always the main key. Gevanthor felt that are many young professionals in the market who place a great importance on travel and will make sacrifices for it.

While SeaQuest will not be releasing full details on its marketing mediums for another three weeks, Gevanthor promised that its major marketing piece will enable the line to "do some innovative marketing" to both the public and travel agents.

Gevanthor said that most niche market products in the past have done a very limited promotion, where approximately 1,000 copies of a brochure were printed. However, SeaQuest's first print-run will be 400,000 pieces.

Details

With its all-inclusive air and land packages, SeaQuest is positioning its ships so that the Frontier Spirit will be a year-round occupant of the Pacific Rim, ranging from Japan, the Soviet Far East, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, as well as Antarctica. The Caledonian Star will concentrate on Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and East Africa.

Frontier Cruises is a joint venture of three of Japan's largest companies and two European shipping concerns. These include: Japans' Nyk Line, Mitsubishi Corporation, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Caledonian Steamship and Happag-Lloyd are the two European partners. SeaQuest is based in Fort Lauderdale.

Gevanthor was formerly with Renaissance Cruises and before that, with Ocean Cruise Line.