Seabourn Cruise Line has made a big move, exchanging its venerable 10,000-ton vessels for two new ships more than four-times their size. Rick Meadows, the cruise line's president, said the new 40,350-ton, 600-passenger Seabourn Encore and Ovation will inspire awe for their impeccable, personalized service, which he called a Seabourn core principle.

“Keep in mind, in today’s world a ship that is just over 600 guests is a very small ship. So I think it’s important to look at the relativity of the newbuilds,” Meadows said.

“It’s about having a consistent fleet and the world’s newest luxury ships under one brand. We will have the newest fleet as far as the average age of our vessels, when these new ships come into full service. The consistency and connection between the Odyssey, Sojourn, and Quest, and these two new vessels will be extraordinary. There will be a level of consistency that will absolutely tie them together. If you look at the success of the three new ships, they have been absolute game changers in our category. We are completely confident that these two new ships will take us even further in that direction.”

The first new ship will enter service in late autumn 2016 and the second in spring 2018. They’ll have Seabourn’s trademark intimate, luxurious, small-ship feel, Meadows said. “If you look at the success of our Odyssey-class ships, they’re 458-passenger, all-suite vessels with a tremendous amount of space for guests, a very high guest to crew ratio. All that will exist on these two new ships. These ships are modeled directly after the Odyssey ships.”

Meadows acknowledged, however, that there may be a ceiling to how large a ship can be and still offer the true ultra-luxury product.

“I think there are some realities of size, as to what you can deliver with a highly personalized level of service. We’re confident our ships are in that sweet spot of what we’re able to do. We’ve proven that we can do it exceedingly well with 458 guests. There is no reason to believe that with this slight increase in guests we can't do the same,” he said. “I don’t know what that upper limit is, I couldn’t tell you exactly what that is, but I’m confident that where we are we will be delivering on our mission. And that’s a pretty clear mission to consistently deliver those exceptional moments that help to create one of the world’s finest travel experiences. We will be doing that. This ship size will allow us to continue to facilitate that mission.”

Just what Seabourn plans to do with that extra space is still a tightly kept secret. Meadows said new onboard programs and amenities will be revealed over 2015 and early 2016. The emphasis, he said, will continue to be on what works aboard the other ships.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2015