Seabourn Cruise Line will boost its capacity by 50 percent when the Queen Odyssey becomes the Seaboum Legend on July 22, 1996.
Seaboum acquired the Queen Odyssey from Royal Cruise Line when that cruise line was shut down earlier this month. The 10,000-ton, 212-passenger ship is sister ship to the Seaboum Pride and Seaboum Spirit, but was an option that Seaboum chose not to exercise when the price escalated from $50 million to $85 million in 1990. Instead, Kloster Cruise built the ship for Royal Viking Line as the Royal Viking Oueen in 1992. When RVL was sold, the Queen was transferred to RCL.
In fact, the Seabourn Legend was the original name chosen for the vessel.
"We took the ship over in eight days," said Larry Pimentel, President of Seaboum. "It was the fastest transfer ever."
Seaboum took possession of the ship January 26, but will continue to operate it as the Queen Odyssey, until July, when Pimentel expects that she will be fully brought up to Seaboum standards.
In the meantime, Seaboum is taking an aggressive marketing stance: Partially because Seabourn acquired the ship with very few passengers booked, according to Pimentel. "Also, because until July 22, this is absolutely not a Seabourn product," said Pimentel.
For the rest of the year, Seabourn has also priced the Legend aggressively. Pimentel explained the pricing was necessitated by the short lead time, and to expect higher tariffs in 1997.
Also, to avoid confusion, the Legend will sail seven- to 14-day cruises and in waters that traditionally command lower rates such as the Caribbean.
Hence, Pimentel does not believe that Seabourn passengers may switch to the lower priced alternative. "If they go on one of our ships to see China, they are not going to switch to the Caribbean to cruise for less," Pimentel underscored.
Initial per diems in the Caribbean will be from $195 to $325 per person, cruise-only, but will grow to $300 to $625 by the end of the year.
"During the first year of operation, air transportation will not be included in the tariff. With these new, low prices our marketing policy is simplicity itself," Pimentel said.
Pimentel said that Seabourn would use Ft. Lauderdale, New York and San Juan as ports of embarkation in 1996 because they have a high capacity of airlift.
In 1997, the Legend will be priced on parity with the Pride and the Spirit, according to Pimentel.
The Legend will drydock at Atlantic Marine in Mobile, AL, in December.
"It is a routine drydock," said Pimentel, noting that the physical plant is fine.
Before July 22, however, there are thousands of on-board items that have to be changed and upgraded, including china, cutlery, linen, etc.
Sources expect that the wife of owner Atle Brynestad will christen the Legend.
Pimentel also stated that any passengers booked at tariff on any modified Queen Odyssey itinerary, would be assured an option to select new Queen Odyssey or Seaboum Legend itineraries. "But, we have no obligation to accommodate the passengers," Pimentel said. "We bought the ship; we did not purchase RCL."
The Legend will also eventually be fully staffed with Seabourn's own Norwegian officers and European service staff, and will fly the Norwegian flag.
While Seaboum will increase its shipboard employees; there will be no need to increase shoreside overhead, according to Pimentel.
A prepared statement from Kloster said that Seaboum had agreed to honor existing bookings, that the ship will remain on its current published itineraries, and that its current crew would become Seabourn employees upon the ship's delivery. Kloster executives could not be reached for comment.
Quality over Price
Pimentel sees the acquisition of the Seabourn Legend as a victory for quality over price. "We have sold our cruises on the basis of merit, not on the basis of price. We have watched while both the original RVL and RCL operated this vessel at prices significantly lower than Seabourn's, while marketing the cruise experience as being of Seaboum quality. In our estimation, both of those lines were linking low price with quality. This is like mixing oil with water."
Pimentel also said he would be fascinated to see how the luxury market would fare during the course of 1996. "We are taking on the competition, marketing aggressively on price," Pimentel said.
Not only has Seabourn increased its capacity by some 50 percent, the acquisition has also eradicated its arch competitor, according to Pimentel.
In addition, three ships will enable Seabourn to offer more cruises around the world with less repositionings, according to Pimentel. Itineraries for 1997 are under development.