Regency Cruises plans to go public again before the end of the year, according to Ron Santangelo, President and Chief Executive Officer. Regency was the first cruise line to go public in the United States in 1985 but was taken private last May (1993) by its new owner, the Lelakis Group, headed up by Captain Antonios Lelakis.
Until a year ago, Regency was a three-ship operation, but has doubled its fleet in the past 12 months, and expanded its sailing areas to cover most of the world, according to Santangelo, who assumed his position earlier this year.
"We are the eighth largest cruise line," Santangelo said, predicting that Regency will maintain its relative position among the cruise lines in North America.
According to Santangelo, Regency has never "followed" the big cruise lines but always sailed its own course. "We are able to set Regency apart in the market," Santangelo said, "by our price orientation, by bringing our product to market at a good price.
"We are also very itinerary conscious," Santangelo said, adding that another factor setting the line apart was the small sizes of the company's ships ranging from 400 to 1,000 passengers each.
"ln addition, our vessels, which we like to refer to as "classic", offer larger staterooms than many new ships; and we offer European service in the dining rooms and have French chefs in the galley.
"We are running traditional cruises," Santangelo underscored.
Variety of Itineraries
While Regency operates a variety of itineraries this year, it is the third largest operator in Alaska and intends to defend that position with additional capacity being added next year.
This season, the 715-passenger Regent Sea and the 950-passenger Regent Star sail seven-day cruises in Alaska. The Regent Sea will later circumnavigate South America before starting on her winter season of 14-day Panama Canal cruises between Montego Bay, Jamaica, Regency's traditional Caribbean homeport, and Los Angeles and San Diego, as alternating West Coast turn around ports.
The Regent Star, meanwhile, will sail seven-day Caribbean cruises from Montego Bay with partial transits of the Panama Canal. These are Regency's trademark cruises.
The 832-passenger Regent Sun is sailing seven and 14-day cruises to New England and Canada this summer, before returning to San Juan for a winter season of alternating seven-day cruises which can be combined into 14-day cruises.
Santangelo explained that part of the reason for offering alternating seven-day cruises that can be combined into 14-day cruises from San Juan was to accommodate European passengers. Last year, the Regent Sun sailed to- and 11-day cruises from San Juan.
The 960-passenger Regent Rainbow, meanwhile, will end her two-and five-day program from Tampa late this summer, and instead launch a program of five-, four- and five-day cruises from Tampa calling at Cozumel and Cancun as well as Key West on the five day cruises.
Next summer, the Regent Rainbow will join Regency's fleet in Alaska bringing that to three ships. The 400-passenger Regent Spirit, which is sailing in the Mediterranean this summer, using Nice as a homeport, will return to the Caribbean for the winter season, to sail from Cozumel.
Santangelo said he was very optimistic about the Cozumel program adding that there is plenty of airlift available to bring passengers into Cozumel or Cancun for pre- and post-cruise stays.
ln the meantime, Regency's sixth ship has been chartered to a German tour operator, Trans-Ocean, for a five-year term. The 500-passenger Regent Jewel, which will be renamed the Regent Calypso, will sail cruises in the Baltic and to the North Cape during the summers and in the Far East during the winters.
Santangelo described the charter as a joint venture between Regency Cruises and Trans-Ocean and said that Regency will continue to market the Regent Calypso in the United States while Trans-Ocean will market the rest of Regency's fleet in Germany and Europe.
The Regent Jewel is sailing seven-day Mediterranean cruises alternating between Pireaus and Istanbul this summer.
A seventh ship, the 1,500-passenger Regent Sky, which is owned by the Lelakis Group, is under construction at the Group-owned shipyard Avlis in Greece. Santangelo said that the earliest the Regent Sky would join the fleet would be in December of 1995 but added that that date was highly tentative.
Santangelo said that Regency was "looking at adding more capacity in Europe in the future," noting that the Regency ships in Europe this summer had achieved 93 percent occupancy.
Regency is perhaps the only cruise line to offer cruises departing nearly every day of the week. Part of the reason is of course to get airlift into port cities that are usually crowded on Saturdays and Sundays.
"I am a big proponent of weekday departures," said Santangelo. " It is a major plus for us and our passengers don't seem to mind."
Santangelo also said that while industry forecasts call for eight million passengers a year by the year 2000, "the airlines have no idea how they are going to fly that many passengers in to and out of ports on Saturdays and Sundays only."
"We are devoting resources to improve the on board product," Santangelo said. "When Captain Lelakis took over in 1993, he started to take the ships out of service for overhauls and upgrading, including the installation of new air conditioning systems. In the last six months, every ship has also received a new dining room."
Among the concessionaires employed by Regency are Fraser Maritime for catering; Steiner Group for spa and beauty salons; and Trans Ocean for the on board photography.
Santangelo said that while Regency's ships are old, they are also "old enough" to have been built to more stringent safety codes than many newer ships.
"All our ships have sprinklers and will be in compliance with the new SOLAS regulations," said Santangelo.
Regency recently appointed V. Ships as technical managers for its ships wilh responsibility for supervising maintenance, overhaul and compliance issues, according to Regency.
"We are firmly entrenched in the standard cruise market," said Santangelo. "Our passengers tend to be couples in the mid-fifties who have prior cruise experience, with the exception of the Regent Rainbow where at least 50 percent of the passengers are first time cruisers. Aboard the rest of the fleet, 80 percent of our passengers have cruised before," Santangelo said, adding that the cruise line also enjoys a 30 percent repeat rate.
Santangelo said that Regency was looking to grow as the pool of past passengers grew. He added that "people are tempted by our new and different itineraries or, for example, that we sail from Tampa, which may be convenient for them."
According to Santangelo, Regency achieves per diems from $125 to $250, including air fare.
The cruise Line offers its own early booking program called Smart Fare providing discounts from 20 percent to 40 percent as well as a price guarantee. "This past March, we also introduced a guarantee that group customers would never be undersold," Santangelo noted.
Regency is consolidating its staff and all its offices in New York and will be phasing out is Miami office.