The Chandris Group is launching a new cruise line, Chandris Celebrity Cruises, aiming at a more upscale market in the $200 per diem range, to be operated and co-marketed by the Chandris organization alongside its existing cruise line, Chandris Fantasy Cruises.
Initially, the Celebrity division will operate two ships: the new $175 million Horizon, which is under construction at the Meyer Shipyard in West Germany; and the Meridian, which will be created by a $35 million reconstruction of the 26-year old Galileo.
The Horizon will begin service to Bermuda in spring of 1990 where she will be joined by the Meridian which will have made her debut in early winter of 1990, sailing seven-days from Port Everglades to Antigua, St. Thomas and Nassau.
Under a ten-year, semi-exclusive contract, Celebrity Cruises will be one of only three cruise lines calling regularly in Bermuda and the only cruise line to have two ships serving the island. (Only two other ships will make regular calls: the Royal Viking Star and the Nordic Prince.)
A Chandris spokesperson said that the two cruise divisions would be marketed as different brands under the Chandris umbrella with their own brand managers. Top level executives, however, would be the same for both divisions as would sales and reservations personnel.
In a prepared statement, Chandris Chairman John D. Chandris stated "We have chosen to grow from within, from our own resources rather than through a merger. This two division concept will support our planned growth in both the quality and the value sector of the market."
According to Harry Haralamboulos, Executive Director of the line, most of the new generation cruise vessels have substituted glitter and plastic for quality and comfort, while their grossly inflated rates insult the intelligence of today's smarter buyers. Speaking in general terms, he said that "Chandris has a clear understanding of the kind of environment the quality passenger enjoys, and has translated that into the two vessels."
The Galileo will undergo a bow-to-stern reconstruction beginning at the conclusion of the 1989 Bermuda season, which will include the incorporation of new luxury cabins and expanded public areas for upgraded on-board service, according to Haralambopoulos, who added that the ship will emerge from the reconstruction essentially as a new ship. A yard contract has not yet been signed.
According to Al Wallack, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales, the rebuilding of the Galileo is the next logical step following the steady improvement of the line's ships over the past four years - with major refurbishments and upgrading of on-board service.
While Chandris today may be enjoying an image as offering a sound value-product, it wasn't always that way, according to industry sources, who said there are still passengers and travel agents with bitter memories from the "old" Chandris.
Travel agents interviewed by CIN, said that their clients were largely pleased and that they themselves were pleased with the sales service and general cooperation offered by Chandris.
Nevertheless, sources emphasized that in order for Chandris to build an upscale image, the line faces a tremendous job creating national recognition. At press time, no further information was available on Chandris' marketing strategy.
The combination of the Horizon and the Meridian will give Chandris 57 percent of the cruise capacity in the New York-Bermuda market in 1990, according to Wallack. The Horizon will be calling at Hamilton and St. George's, and the Meridian at the new West End Pier, Somerset.
During the winter the Horizon will sail from San Juan, offering seven-day cruises every Saturday to Martinique, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and St. Thomas. Wallack said that Chandris will also be dominating the winter San Juan market with a weekly capacity of more than 3,000 passengers aboard the Horizon, the Amerikanis, and the Victoria.
The Meridian will sail seven-day cruises from Port Everglades during the winter seasons.
In addition, Chandris will continue to operate the Britanis on two- and five-day cruises from Miami.
Chandris noted that there are further expansion plans ahead for both divisions. "In today's volatile industry there will be many opportunities to expand our Fantasy fleet," he said.