The Yacht-Like Luxury Market

Since Sea Goddess pioneered the upscale market segment for small, yachtlike ships, there have been three distinct developments.

First, other cruise lines began to adopt marketing terms used in Sea Goddess' brochure materials and press releases. Suddenly, there were reports of many "yachtlike" ships out there and ships offering "an intimate yachtlike experience" as well as "combining the facilities and services of an oceanliner with the with the personal attention of a private, luxury yacht."

According to industry observers, it bordered on the ridiculous with some ships being twice as large as the identical Sea Goddess sister ships. Others said it bordered on outright plagiarism.

Secondly, as the concept has matured, a new genuine luxury yacht-ship market - with subsegments - may be developing with new operators of small yachtlike ships.

Windstar Sail Cruises was the first to follow into the yacht ship market, and has developed its own yacht concept, distinct from Sea Goddess and in a sense developed a new segment of the market for yachtlike luxury ships.

Maxim's des Mers, which tried to exceed Sea Goddess, made a brief albeit colorful entry and then vanished.

But now as unconfirmed reports indicate that Cunard is struggling with the two small ships, others are announcing intentions to build their own varieties of small, yachtlike vessels.

These seem to differ from the original Sea Goddess concept only in that they tend to be smaller and that they promise to charge a lower per diem.

Fearnley & Eger is committed to an eight-ship fleet; Navtol/Windsor plans a fleet of eight ships; and the Dutch Goliath Group has announced plans to build two vessels.

At this point, however, only the Fearnley & Eger fleet seems realistic, because of their experience in the industry, and because of their tie-in with Exploration Cruise Lines.

The recent fleet announcements also indicate that one or two ships are not enough to sustain a cruise line operation and that a higher passenger volume is necessary.

The third stage of development in the luxury yachtlike ship market, is the new Norwegian-backed cruise line, headed up here by Warren Titus, which intends to build a small luxury ship. This company claims that the potential affluent passenger wants a ship with a small number of passengers yet with all the amenities of a big ship, and that the yachtlike concept limits what it can offer in terms of public space and entertainment. Consequently, they are building a bigger vessel, twice as big as Sea Goddess, yet only half the size of the smallest conventional luxury ships.

In a parallel development is another new Norwegian-backed venture, having announced intentions to build an all-suite ship.

Observers agree that there is a market for the yachtlike luxury ships. The questions are how big this market is; how fast it will grow to fill a growing fleet; and what price it will pay.

The operators who are entering the industry are obviously optimistic. Cunard is saying very little and Windstar is working very hard to fill its ships. Maxim's des Mers vanished, and the plans for the Vanderbilt, which was announced with much clamor, have been scrapped.

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