Aloha Pacific Cruises promises an "all American product" when it enters the Hawaiian market next August with the refurbished 31-year old Monterey.
Chief Operating Officer John Broughan believes the U.S. market is embracing all things American once again, and that his ship's American flag, crew, cuisine and ambiance will be a big draw.
The line's video begins by showing a group of young, white-uniformed American officers; other all American young men and women are seen throughout performing their duties as crew or staff members.
The line's brochure takes a different tack. Titled "The Rebirth of the S.S. Monterey," it is almost religious in its attempt to show reverence to a classic old ship that will rise again. A wreath-encircled porthole on the cover reveals the words "A Ship's Passage" superimposed over a ominous twilight sky on the first page page of the brochure. Upon opening it, one sees the full view under those words of what appears to be RCL's Golden Odyssey - sans the familiar crown on the funnel - cruising under a vermilion sky at dusk. The first nine pages are devoted to diary experts from passengers sailing to Hawaii in the 1930s aboard the original Matson Line Monterey, after which the present ship being rebuilt was named in 1956.
Another new line, American Star Line, is based on the same American concept, but it will fly the Greek flag and operate in the European market, where it will face considerable competition from many established lines. The Hawaiian market is untapped, according to Broughan, whose only competition will be American Hawaii Cruises' two ships. The executive also said research indicates the market could handle six or seven ships easily.
Offering seven-day, roundtrip cruises from Honolulu calling at Kauai, Maui, Hilo and Kona, the same ports American Hawaii uses, the company believes its amenities on the refurbished ship will be superior to those of its competitor. Convention facilities planned for the ship will also outdo American Hawaii, according to the line. With a 2,260-square-foot conference center, the ship will be "an outstanding floating meetings destination" said Broughan.
Pricing for deluxe and standard cabins will be the same as American Hawaii, ranging from $1,195 to $2,295 per person, double. American Hawaii has a $995 fare in a "thrifty inside cabin," but the Constitution and the Independence each carry only two such cabins.
Broughan stressed his company will not discount and that the realistic brochure prices will be an advantage to consumers and agents alike.
The meetings and incentives market will comprise about 50 percent of the new line's business it estimates, with heavy emphasis on meetings as they will be tax-deductible on the American-flag ship. The rest of the market will be independent travelers or groups from the West Coast, Chicago area and the East Coast looking to experience Hawaii, but a void the nuisance of island hopping via crowded airports and planes.
To compete with Hawaiian resorts, the line will offer land-package options and golf and tennis programs with preferred times at the "best clubs in Hawaii."
The line will begin accepting reservations on September 28 and will sell the ship via a sales force that will concentrate on agents known for producing in the Hawaiian market. Broughan also mentioned that many agents who used to sell the Monterey years ago will be targeted.
"With a limited amount of money and one ship, our sales will be sharply focused on the highest-potential outlets," said Broughan, adding that 60 percent of the line's estimated" start-up costs of $4.5 million will be spent on marketing and sales.
The line's total investment, including ship's purchase, rebuilding and start-up, exceeds $44 million, said Broughan.
The Alexandria, VA-based line has hired a Baltimore advertising agency to handle a trade and limited consumer campaign. Smith, Burke & Azzum, which produced the company's brochure, has just begun working on trade ads that will appear in travel agent publications in November. The campaign will tout the American experience the ship offers. Consumer ads will be very limited because of the small budget, said Broughan.
J. Bruce Burkland, formerly with Marrioti's public relations department, will handle publicity for the new line.
The hull of the Monterey is now being towed to Wartsila Shipyard in Finland for a major interior overhaul entailing 125 additional cabins and extensive renovation of public rooms. Renovation of the hull was done in two separate yards in the state of Washington. The U.S. government stipulated that some work would have to be done in U.S. yards before the 600-passenger ship can fly the American Flag. The total rebuilding costs amount to $30.8 million.
Rust bears witness to the fact that the 21,051 gross-ton-vessel has been laid up for almost 10 years, according to an industry source. When asked if the Monterey will pose a difficult challenge for the famous Wartsila Yard, its president, Martin Saarikangaas, said, "It is always difficult to make an old ship run like new again."
"If you compare the Hawaiian market to the Caribbean and Mexico, there is clearly a potential for great demand," said Broughan. He said his company is exploring the possibility of refurbishing other U.S.-Flag ships or even a newbuilding in an expansion/plan. When asked where a new or reburbished ship would be deployed, Broughan said there is enough demand for additional ships in the islands, but that there might also be a demand for transPacific cruises from the coast to Hawaii.
Will the company, now a limited partnership 10 percent owned by the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots - from whom the ship was purchased - go public to finance an expansion? "No comment," said Broughan.