Provocative advertisements luring young and active travelers "who are Club Mad" to try "untraditional" cruises were released last week by Club Sea - a new Miami-based cruise line that is offering seven-day Caribbean cruises modeled after the popular land-based vacation villages.
The cruises, which are being offered aboard the chartered M/V Orient Express, are all-inclusive vacations, featuring air fare, transfers, watersports, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, and tips in packages priced from $849 to $1,049.
Offering comprehensive recreational and entertainment programs in a casual, social environment, Club Sea is featuring a cruise experience that is completely different from anything that is currently available, said Ron Stevens, the company's vice president of operations.
There will be "shipmates" instead of passengers, and "seamates" instead of crew members, reflecting the "club" concept of the company, Stevens said. Passengers will pay a $25 annual membership fee, and receive brochures and newsletters throughout the year. The ship will operate as the M/V Club Sea.
Instead of a cruise director, 30 "elite seamates - who are well-trained athletes, and playful dynamic personalities" - will be responsible for entertaining the guests, Stevens said. In total, there will be a maximum of 666 shipmates and 134 seamates.
No Ports of Call
The biggest difference between Club Sea and conventional cruise lines, however, lies in the itineraries. Aboard the Club Sea, there are no planned ports of call.
Sailing from Antigua, the 12,000-ton ship will never dock. Instead, it will anchor at a variety of lagoons, coves and beaches in the Leeward Islands - a feat made possible by the ship's 20-foot draft.
"The captain will decide where the ship will go, and each morning, the passengers will wake up in a different place," Stevens said, noting that the captain will choose his spots from among the many anchorages the cruise line has scouted out in St. Barts, Nevis, Anguilla, Saba and St. Martin.
Once anchored, speedboats, windsurfers and sailboats; scuba, waterskiing and snorkeling gear; and beach umbrellas and picnic fare will be unloaded.
"We literally will be setting up camp in a new spot every day," Stevens said. The equipment will be stored in the ship's hull - an area that was used for cars before the ship was converted from a ferry to a cruise liner.
In addition to watersports, the line will offer a full array of athletic activities, including volleyball, aerobics and fishing from the deck. There also are two swimming pools (indoor and outdoor), a "body-baking" sun deck, a full gym and sauna, and a movie theatre aboard.
In the evening, the line will feature bonfires, contests and special shows. There will be a different theme each night - including a formal night when passengers will be required to wear a black tie.
"What they choose to wear with that black tie is totally up to them," Stevens said, emphasizing that the atmosphere will always be casual and there will be no dress codes.
"Everything is designed to be fun and social," he explained. "We're going after the people who have cruised before and have been disappointed because they thought the crowd was too old, or that there wasn't enough to do."
Provocative Copy Attracts Target Market
Newspaper advertising for Club Sea broke about 10 days ago in The New York Times, Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, and Los Angeles Times - the line's three strategic markets. Advance brochures were also sent to 35,000 travel agents and trade publications throughout the country; and radio ads will break in New York this week.
According to Stevens, the ads have generated a tremendous response, a factor he attributes to the extremely provocative photo and copy.
"We've gotten so many inquiries in California that we decided to increase the size of our ads in New York and Los Angeles," he said.
The biggest surprise, though, has been the flood of inquiries from the Midwest, Stevens added, noting that several inquiries are also coming in from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
To date, the company has chartered two L 10-11s: one that will depart on Fridays from Los Angeles and make a stop in Miami Saturday morning; and another that will depart from New York on Saturday mornings. However, it is now considering additional gateways, Stevens said.
The majority of inquiries have been coming from people in their mid-30's, he added.
"This is the first time that the cruise industry has gone after this market with a major emphasis on programs and provocative advertising," he said.
Two More Ships Planned
The first cruise departs on December 13, and Stevens is optimistic that it will be a sell-out.
In addition, the company is already planning for the future.
"We will probably add another ship in the Caribbean next summer, and one in the South Pacific next year," Stevens said.
Leonard Lansburgh owner of Vacation Travel Concepts - is the principal shareholder and president of Club Sea.