Sailing in the Great Lakes this summer and with plans for Cuba in early 2018, Victory Cruise Lines is carving out a unique market niche.
“These are destination cruises,” said Bruce Nierenberg, president and CEO. “We don’t have giant showrooms. We’re the antithesis of the large ship business model.”
Sailing the 202-passenger Victory 1, the company offers a product tailored to the mature traveler, mainly sourcing in North America.
“You can’t take big ships on the Great Lakes, so you need your destination product to be strong. The cultural aspect and our lecture series is a big part of it.”
So is the all-inclusive experience, with meals, drinks and shore excursions included in the ticket price.
Starting operations in 2016, Victory essentially “took over” the Haimark product, with similar itineraries and the same ship.
Nierenberg said the mature market was very conscious of security, which plays into the current demand for the Great Lakes.
Look for the company to expand deployment in 2018.
"Where else can we go? No one is sailing to ports in Lake Superior,” Nierenberg said. “We will add calls in Thunder Bay, Canada, and Duluth, Minnesota.”
The company will also add more port calls into Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay.
“Every time we do that we open up new ports for everyone to use,” Nierenberg, an industry veteran, continued. “It spreads it out, it’s a big area and there is a lot of turf.”
The vessel has a classic look, as if it was built as a steamer in 1900. The ship was originally launched as the Cape May Light in 2001.
Early next year, the company plans to enter the Cuba market with 14-day cruises roundtrip from Miami, circumnavigating the island.
“We think if someone wants to go, they want to get a good feeling for the whole country, so we will take them everywhere,” Nierenberg explained, adding he is planning overnight calls in multiple ports. With a 21-day fuel and provision capacity, the vessel will take on supplies on turn calls in Miami.
With the latest changes from the U.S. State Department regarding travel, the company will follow regulations. Tour groups will fully comply with the new rules and Victory is planning to offer individual tours that also meet the People-to People requirements.
The ship size also lends itself nicely to charter arrangements.
“We can then cater the experience onboard to the tour operator,” Nierenberg said.