Conroy is in London ahead of a President's Cruise on Seven Seas Mariner, which departs Rome on Saturday.
Though not radically different size-wise from the 42,363-ton, 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager, which features all-suite accommodations and three speciality restaurants, there will be some enhancements. Plans for the as-yet unnamed newbuild include a bigger spa, ‘slightly bigger suites' and up to 750 passengers.
Rumours of a new Regent ship have been circulating for years but gained particular momentum last year, when Frank del Rio, chairman of Prestige Cruise Holdings, which is Regent's parent, admitted he'd been thinking about expanding the three-ship fleet. (In fact, even prior to PCH's acquisition of Regent Seven Seas in 2008 Conroy had expansion in mind – and blueprints at the ready).
Conroy said: “It makes sense to build another ship and add more capacity when we are comfortable to do that, and that means we need regular occupancy rates. As a brand you have to keep reinventing yourself, and eventually you have to increase capacity.”
In 2011, a very challenging year for the luxury cruise niche, Regent had an astonishing 92 percent occupancy rate, with just 11 cruises that were not 100% full throughout the whole year.
Conroy noted that it's likely that the new vessel will be built at an Italian shipyard, same as Seven Seas Voyager, but Conroy would not be drawn on a launch date.
Arguably, the time is now right: occupancy levels are the highest they have ever been and UK sales are up 120% year-on-year according to Graham Sadler, Regent's UK Managing Director.
Voyager entered service in March 2003, on the eve of the Iraq War, and an option to build a sister ship was scrapped.
Regent Seven Seas, widely considered one of the most inclusive cruise lines, includes shore excursions and pre- and/or post-cruise hotel stays in its fares. The cruise line celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
--by Adam Coulter, Senior Editor UK