C.E.O. Larry Pimentel described the two-ship fleet as his “starter kit” and that he had spent the last three years establishing the foundations for a bigger fleet. Pimentel was speaking onboard Azamara Quest, which was visiting a U.S. port -- in this case Miami -- for the first time since it came into operation in 2007. Sister ship Journey was in Miami at the same time last year.
"Yes, we want growth, more capacity and more destinations," he said. "We've got two ships and you can't call that much of a fleet, and people who are unable to book with us have to go to our competitors. What I am pushing for is for the small ship destination fleet which will allow us to expand to more waterways."
It's a theme Pimentel has returned to again and again since he became head of the line. In response to a question about expansion posted on the Cruise Critic message boards last October he wrote: "Now the question of future growth and planning… The answer from earlier this year hasn't changed much. When I joined Azamara in 2010 several people immediately asked me if I planned any additional tonnage and I told them then that I didn't join Azamara with the intention of it remaining a two ship fleet. That is still my intention. But expanding the Azamara fleet isn't as simple as flipping a light switch. We need to be prudent, perform our due diligence and satisfy the management of our parent company and its shareholders that we are on the right track. It would also be good if the market conditions were more favorable globally. Clearly, I believe we are on the right track from an onboard guest satisfaction perspective and forward growth looks very encouraging."
His latest comments gave the clearest indication yet that the fleet will be expanding. However, when we asked for a fixed date for a new-build we received the following response: "At this time there are no definitive plans for expansion, it is the goal that we are working toward, but no plans are set yet."
Pimentel, whose illustrious career has included time at the helm of SeaDream Yacht Club and Cunard added that the reason he joined Azamara is because he saw its potential.
“I would like to end my career with a new fleet in this division in this company,” he added. "I think these will be some of the best ships ever built. I would like the opportunity in this small line to build. It will be very exciting.”
The event aboard Quest -- during last week's Cruise Shipping Miami -- was primarily to show off the new-look ship and also to launch Azamara's calendar of “AzAmazing” evenings. These bespoke, exclusive, one-off offers will be provided free to guests once a cruise, and include events like the Formula 1 in Monte Carlo or a private concert in Gibraltar.
As Pimentel noted, Azamara Club Cruises has just two 694-passenger ships in its fleet -- Quest and Journey -- which have carved out a niche for themselves in the luxury adventure sector. Parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd made a significant investment in refurbishing the vessels when it acquired them. As recently as November 2012, Quest went in for an eight-day dry-dock that included refurbished soft furnishings in public spaces, a new steam room in the fitness center and a new caviar and champagne bar in onboard for-fee eatery, Aqualina, in addition to a new paint job on the ship's hull.
--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor