Seabourn Charts New Directions

November 23, 2004

The announcement last month that Seabourn Cruise Line would no longer be operated under the general auspices of sister company Cunard has so far generated little reverberation.

But Seabourn-watchers should keep an eye out for some new developments. The most notable? The company, which now operates as its own entity (and that means that staffers focus solely on Seabourn rather than multi-tasking between it and publicity-guzzler Cunard), has a new chief.

Deborah Natansohn, who led the marketing effort behind Queen Mary 2's extravagant launch -- and who had previously served as president of Orient Lines -- took Seabourn's helm in July. Plans are evolving gradually, and, Natansohn said in an interview with Cruise Critic, will reflect more of a gentle evolution than a rollicking revolution. These include:

Ship Refurbishments. All three of Seabourn's largely identical ships -- Pride, Spirit and Legend – will go into a dry-dock period in late 2005/early 2006. Major enhancements include a redesigned Club Lounge, a revised Veranda Cafe in which its currently non-waterproof awnings will soon be adjusted to permit folks to dine outside in a monsoon and still stay dry, and an expanded spa. That facility, operated by the ubiquitous Steiner Leisure, which services most cruise lines, will get extra staff and a refurbishment.

New Itineraries. The biggest news is the addition of China ports of call in 2006. While many ocean-oriented lines already do sail to Shanghai, Seabourn’s itinerary is broader and also visits Chinese ports. Other new ports for this line, long considered an exotic pathfinder, in 2006 include Libya, the North Cape of Norway and bringing the Legend up the coast of Mexico to Los Angeles. Maiden ports for Seabourn in 2005 include Syracuse, Sicily; Pilos, Greece; Liverpool, England; Paphos, Cyprus; Songkhla, Thailand; Thursday Island, Australia; and San Juan del Sur Nicaragua, among others.

Entertainment Enhancements. The U.K.-based Reduced Opera Company will sail on selected Mediterranean cruises and perform not only on stage, but also during specially-themed Italian dinners.

While Natansohn was pretty mum about other new offerings, there are some additional possibilities down the road. These include:

Seabourn (like Crystal and Celebrity before it) plans to produce its own wine label, one that will offer seven different varities (not varietals). A winemaker has not been determined but Seabourn's all-inclusive drinks policy means that its proprietal vintages are available on a complimentary basis.

Natansohn's quite enthused about expanding ships' shop options -- but in a new way, via designer trunk shows.

She allows that the cruise line may explore additional co-branding partnerships, such as Seabourn's relationship with Tumi luggage.

One thing that won't change? Natansohn says onboard ambience will remain consistent with Seabourn's legacy. "Silversea may be moving towards an Italian persona," she adds, "but we are very much reflective of an American country club atmosphere."