Seabourn to Sail Asia Year-Round

February 4, 2009
Cambodia's Angkor Wat

As Seabourn Cruise Line prepares to grow its fleet of luxury vessels (Seabourn Odyssey will debut this June, and Seabourn Sojourn is launching next year), it's also expanding its global reach in terms of itineraries -- and, perhaps someday, passengers.

The luxury line has announced that it will offer a year-round Asia cruises program starting in 2010. Seabourn Pride will be based solely in Asia for the entirety of 2010 and in early 2011, offering cruises to China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. Seabourn Spirit will join Pride for a series of itineraries encompassing Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia in late 2010 and early 2011 after repositioning to Asia from Europe in November 2010.

So as the first luxury line to plant itself firmly in the region on a year-round basis, is Seabourn trying to get a toehold on offering a luxury cruise experience to Asian travelers? It wouldn't be the first North American cruise line to set its sights on developing a cruise market among Asians. Several big-ship lines, including Costa Cruises and Royal Caribbean, are making a significant commitment to sourcing Asian cruisers, a hot -- and huge -- new market for cruise lines reeling from faltering economies in the United States and Europe.

In this case, marketing the cruise concept to travelers from China, India, Japan and the like isn't on the drawing board, but may be a possibility at some point. "There are some areas that have to be addressed carefully," Seabourn spokesman Bruce Good tells us. "First of all, from charter clients, we know that, in general, the expectations of Asian clientele are very different from our base, and it remains to be seen whether one product can satisfy both tastes excellently."

For now, Good says, the decision to sail Asia itineraries year-round is more of an effort to satisfy past cruisers than to attract new ones. Plus, with the larger-capacity Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Soujourn on the way to handle high-demand regions like the Mediterranean and Baltic, Seabourn has the flexibility to dedicate its smaller yachts to more exotic locales.

Keeping a vessel there throughout the year, rather than splitting its time between Asia and Europe, also allows for more intriguing itineraries. "We have always struggled with delivering Northern Asia ports because of the season. We needed to get up to the Mediterranean before we could really be in prime season in China, Japan and Korea. Likewise we could only sail in Thailand and Vietnam in the winter -- and there are undoubtedly travelers who can't get away then."
Other benefits we find of note: Dedicating a ship in Asia eliminates the need to sail through the pirate-heavy Gulf of Aden twice a year during repositioning cruises to and from Europe. Plus, Asia's proximity to Australia and New Zealand opens doors for additional Down Under itineraries -- and passengers (Australia is currently the line's "third or fourth" most popular source market, according to Good).

Among ports to be featured on the year-round itineraries are stalwarts such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam's Da Nang. Maiden calls for the line include Dalian, China; Busan and Inchon, Korea; Nagasaki and Kagoshima, Japan; and numerous Indonesian destinations, including Bali, Borneo, Komodo Island and the Karimoenjawa archipelago. The line will also visit for the first time Palopo on Sulawesi; Zanzibar, Tanzania; and Antseranana, Madagascar.

--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor

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