Key Biscayne: Cruise veteran Larry Pimentel tells Maritime CEO today in our exclusive interview to herald the start of a new sister website, Asia Cruise News, that he did not join RCCL subsidiary Azamara to be the president and ceo of a two-ship fleet. In other words, expect this high end luxury brand to add more ships soon.
Pimentel was appointed head of Azamara Club Cruises in July 2009. Among a storied cruise career he also served as the boss of Cunard and Seabourn.
Since its founding in 2007, Azamara – whose fleet consists of two 688-guest ships: Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest – has won many awards, but for Pimentel the line is still in taking off mode. This year is shaping up to be the best ever in Azamara’s seven-year history, says Pimentel.
Azamara is different from other cruise lines in two significant ways, he says. First, Azamara is a “destination immersive brand”, he says. “Most cruise lines focus on selling their hardware with the destination being secondary. Azamara is just the opposite,” he says, explaining that Azamara sells the destination first.
When he first joined the company, Pimentel was given 50 years of travel research by a colleague that works for a major travel publication. The key takeaway from the research across all of those years was that the reason people travel is to see and experience the destination.
“Most of our cruise competitors in the up-market space had new tonnage, we didn’t,” he explains. So Azamara put the focus on the destination by staying longer in port, offering overnight stays – sometimes two or three nights – and night touring.
“These are distinctive differences versus our competitors,” Pimentel stresses. In fact, Azamara stays late (8:00 PM or later) or overnight on over 50% of all port visits. And, all voyages offer at least one late night or overnight stay.
“This has resonated with our guests to such a degree that we see boutique hotels as our key competitors, not other cruise lines,” says the cruise veteran.
The second way in which Azamara differs, Pimentel claims, is in its onboard ambience.
“Guests tell us that it’s our destinations that bring them to Azamara but it’s our officers, staff and crew that bring them back,” he maintains.
“We are an inclusive brand,” he adds, “which also makes our guests more comfortable and relaxed as they don’t feel like they are being nickeled and dimed while onboard.”
Getting back to destinations in concluding the interview, Pimentel reveals Azamara is going to Australia for the first time at the end of 2015.
“This is very exciting for us and will likely be very attractive to our current guests as well as grow our brand with Australians which is already one of our top four source markets,” he concludes.
Pimentel also spoke with our brand new sister title, Asia Cruise News, on the fast growing potential of the Asian market. The interview can be accessed here. [21/02/14]