Seabourn Sells Three Ships

| 2.20.13

Seabourn will build a fourth larger ship and sell its three smaller, original ships to Windstar Cruises

Seabourn Pride will be the first original Seabourn ship to go to Windstar

Seabourn Cruises, a luxury cruise brand within the Carnival Corp. family of cruise lines, announced on Tuesday that it will sell and slowly transfer the three original small ships that started the Seabourn fleet to Windstar Cruises, an independent cruise line with head offices in Seattle, Washington.

These three smaller Seabourn ships are each a mere 10,000-tons and only carry 208 passengers. The first of these ships to transfer to Windstar will be the Seabourn Pride (the oldest) in April 2014 after the end of its currently announced itineraries. The next ship to go will be Seabourn Spirit in April 2015 and finally the Seabourn Legend will join Windstar in May 2015.

The idea is to finish out the current itineraries already sold and scheduled by Seabourn on these smaller vessels before they are transferred. This is a convenience and a courtesy to somewhat notoriously demanding Seabourn loyalists - many of whom love these older and smaller ships.

To "fill the void" in its fleet, Seabourn also announced it will build a new ship commensurate in size and design with its three current newer and larger ships introduced to Seabourn starting with Odyssey in 2009, Quest in 2010 and Sojourn in 2011.

The new ship is planned to be completed in 2015 and will theoretically compensate for the berths to be lost when the smaller ships go to Windstar. In fact, it will most likely be a 450 passenger ship while the number of berths the line is losing is 624.

Now, while this announcement was a bit of a surprise to me, another cruise industry newsletter, CruiseWeek, wrote "It's no secret Seabourn has been shopping their three older ships since the launch of the three new vessels."

CruiseWeek further comments, "From a pricing perspective, it has been difficult having six luxury ships in one fleet, and this move seemingly enables Seabourn the ability to significantly improve pricing fleetwide in a manner commensurate with the quality of their fleet."

But the sale comes as a surprise to me because of my experience in sailing upon the newest Seabourn Sojourn in 2011. During my 12-night cruise I was told by almost every passenger I encountered that while they liked the bigger ships, they truly love the smaller ones and couldn't wait to get back on one."

But CruiseWeek is addressing the point that now Seabourn only has one style of ship to brand as the "Seabourn experience." After the sale there will be no more need to describe and compare the differences between the smaller and larger vessels to potential customers. It will also end one of the main, continuous topics of discussion across the fleet for loyal Seabourn passengers.

What do you think of this Seabourn development? Tell us here: Seabourn Cruise Forum

The Three "Original" Ships

To be clear, these three ships were not the original Seabourn fleet. Those would be the two 100-passenger yachts that now belong to SeaDream Yacht Club, an independent cruise company that was created when Seabourn was acquired by Carnival Corp. and the line decided to sell the two smaller ships.

The one aspect of this new deal that has me excited is that the older Seabourn yachts will soon belong to the company that I think has proven itself as a good steward of the highly regarded Windstar ships; the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) of Los Angeles - a company specializing in operating some of the largest sports venues in the United States. In addition to operating them, they own some sports teams and present many of the shows and events that happen inside their venues. The company was behind the Michael Jackson "Super Tour" that was scheduled just before Jackson died.

More precisely, Windstar was put inside one of the Anschutz subsidiaries; Xanterra Parks and Resorts which operates lodges, restaurants, gift shops, tours and activities in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina in Ohio's Geneva State Park. In addition, Xanterra owns and operates Kingsmill Resort® in Williamsburg, VA, the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel and The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, AZ.

What do you think of this Seabourn development? Tell us here: Seabourn Cruise Forum

Travel Agent Perspective

Eric Goldring, one of the top sellers of Seabourn Cruises (according to his blog at his web site Goldring Travel) says...

"Trying to be honest, and not pessimistic, the older Seabourn triplets have their problems and limitations. The ships are old. As I write this I am staring at a commemorative t-shirt from the Seabourn Pride's 1988 Inaugural cruise and a poster from the Seabourn Legend's 1996 naming ceremony. Over the past years Seabourn has done a nice job of keeping these ships running, but they require millions of dollars of upgrades and then they still lack the very much in demand balconies. (I have had discussions with Seattle about how to renovate the triplets in a cost-effective manner...and it was not an easy exercise!)"

Goldring further surmises that "Seabourn is modernizing its fleet while it has been "struggling" to maintain the older ships that are economically difficult to profit from more to appease the older Seabourn guests."

While that statement implies that Seabourn is tired of catering to the "old clientele," I am sure Seabourn would never make that statement. But it is true that the clientele of Seabourn has been changing, leaving behind the older "yachting" crowd who enjoys the slower but far more intimate yacht-like vessels and embracing a younger clientele who is more concerned with having an extensive spa, balcony staterooms and more destinations.

Like me, Goldring is also positive about the new owners of the ships, although he says the Windstar ships are outdated since the staterooms are "small" and do not have verandas, a factor which is true, but which I do not view so negatively.

I personally find the Windstar vessels to be very tasteful and far more "nautical" than the average cruise ship - a very similar description to the smaller Seabourn vessels. In that sense, these older Seabourn ships should fit right in with the existing Windstar fleet.

What do you think of this Seabourn development? Tell us here: Seabourn Cruise Forum

Seabourn in the Modern World

The truth is that Seabourn has had its ups and downs since it introduced the newer ships - and the economy went south. The introduction of three new ships expanded the size of the fleet by almost 200-percent, going from a total capacity of 624 to 1964 fleet-wide.

The existing Seabourn clientele not only adjusted to larger ships with far less of a "yacht-like" feel, but also dealt with a generally younger clientele, including some of the first children they had seen onboard, and people who were not so well-versed in the Seabourn life-style, which generally includes very quiet ships but with a very socially open onboard atmosphere.

It is true that unifying the Seabourn fleet around a singular design will simplify the marketing and the managing of the Seabourn product - but I can't help feeling this move will come as a surprise to the many loyal Seabourn passengers who love the smaller ships.

What do you think of this Seabourn development? Tell us here: Seabourn Cruise Forum

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