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Published on Thursday, August 13, 2009

Luxury cruise line ponders UK expansion


Luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises is weighing up the possibility of operating its first ex-UK return voyage.
The line already runs one-way departures from Southampton with passengers flying home at the end of each cruise.
However, UK managing director Graham Sadler revealed that a round-trip sailing was now under consideration for 2011.
“Our ambition is to do an ex-UK cruise because we have a groundswell of need from customers cruising from and back to the UK.
“At the moment we sail from the UK but passengers have to fly back.”
The 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager would be used in May 2011 after the ship transfers to Europe from its winter base in Florida. The destination would either be the Baltic or Mediterranean from either Dover or Southampton.
A decision is likely to be made shortly as the US company gains confidence in the upper end UK cruise market with current like for like UK bookings up 16% for 2010, according to Sadler.
He attributed the boost in bookings to an offer of free shore excursions, originally instigated on 59 cruises to encourage 2009 sales following the economic downturn, and now extended to cover all 2010 departures across the three-ship fleet.
Sadler said booking volumes “went crazy” when the incentive was announced earlier this year. For example, passengers staying in St Petersburg in Russia on a two day stop could take advantage of as many as six free trips ashore, he said.
The initiative also helped highlight the inclusive nature of the RSSC offering where all soft drinks, wines, spirits, dining, gratuities, fees and taxes are included in the cruise price.
Sadler said this helped overcome consumer uncertainty about hidden fees and charges often associated with holidays in general and cruises specifically.
RSSC unveiled its full 2010 programme last month with a discount of up to £500 per person for bookings made by September 30 and free flights to join selected departures.
The line will have all its ships refurbished at a cost of $70 million with 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator undergoing a 22-night makeover in dry dock during January 2010. Seven Seas Voyager and 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner were both revamped early this year.
Next year’s schedule covers 92 cruises ranging in duration from seven nights in Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean to a 119-night world voyage on Seven Seas Voyager.
by Phil Davies 

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