When opening one of his series of sales presentations made to the trade throughout the past year, Mark Conroy began, "What's new at Silversea?" and then answered, "I am."
The industry veteran was referring to his hiring as managing director for the Americas early last year. But he followed the joke with a brand update as welcome as his own return to the business.
Among the changes, Silversea is debuting Silver Muse this spring, its newest, largest ship, and converting one of its original ships, Silver Cloud, into an expedition vessel later in the year.
"In addition, our owners are writing big cheques on our existing fleet," Conroy said, pointing to a recent renovation of the Silver Whisper as one example. The ship, which is doing world cruises for the brand in 2017 and 2018, completed a month-long dry dock in the Bahamas in December, representing the third phase of the fleet refurbishment program.
"The 2018 world cruise on Whisper from Los Angeles to Rome is the most detailed world cruise Silversea has ever done," asserted Conroy.
But the biggest change is upcoming with Silver Cloud. The 1994-built ship will go in for a three-month dry-dock in August, and when she comes out in November she will be a whole new creature, fit for expedition cruising. The changes will be striking.
"We're eliminating 25 suites and adding spaces for 18 zodiacs," he said as one example. "She will be the only all-balcony, all-suite expedition ship and will be by far the most luxurious expedition ship in the business. We're rebuilding it with new steel, an ice-strengthened hull, and introducing Silver Cloud as a whole new ship."
The redone Cloud will be a big entry in the expedition market, and a big leap for Silversea.
Right now it has 352 beds in expedition, which will increase by 250 beds, a 71% jump, when Cloud starts expedition cruising.
Conroy pointed to rates that indicate why the growth is coming on the expedition side -- $900 per diems on the 100-passenger Silver Galapagos.
And since Silver Muse is coming on in April, Silversea's classic fleet is not downsizing but essentially increasing in size by 20% (Muse adds 596 beds, while Cloud's shift to expedition represents a loss of 296 beds for the classic fleet).
Muse, itself, Conroy pointed out, offers several firsts for Silversea. Among them are dining: "Muse is the first ship in our fleet not to have a main dining room," he told agents. "Instead, we will have eight different dining options and only two of them will require reservations."
His advice on a call to action for Silver Muse is to keep it simple: send an email to your customer base, i.e., "I saw this video of this new ship [Silver Muse], and I thought of you." In his presentation, Conroy airs the video, highlighting elements like butlers in every suite and spaciousness that resonates with luxury clients.
"Premium cruisers and river cruise travellers have a bucket list," Conroy reminded agents. Silversea, he says, now has 800 ports of call across seven continents. "Whether it be a short vacation to the Galapagos -- nine days including air -- or destinations in Asia -- people want to go to these unique destinations."
Conroy is a great supporter of the travel agent community and as a final thought he offered them a zinger: "Who doesn't like to close a $40,000 sale?"