High-end expedition cruising might well be the next big investment area for cruise lines. Just this week alone, Celebrity, Crystal, Scenic and Ponant made announcements about yachts for transporting affluent clients to nature-oriented destinations.
Not only does Silversea Expeditions already have 3 ships, but Silversea is converting 1 of its 5 main ships to an expedition ship. And now Crystal is building a 200-passenger polar-class mega-yacht, complete with mini-submarines.
A closer look at Celebrity’s expansion in the Galapagos helps to explain the rationale of what at 1st glance looks like a hobby for multibillion-dollar companies.
The backdrop: retailers report that Celebrity Xpeditions is sold out year-round at good prices. The attraction is the tortoises and nature found on all the tiny, different islands.
“The Galapagos is a bucket list destination, but tourism is controlled,” sums up CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. “Now we are able to fulfill the excess demand that we have had for a long period of time.”
With the purchase of Ocean Adventures, Celebrity will be able to provide 3 different-sized ships (16, 48 and 100-pax) to meet this demand. “People who are looking for an even more intimate experience than we offer can now do so,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “Also, we expand the list of places we can take our guests in the Galapagos.”
Lutoff-Perlo sees opportunity for charters: “We already get charters on the 100-person ship,” she notes. “When you think about 16 people, I think about multigenerational families chartering a ship.”
Is this the type of product Lutoff-Perlo sees expanding beyond the Galapagos for Celebrity? “Maybe,” she replies. “We have nothing right now to talk about, but we’re always looking for different opportunities.”
The point is, this fits the psyche of the modern luxury customer Celebrity assiduously seeks. “The Galapagos is a different experience and a different destination for us, but it is right in the bullseye of the Celebrity customer,” she explains.
Like Crystal, Celebrity is branching out and experimenting with new markets based upon its current client base psyche, in this case from packaging river cruises in Europe to yachts in the Galapagos. The importance for agents lies in what these currently small-scale projects portend for the future.