In these days of instant communication, it’s hard to keep a secret.
Toronto-area travel advisors were invited by sister companies Scenic Cruises and Tours and Emerald Waterways to an event with the promise of a big reveal.
But the big news first broke when Glen Moroney, chairman and founder of the UK-based company, announced Emerald’s first ocean ship build at a weekend event in Australia.
Word of the upcoming Emerald Azzurra had already spread to the advisors at the Toronto event only a couple of days later.
But the spoiler didn’t dampen the enthusiastic response to the new build and new brand. The Emerald Azzurra is the first ship launched under the new Emerald Yacht Cruises brand, which is now part of the newly formed Emerald Cruises.
In a video message opening the Toronto event, Moroney described the Azzurra’s “mega-yacht cool.”
“Designed for the Mediterranean,” he explained, the Azzurra launches in July of next year, and has only 50 staterooms.
It’s not only the intimate size that will make it fit in with the Med’s super-yacht lifestyle, he claimed, “it’s about the amenities,” which include an aft infinity pool and marina with zodiacs and paddleboards to explore and play in the sea, and expansive public spaces like the restaurant serving the 100 guests that it actually has space for and dozens more.
Moroney went on to paint a picture of the Azzurra cruising into small, lesser-known ports, usually only accessible to private yachts and luxury, small-ship cruise lines. And just like private yachts, the Azzurra’s chefs will also be able to visit local markets along the itinerary for re-provisioning, bringing a true local flavor and atmosphere onboard.
Accessible pricing, secluded ports
Where the Azzurra differs from private yachts and luxury small ships is in pricing. Moroney signed off his video message teasing the Azzurra’s affordability.
Emerald’s Canadian sales team took to the microphone to share that, in only a couple of days since the reveal to the UK market, sales had been far exceeding expectations.
According to Business Development Manager Jared Gelfand, “It shows there is such a demand for this kind of product. It’s a steal, honestly. Lead-in pricing starts at under CAD$500 (about USD$375) per person per day,” with many inclusions like transfers, WiFi, tips; and wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner.
He added that early bird fares offer 15% savings, available until they’re sold out. “It’s such a good price and for Canadians. It’s in Canadian dollars, which not everybody offers.”
General Manager of Sales Juna Ueda told advisors the time is now. “The UK is showing lots of interest; we want advisors here to have great access to the Azzurra’s inaugural season, too. The pricing is so accessible.”
For Patricia Wu, brand director of Emerald, in Canada, the Azzurra is about accessibility on a number of levels in addition to pricing.
The ship’s 25 inaugural itineraries include small and secluded ports in the Mediterranean, Adriatic and even the Red Sea that takes guests to the Holy Land. “Half the ports on the first itineraries, I had to look up! Guests will have so many stories to share.”
“The infinity pool is a show stopper, and looking over the ocean? It gives us, in the winter, something to really dream about. Everyone dreams of being on an intimate yacht, and this lets them live that lifestyle,” said Wu.
She added that nearly 90% of the staterooms had balconies to connect them to the sea while onboard. And that travelers who have already experienced Emerald’s Sky Ships will also enjoy on the Azzurra one of the brand’s signature experiences: The Sky Deck Cinema.
Confidence in delivery
Wu also anticipated potential concerns among travel advisors who remember a number of delays in the shipyard’s delivery of sister luxury cruise line Scenic’s first ocean ship, the Eclipse, last year.
She pre-empted any fears by explaining that the Azzurra was being built in the same shipyard in Vietnam that has a track record of delivery for Emerald, having successfully delivered the Emerald Harmony.
‘The market will lap it up’
Advisors and trade executives greeted the announcement of the new ship enthusiastically, and were reassured about the ship build and July 2021 launch date.
Lola Stokes, vice president of Mississauga’s Cruise Holidays/Luxury Travel Boutique, was excited and confident, “I’ve had clients on Harmony, and they were very happy, and I’m very happy with the Harmony. It was on time and on budget.
“I think I can aggressively sell Azzurra in Canada,” she continued. “With sales starting at these rates, it’s the price of river. That part of the Med is very popular, and the Red Sea is so new, so interesting. I already have some clients in mind, and the price point is so good.”
“Everyone dreams of cruising in the Mediterranean on a yacht,” said Andrew Jones, Flight Centre’s director of product and supplier relations. “This makes it possible for everyone.”
Gavin Miller, VP of Flight Centre Travel Group, agreed: “The Canadian market will lap it up. The Emerald Azzurra is a fantastic addition, exactly what people are looking for — and what a price point. It’s experiential, and with only 98 other guests, it’s intimate and yet accessible. It will make guests feel special. Like Scenic’s Eclipse, it will give our clients that same sense of standing taller and feeling proud. I think they learned a lot (from Scenic Eclipse delays) and this release date is pretty conservative.”
Susan Bowman, Transat’s vice president of marketing and industry relations, also referred to Scenic’s Eclipse: “I love what they’re doing. I think there’s a client for both Scenic and Emerald ocean cruises. Luxury isn’t one thing. It means different things to different people. I see high demand for the Emerald Azzurra, the small ports, the amount of space. What a fabulous product.”
Scenic and Emerald executives share retailers’ perceptions of the Emerald Azzurra to offer guests the most choice in the Mediterranean, in tandem with the more exclusive Scenic Eclipse.
“We also love the reception of the Scenic Eclipse” over the past year, said Juna Ueda.
Announcing the release of the Eclipse’s 2022/2023 season, where a third of the itineraries are new, Lisa McCaskill, Scenic’s vice president of sales and marketing, pointed out that the Med had been a great seller in Canada for the Eclipse, as “Canadians like that luxury in those kinds of destinations.”
She also thanked advisors, “for sticking with us. As you know, Scenic Eclipse had its challenges. At the end of the day, it was as spectacular as planned.”
Advisors will be getting a lot of support from both Scenic and Emerald. Ramping up the new sales season, Ueda announced there would be 58 information sessions in Canada between the two brands over the next few weeks.
With interest in Scenic’s first luxury ocean ship still running high, and the Emerald Azzurra on the way, the cruise line team knows they’ll be very busy.
Wu had this message for advisors about the Azzurra: “Book early. We knew it would be popular, but we didn’t expect the UK to charge out of the gate like they have. Advisors here need to introduce this product at these prices to their clients now.”