Royal Caribbean’s brand Azamara has repositioned itself again in the cruise market as “Azamara Club Cruises”. Cruise industry followers may remember that when Celebrity and Royal Caribbean first acquired the previously Renaissance Cruise Line ships, they were to become small ships in the Celebrity fleet. Then at the last minute, they announced the creation of an entirely new cruise line. Perhaps the line had something of an identity crisis as a small casual premium cruise line. It wasn’t quite a luxury line and wasn’t Royal Caribbean or Celebrity.
I think the relaunch positions the cruise more properly in the market. A club cruise is much closer to an all inclusive luxury vacation than a traditional cruise. It is more like an upscale “Club Med” on a cruise ship than a traditional cruise. Here are some of the included features that Azamara will feature in the new luanch:
* Smaller ships.
* More overnights.
* Longer stays.
* Unique destinations.
* Immersive shore excursions.
* Complimentary shuttle bus in port when offered.
* Destination enrichment.
* Destination-flavored entertainment.
* All meals and room service.
* Specialty dining available (complimentary for suite guests).
* House wine with lunch and dinner.
* Gratuities for housekeeping and dining staff.
* Coffee and bottled water throughout the day.
* Complimentary self-service laundry.
* Butler service included for suite guests.
The idea is that your cruise price is nearly all inclusive. The gratuities are now included in the cruise price. For those that don’t require a particular bottle of wine, the house wine will be served with lunch and dinner. Also their alcohol policy now allows passengers to bring wine aboard with no limits and even bring bottles of liquor on board for in room consumption. If you want to bring your wine to the dining room the corkage fee will only be $10 rather than the $25 now charged on some lines. Though the shores excursions are listed as a feature, I don’t believe that they are included in the cruise price. They are just specifying that they are more “immersive”, which probably means that they will try to bring the passengers a more authentic and enriching experience. The complementary self service laundry should be a great benefit for those wishing to pack light on their trip and allow passengers to travel with less luggage. The overnight stays allow passengers to experience longer excursions and evening entertainment while in port.
I think the new moved will better position Azamara as a competitor with Regent and Oceania rather than simply “Small Ship Celebrity”. For those of us who currently find the pricing at Regent or Oceania to be out of reach, unfortunately the pricing for Azamara has increased to comparative levels. I did a quick check of pricing on a 12 day Baltic cruise in June of 2010 and pricing ranges from around $4800 to $6000 per person. That is probably around 2 to 2 1/2 times what one would pay for Royal Caribbean or Celebrity for the more basic rooms, and closely in line for suites. Prices for a similar cruise on Celebrity start at around 2k and top off at around 5000 for a Celebrity suite. For those passengers who prefer and can afford to travel in a suite the new Azamara Club Cruise could be a good fit. The changes take affect with cruising starting in April 2010.
We invite our readers to let us know what they think about the relaunch and repositioning of the cruise line.