Ambassador Cruise Line, the new British premium start-up with many former Cruise & Maritime executives on its board, says the new brand will fill a gap in the market amid pent-up demand post-COVID.
In an interview with Cruise Industry News, Christian Verhounig, CEO, Ambassador Cruise Line, said he’s not concerned about negative perceptions of cruising in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
” While the cruise industry has faced some negative press, frequent cruisers or past cruisers especially recognize how safe cruises are and what great value for money it is,” he said.
“[Ambassador Cruise Line is] a premium-value product, which is very self-centric around the future, sustainability and ethics,” he added.
The cruise line is widely seen as a re-branding of Cruise & Maritime Voyages, which was forced into bankruptcy last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Verhounig noted that while there are many familiar faces in management, Ambassador Cruise Line will be a new and exciting product for the industry.
“We do have the benefit that we have experience in this area and have managed to build something that unfortunately didn’t make it through COVID,” he said. “But [Ambassador Cruise Line] is very new; we set a new vision behind it with new values. And I think it’s extremely exciting.”
Ambassador Cruise Line does indeed share many similarities with Cruise & Maritime. It has the same executive team, and has launched with a single ship, Ambiance (the former Regal Princess), which was slated to join the CMV fleet prior to its collapse.
The ship is undergoing a bow to stern refit and refurbishment and is intended to launch as the Ambiance in 2022.
According to Verhounig, the fact that the ship was initially meant to join the CMV fleet is largely coincidence, and the decision for Ambassador Cruise Line to acquire her was a result of the ship’s size and facilities.
“It’s about the ship herself,” he told Cruise Industry News. “The ship has a perfect size for the market entry we are planning.”
“She has a massive space ratio, nearly incomparable to anything in the mainstream market today. She has very spacious cabins, which are a good fit for the cruises we are planning, which are generally longer itineraries,” he added.
Ambassador Cruise Line appears to see longer, grand voyage-type itineraries as its long-term future, but has launched shorter voyages initially due to the uncertainties surrounding international travel.
These itineraries don’t lack variety though, they include the Baltic, Greenland, the Arctic and Iceland, as well as a range of expedition-style voyages to the Canaries, Cuba, the Caribbean, Cape Verde and Scandinavia in the winter months.
The cruise line has said that it plans to ultimately offer world cruises, and has invested heavily in retrofitting Ambiance to be more environmentally-friendly.
“We’ve decided that before she enters the market, we will upgrade the vessel on the engine side, to make her fully IMO Tier III compliant to be able to go into environmental protected areas that have already ratified the IMO requirements,” Verhounig said.
Ambiance is the cruise line’s first ship, but it is already shopping around for more in the same size and class, and has indicated that homeporting in overseas markets and targeting additional sectors than just the UK is a long-term plan.