by Leo Jakobson | March 07, 2018

With nine vessels in service or coming online shortly, super-luxury cruise line Silversea is going full steam ahead in the meetings and incentive market. Incentive caught up with Freddy Muller, vice president, corporate & incentive sales for Silversea Cruises for an update on new and renewed ships, hot destinations, and a look at the booming expedition market.

Incentive: There's a lot going on at Silversea right now, isn't there?

Freddy Muller: Silversea is in a new era, where we're reinvesting in our existing fleet following the launch of our brand new ship, the Silver Muse, last year. We also have the buzz about a new build, the Silver Moon, which will be due in the latter part of 2020. She'll be similar to the Silver Muse at 596 guests.

And we're bringing the Silver Spirit in to be lengthened -- we're literally cutting her in half and adding 49 extra feet of comfort. We're going to be able to offer eight restaurants on board now, so on a seven-night voyage, you could dine in a different restaurant every evening. And there are the inclusions: all meals, port charges, gratuities, butler service, all fine wines and spirits.

One of the things that sets us apart -- besides the all-butler services in every category, to really attend to the individual needs and make a unique experience for each guest -- is that we offer some of the same amenities that you would find on our larger competitors. Multiple dining venues, the casinos, the different lounges. Obviously, there's always something going on in the theater each evening. It really helps as we navigate the waters from port to port.

Incentive: Where are groups going now?

FM: Within Europe, we offer quite a bit of seven-night itineraries. Our more popular areas are from Barcelona to Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo to Rome. We also offer Greek Isles -- we call on the likes of Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini. We also port on Kusadasi, in Turkey.

The beauty of the Mediterranean is, everything being so close together we try to maximize our time in port, when at all possible. Meaning that when we do a Rome/Venice, we have the ability to overnight in Venice. And we do that in other places, such as Barcelona, Lisbon, Monte Carlo, just to name a few. We also have the other side of Europe. We also do Northern Europe, such as voyages out of London and out of Copenhagen and Stockholm, that allow you to do two full nights in St Petersburg. That way if you want to take a day trip to Moscow, you can.

A lot of people start off with the Caribbean. And we go off San Juan, Puerto Rico versus Fort Lauderdale. Then they graduate to the Med -- they might try Western Med first, like Rome, Barcelona, Lisbon. Then they might get a little bit on the Eastern Med, which is around the Adriatic, the Greek Isles. Then they jump into the Baltic, and then from there do they go to Alaska? Do they do something a little more exotic, do they go to Asia? And then they jump into the expedition world.

Incentive: The expedition cruise market is booming, isn't it?

FM: We've re-categorized the first Silversea ship, the Silver Cloud, into the expedition world. She's almost a new ship, with a new C-Class hull, and 19 zodiacs onboard. We're going to be offering more unique itineraries, including the Polar regions, both the Arctic and the Antarctic, and she's going to be one of the most luxurious ships in those waters. We reduced her capacity from 147 suites to 127, but in these waters, we only accommodate up to 200 guests.

We're seeing definitely a crossover, from people sailing on what we call our classic fleet, over to expedition. These are the ones that have already experienced the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Baltic. And for incentive clients, when they're looking for that new, unique destination, our expedition fleet really allows them to charter exclusively, and be able to offer their participants or their winners something new and unique to motivate them. 

The most popular ones are what I like to call Polar Bears and Penguins -- the Arctic and Antarctic -- and then Iceland and the Galapagos. That's followed by Alaska - those are seven nights -- we've positioned our new ship, the Silver Muse, there in 2019, which increases our capacity. Alaska is always a bucket-list destination, and the Galapagos is a new bucket-list. 

The Silver Galapagos by far is our fastest growing in popularity, when it comes to our expedition world, especially when it comes to meetings or incentives. The reason for that is, she's a on a seven-night rotation, year 'round. She's only got 50 suites, and we have the ability of quoting the full ship charter, including air from Quito to the Galapagos Islands, pre and post hotels if needed, as well as access to the national parks and all the landings. That's in addition to all the meals, fine wines, spirits, butler service, etc. She's the ship that we seem to be chartering the most lately. In many cases, we modify the itinerary if we need to shorten it for clients, because they don't want their participants out of the office longer than 'X' amount of time.

Incentive: Let's talk about charters

FM: We have vessels that range from 60 suites up to 298 suites. So, we're small, intimate, have a high crew to guest ratio, and guest to space ratio. When you charter the ships -- it becomes almost financially beneficial when you reach that 80 percent of occupancy mark -- you have the ability to carve out maybe a four- or five-night voyage, depending on several variables

Once you charter the ships, you have the ability to customize the onboard experience, and even the branding opportunities are endless. Providing a new look to the crew uniform, logos throughout the ship, raising corporate flags on board our vessels, renaming our restaurants and our drinks. Really, the opportunities are endless.

The benefits are twofold: one is for security reasons, and one is because you can't really replicate the camaraderie onboard a ship on a land destination

Incentive: Security is a big, big concern right now. What benefits does cruising offer?

FM: A lot of people tend to look at cruising and chartering not only for their exclusivity, but also for security. One of the beauties of being on a ship is that if there should be any unrest or any other concerns, we can be flexible and move the ship. And we have full control of who's onboard.