Azamara’s Carol Cabezas Chats Sale, Fourth Ship, Advisor Policies

Azamara plans to increase its fleet capacity by 33% by completing the fleet of the former Pacific Princess, which will happen after the final agreement for the sale of the Azamara brand to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) by Sycamore Partners. This is expected to happen in this quarter of 2021 and the ship will then be refurbished/upgraded and sail to Europe in 2022.

Travel Agent spoke with Carol Cabezas, President of Azamara, about the addition of this fourth R-Series ship, formerly the R-3 Series, to Azamara’s fleet. She is the sister of Azamara’s Pursuit, Azamara’s Journey and Azamara’s Quest. This gives Azamara a fleet of four identical ships that offer not only performance, but consistency in production and customer expectations.

It just makes sense, and therefore perfect, says Cabezas, who is excited about the brand’s ability to take the next step in its growth: ┬áIt’s a brand that makes sense.

Azamara plans to bring the ship up to the same standard as the other three ships. We’re definitely going to invest in making her look like her twin sister Azamara, says Cabezas.

New owners

But what about the expected approach of the Sycamore brand? Can advisors expect the equity group to be in practice mode or more likely in standby mode?

Sycamore had already expressed interest in learning, but Cabezas was adamant: They said: We are not the experts, you are the experts. Therefore, we are confident that this team will do great things.

She adds that the brand does not want a change in ownership to affect the product, the relationships it has built or the customer experience. Rather, we want them to go on with their lives as they always have, she notes. Cabezas also says Azamara’s goal is to remain a user-friendly brand.

Sycamore currently owns many other consumer discretionary investments such as Belk, Jones New York, Staples and many others.

They’re looking for brands that are well-known and, in many cases, have very loyal fans, Cabezas says. She says that’s why she’s the Azamara destination Dive into the cruise industry. And they don’t want to take on the heavy lifting of representing a new brand in the cruise industry, she says. It was ideal for them to be part of a highly respected brand.

Cabezas also points out that with the additional power that the fourth ship will bring : This gives us the opportunity to expand our portfolio and presence.

So Azamara has the potential to expand to more distant destinations, spend more/too many nights in port, continue diving ashore and offer new options to clients and travel advisors.

Personality factor

Cabezas also believes that sales of the Azamara brand will not be limited to equipment in the near future. The brand is people, she explains. Sure, the brand has ships, but what makes it special are the employees. That’s why, she says, travel advisors can expect to work as usual in departments such as sales, reservations and the support team after the sale.

Other behind-the-scenes community operational services, such as port operations, will eventually be taken over by the RCCL. No, that won’t happen for another two months, but there is a transition plan. Cabezas doesn’t think the brand will retain these shared-service agreements with its former parent company.

At this stage, however, we are focusing on the transition phase and getting to a point where Azamara can stand on its own two feet, she said, noting that SRSL also has its own priorities to focus on.

Status quo

As for the travel consultants, they are essential to our business and are an extension of our company, she says. Mr. Cabezas added that Sycamore has made it clear to the brand that everything related to the travel advisor community, such as commissions, sales programs and any agreements with partner agencies, will remain unchanged.

Everything stays the same, she told the travel agent. It’s almost a non-event for consultants when it comes to how they work with us. She also sees more opportunities and more put options with Azamara developing under the new ownership.

Similarly, Mr. Cabezas explained that everything regarding passengers and former guests will remain the same and will be honored. This includes honoring the FCC along with loyalty rewards.

Any thoughts on goodbye? Cabezas believes the new owners will let the team he trusts manage the brand: We really insist, whether it’s with travel agents, guests or internally with our huge team of employees, that the status quo is maintained.

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