An introduction to luxury cruising with Dietmar Wertanzl



Explora Journeys is MSC Group’s four-ship company, starting with Explora I in 2023 and one ship per year to follow. The debut of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection in 2022 is eagerly awaited. There is talk of other hotel brands seriously studying the sector. And Genting Hong Kong offered to build ships for luxury hotel brands that would be managed by Crystal.

Additionally, both established and new players are offering expedition ships that are transforming this niche with unparalleled style, service and design. and comfort.

But what exactly defines luxury cruising?

Seatrade Cruise News asked Dietmar Wertanzl, a longtime luxury cruise veteran, currently President and CEO of CMI Leisure, for his opinion. CMI Leisure manages the hotel operations of Vantage Cruise Line‘s new Ocean Explorer, the latest Infinity Class ship ordered by SunStone Ships. It is customized to a luxury standard for Vantage.

Wertanzl will participate in a Seatrade Cruise Global, “Dining Trends” session with food writer and restaurant critic Victoria Pesce Elliott at 2pm on September 28th.

Luxury means different things to different people depending on their expectations, Wertanzl said, and the expectations are based on past experiences and lifestyle. For example, people with housekeepers at home will have a different perspective than those without a housekeeper.

For this reason, it is difficult to precisely define the luxury cruise, and there are no defined parameters like those of international hotels.

Hotel reviews

Hotel associations in most countries award stars or other points for certain “musts” in material and service, and certain aspects may be regulated, such as minimum bathroom size or staff. reception 24 hours a day. And, since 2004, HOTREC, the European umbrella association of hotels, restaurants, and cafes, has worked to bring the systems of the different countries closer together, with 18 countries now members of the Hotel Stars Union.

Many other countries around the world have established rating systems. Additionally, groups like Leading Hotels of the World and Preferred Hotels & Resorts have their own required standards. There are also unofficial reviews that are widely regarded as trustworthy by AAA and Forbes Travel Guide in North America. The Forbes slogan is “We Check Luxury”.

Wertanzl noted that European consumer laws are stricter, so hotel providers must keep their promises. In America, however, it is free-to-all marketing where “the world’s best pizza” claims are rife. “In Europe, they challenge you,” Wertanzl joked.

No universal rating system for ships

There is no comparable universal rating system for ships, although guides like Berlitz have published their own ratings for years. Wertanzl said travelers and travel counselors need advice, so third-party endorsements from guides and publications like Cond̩ Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure have been important Рalthough perhaps less so now. with social media.

So what constitutes a luxury / niche cruise, which accounts for roughly 5% of overall cruise?

Wertanzl lists characteristics including relatively small but spacious vessels with a high space ratio; accommodation consisting only of suites, mainly with balcony; large bathrooms, raised design, high crew / guest ratio, a selection of food and drink options that meet different cultural expectations and diets, an open dining room and 24-hour room service / 24. Global routes are another clue to luxury.

“The most important is service”

“The most important thing is the service,” said Wertanzl. The customer never wants to wait; instant gratification is demanded. There should be simplicity (no hassles) and peace of mind. Attention to detail, highly personalized and proactive service are essential.

Wertanzl referred to “hospitality in the moment”. For example, during breakfast, a waiter may overhear a couple wondering what time their tour is leaving and tell them that he will find out. He takes the initiative to ‘satisfy the guest in the moment. You hear the wish for something that is not there and make it come true.

Training is essential and staff must understand that every customer is different.

Arts and sciences

“It’s art and science,” Wertanzl stressed. “The back of the house is science. The facade of the house is art, orchestrated to the smallest detail.

Hotel chains like the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons have been “benchmarks for all of us,” he said, citing the Ritz-Carlton motto, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen “which defines its service culture.

When Crystal Cruises was established in 1990 – Wertanzl was the founding team’s director of hotel operations – its teamwork philosophy was summed up as follows: “There is always someone who serves someone who serves the customer. . The brand sought to redefine luxury by offering choice, more service, more space, the right attitude., and quality.

Luxury brand partnerships

Luxury partnerships give instant recognition and credibility to quality – Michelin-starred chefs, world-class designers, top brands everywhere. Everything from china and crystal to linens and rugs to cuts of meat, has to be the best.

“Everything should give a feeling of high-end quality,” said Wertanzl. “Everything is organized. “

Yet today’s luxury is not rigid, he added. It’s much more relaxed than in the past, with casual dress codes. There is an atmosphere of sophistication and elegance, yes, but no formality.

Style, design, attention to detail

Style, said Wertanzl, is important in the luxury space. “You have to be creative. Design is important. Attention to detail. ‘

Authenticity and a sense of place are other characteristics of luxury. Sustainability and eco-chic are also emerging trends.

A high price tag is a no-brainer, with some lines costing an average of $ 500 to $ 1,000 per day per person, depending on suite category and destination.

Inclusive pricing also characterizes luxury. The inclusiveness provides a convenience – not having to sign a check for every purchase – and the bundling of things like shore excursions provides better perceived value, according to Wertanzl. In his opinion, including drinks creates a better social environment, although luxury lines usually also offer a list of connoisseurs of special and paid vintages and brands.

Exclusivity, bragging rights

Additionally, Wertanzl said luxury clientele want “exclusivity, bragging rights, things no one else has” – a private visit to the Sistine Chapel or even a Chinese pop laundry dinner. -up on board the ship.

According to Wertanzl, hotel brands like the Ritz-Carlton will “widen the pool” of customers for luxury cruising. “I don’t think they’ll steal market share from Regent and the rest,” he said. Regarding Explora Journeys, “Luxury can’t be boring, and it’s a little more adventurous”.

He equates the new generation of luxury expedition ships with the boutique hotel segment. Each has a different style and personality.


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