Larry Pimentel insists that, like cars, there’s a new ship smell.
“There’s a freshness,” says the president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, a member of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. stable of cruiselines. “And I would say that it not only comes in textiles and new materials, I think there’s just a freshness to our approach in cruising.”
He is speaking, with an enthusiasm that’s almost tangible, about the fully reconstructed Azamara Pursuit, now on her maiden voyages ahead of naming ceremonies Aug. 28 in Southampton, England.
“We are pleased to expand our portfolio by 50 percent, allowing us to visit even more regions of the world through the acquisition of this sister ship,” Pimentel says. “Our loyal guests and travel partners have asked for this expansion for a long time; we are very pleased to deliver this to them.”
Pursuit is identical to the fleet’s first two vessels, Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey, Pimentel says. Both were updated in 2016, and the triplets aim to give guests the feel of boutique hotels at sea. Each accommodates some 680 guests.
As on Quest and Journey, some Pursuit staterooms have been doubled in size as spa suites, popular among the line’s guests. And because the clientele are what Pimentel calls “destination collectors,” Pursuit can tempt them with traveling to and spending more time at an additional 73 destinations not visited by the original two ships.
“In many ways, we’re the no-cruise cruise,” Pimentel says. “We are the line that spends more time in port than any other, more overnights, longer stays. It’s one of the reasons that upwards of 22 percent of our guests have never been on a ship, and they go on Azamara first.” The line holds a trademark for the term “Destination Immersion” to describe the practice.
All three of Azamara’s sister ships originally sailed for the now defunct Renaissance Cruises. Pursuit’s last incarnation was as P&O Cruises’ Adonia, which had the distinction in 2016 of being the first cruise ship to take American guests to Cuba since diplomatic relations with the U.S. broke off in 1961.
Pimentel says Pursuit’s size will allow it to visit “bucket list” ports that are inaccessible to large cruise ships as well as destinations that even experienced travelers don’t know to ask about.
“You need the iconic ports, like a Mykonos or Santorini, but the data show that the guests love ports they’ve never heard of,” Pimentel explains. In offering examples, he uses a maritime word that itself evokes exploration and the romance of the unknown.
“We reasoned, what would happen if we took a ship and focused largely on a single country?” he says. “We can completely circumnavigate and stop at the most unique ports in Japan and New Zealand, go completely around Italy, and go to many Greek Isles that most people have never heard of, would have never touched.
“And yet we know from the data they love these unique experiences. It transports them to a bygone way of life.”