Agents to benefit as Oceania Cruises adds capacity

The boss of Oceania Cruises wants to get hundreds of UK agents on his ships next year as the line counts down to the launch of two new vessels by 2025.

President and chief executive officer Howard Sherman says their ships have filled themselves for the past 10 years as there has been no new capacity in that time – the line’s last new ship, Riviera, came out in 2012 – but with huge growth on the cards they need a new strategy.

New ship Vista launches in May 2023 (delayed from the planned April date due to shipyard supply issues) with an as-yet-unnamed sister ship due in 2025. Each holds 1,200 passengers and together they give the line 47% more capacity to fill over the next three years.

Sherman said: “We’ve not been able to get agents on board due to lack of space but now we need a different strategy. In each region we are looking at how many staterooms to allocate for the trade.”

This summer some 50 UK agents joined a ‘reunion’ cruise in the Baltic hosted by Sherman (the line’s first “fully-constructed” trade programme) and the plan is to get another 75-100 on board in 2023, with “well over” 300 visiting while ships are in port.

He has also hosted ‘getting to know you’ media and trade events in Australia and Singapore to raise brand awareness in those markets.

Sherman added: “Agents’ business has changed. They now have very sophisticated marketing strategies and we need to tie in to them.”

Around 80% of Oceania Cruises’ UK bookings come through the trade and Sherman wants to maintain that level as the extra capacity comes in. “We’re growing and we need all channels to grow with us,” he said.

Sherman took over as president and chief executive of Oceania Cruises on January 1 2022 after previously being in charge of the line’s on-board revenue and destination services and sees the UK as one of its biggest growth areas.

“The UK is fantastic for us, a great destination and great source market,” he said. “We offered a couple of British Isles cruises six years ago; now we have more.” There are 46 voyages from the UK in 2023 including six no-fly cruises and more ex-UK sailings are promised in the future.

He is also pleased with the “better-than-expected” resurgence of sales, with the line’s 2023 global bookings at levels “not seen before”. Northern Europe generally is one of the “hottest” regions, and there is also huge demand for  Grand Voyages, which are already selling for 2025.

Sherman puts demand down to the “wasted” years during Covid as well as excitement among past passengers around the new ships and the line’s refurbished R-series vessels.

Riviera and Marina will be going for makeovers in December 2022 and November 2023 respectively, when all cabins and bathrooms will be updated and public areas refreshed.

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