Value-Added At Sea: Luxury Cruise Lines Add Enrichment Programs to Attract Clients

By Tom Brady, President, The Destination Group

All In The Family—Jonathan Larsen’s family reunion included time for pre-Christmas shopping in St. Bart’sSenior real estate executive Jonathan Larsen and seven family members spanning three generations from Los Angeles booked a luxurious Silversea voyage calling on island jewels: Tortola, Saint Bart’s and the Turks and Caicos in the Eastern Caribbean chain before Christmas. This 10-day voyage featured Double GRAMMY® artist/guitarist Paul Brown and his band playing aboard the 540-passenger Silver Spirit.

 Selling this time of year in the Caribbean right before Christmas can be challenging for some cruise lines, but with proper itineraries and enrichment programs these unique voyages do sell well for Silversea among other luxury brands. High-quality entertainment positively encourages new guests to book cruises and seasoned guests to re-book. Silversea entertainment specialist Patricia Evans and 30-year senior director Andrew Poulton relied on The Destination Group (www.dgrp.com) to tap A-List entertainers for select Mediterranean and Caribbean voyages. The 2014-2015 series is entitled “Music Under The Stars.”

Seeing Double—Double GRAMMY ® artist Paul Brown, Dayve Stewart and Roberto Vally aboard <em>Silver Spirit</em>The high energy, musical performance featured Paul Brown on lead guitar, Swiss-born Marco Basci on keyboards, Anthony Fitzgerald Moore on drums, Roberto “boom-boom-boom” Vally on bass, and the amazing Sax impresario Dayve Stewart from Orlando, Fla. After the live shows, guests settled in to hear sultry Angela T. Clark, accomplished actress, singer dancer, and writer as she performed Natalie Cole favorites and Ella Fitzgerald improvisations in the cozy Stars Lounge. 

When Bob and Sallie Nelson, Venetian Society members with more than 400 cruise nights, learned that Paul Brown’s band was performing, they immediately cancelled a January cruise and re-booked the Silversea voyage in December. Brown wrote and produced over 50 #1 hits. PB, known to his friends, recently received his third GRAMMY-nominated instrumental album Summer Horns with sax sensation Dave Koz. “We sat in the front row, enjoyed four live shows with Paul Brown’s band and even set up a golf date with this amazing artist the next time he is performing in Florida,” the Nelsons (who call Florida or Arizona home depending on the season) added.

No Nosebleed Seats Here—Swiss-born Marco Basci, a GRAMMY nominated artist wowed the crowd within arm’s reachThe entertainers are just as complimentary as the fans. Paul Brown wrote, “My wife, Jacqui and son Alex loved the Silver Spirit, the Eastern Caribbean itinerary with immaculate white sand beaches and excursions on All Terrain Vehicles climbing through a 600-acre nature preserve outside San Juan, Puerto Rico. Very fun! The Silversea dedicated butler service and gourmet Relais Châteaux cuisine were incredible. We sampled the reserved wines selection and daily fresh-made pasta from La Terrazza, our favorite dining choice. We also looked forward to mixing with guests in a very private and intimate setting. This cruise exceeded all our expectations with service; definitely first class.”  

Hazel De Querrain, of South Africa and the UK, appreciated having Paul Brown on her daily trivia team. She dined with new friends Tom and Kathie from California. Guests rarely dine alone as a result of the host program at sea, fostering friendships among single travelers, according to Silver Spirit director Mike Witte. Connections are made during cocktails, at the Risotto cooking demonstration, or over afternoon tea.  

Now that’s Italian—Marc Antoine, International Guitarist of the Year and producer from Madrid, SpainDiscriminating guests enjoy privacy and access to some of the world’s best entertainers the likes of International Guitarist of the Year Marc Antoine from Madrid, Spain, on the sail from Rome to Barcelona. Sitting in the second row, we are ready to book again! Will this band and Marc Antoine do an Atlantic crossing with us?” quipped congenial, retired CEO Steve Kent cruising with his wife Barb from Fort Worth, Texas.

Fashion designer Anita Ford from Palm Beach, Fla. a cruise veteran, gave the entertainers her blessing, “Marc Antoine and his amazing musicians transported us to a different realm. Please, please, please book them again; thank you so much! With 1,000 cruise nights already sailed, when can I book my next voyage with them?”

Cast members deliver arias by Puccini and Verdi and don costumes to perform ever-popular ABBA hits. What sets luxury cruise experiences apart from the high-density mega-cruise is pervasive attention to detail extending to the talent.

Not your average classroom—Dan King, author of The Last Zero Fighter, and founder of Historical Consulting and lecturer at sea on the topics of WWII and JapanNot all talent is musical.

Silversea’s Enrichment Program offers a wide variety of experts from historians to guest lecturers. In the Caribbean, a Georgetown University professor and former CIA agent provided insight into U.S. relations during the John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro administrations. November guest lecturer John Fleming spoke eloquently about the Mediterranean ports of call between Rome, Livorno, Nice, Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona.

Lowell Fox is the creator of the Classic Comedian series, lectures with original video clips showcasing the great American comics Bob Hope, Sid Cesar, Lucille Ball, and George Burns. The series is available for replay for en suite viewing. Art curator Bomi Odufunade arranges private tours of the onboard Ethiopian art collection and hosts photographers and artists during the voyage.

Nice from this perspective—Explore Old Nice and historic Palma de Mallorca when Silversea’s Silver Spirit sets sail May 5-12 on Voyage 5412 from Barcelona to Rome offering a pairing of European wine tasting and celebrity entertainment Steve Tucker, president of All Leisure Holidays North America, the sales and marketing office for U.K.-based Voyages of Discovery (www.voyagesofdiscovery.com) and Swan Hellenic, offers award-winning enrichment programs on the luxury line Hebridean Island Cruises, the only cruise line to have received the Royal Warrant from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Yvonne Brown of Voyages of Discovery was seeking a specific guest lecturer for a historic WWII cruise in the Pacific. “We were able to identify our core WWII audience 10 months in advance,” said Tucker. The Destination Group confirmed Dan King for the cruise. A Hollywood film consultant, fluent in English and Japanese and author of The Last Zero Fighter, King presents a series of lectures while sailing between Tokyo, Okinawa and Manila this month. An authority in aviation history, King presents firsthand accounts from his interviews with five WWII Japanese Naval aviators, veterans of the pivotal battles of the Pacific War and the dropping of the atomic bomb.

The DeVarona Group (www.gdevarona.com) based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. with 30-plus years in the business of luxury travel, promotes an enrichment calendar including top concerts, expos, tournaments and sporting events at worldwide destinations—Nevada, Florida, Bahamas, Punta Cana, London, Monte Carlo, Macao, Singapore and South America. President Gonzalo DeVarona and director of operations, Martha Cala, is a tri-lingual team fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Their Adventures division features preeminent nature and wildlife attractions. "VIP Gaming Packages are always complimentary to qualified players. It’s a niche market that is growing each year," said DeVarona, who serves clients on three continents with custom promotions that pair clients’ cultural background and holiday plans with the property/destination’s calendar of special events.

Tom Brady, President of The Destination Group (www.dgrp.com), a global web design and marketing firm and winner of Travel Weekly Magellan GOLD awards for web development, has serviced the CLIA organization, 14,000 travel professionals, and multiple luxury cruise lines for 14-plus years.

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