With one year to go until the inaugural cruise of Star Clipper’s first ship, the Star Clipper, the cruise line is launching its consumer marketing campaign this month, at which time important operational details such as homeport, air packages, and suppliers should be finalized.
While the majority of passengers on board the Star Clipper are expected to be from the United States, 30 percent are projected to originate from Europe, according to Vice President of Sales, George “Skip” Muns. Typical passengers earn $50,000 plus and are characterized as “baby boomers”. According to Muns, Star Clippers is targeting those who are active both physically and intellectually and therefore want to “experience” the Caribbean and “not just view it and shop for t-shirts.”
Star Clippers seems to be marketing itself as a cross between Windstar Sail Cruises and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. Muns describes the experience on board the 180-passenger sailing ship as “sophisticated yet a little more natural than other exclusive-sized ships.” Amenities include marble baths and VCRs in each stateroom, and public rooms such as a piano bar, tropical bar, and library characterized by brass-framed windows and a marble fireplace.
While Star Clipper’s first consumer advertisements will begin appearing in consumer travel magazines such as Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler this month, Star Clipper’s advertising and marketing to the trade is already well under way. Mailings to select travel agents include brochures, rolodex cards, and incentive offers. These include a $250 bonus certificate, which can be redeemed upon an agency’s first booking, and a free cruise program. To earn a free cruise, an agency must sell five cabins before the July 7, 1991 inaugural Caribbean sailing from St. Maarten/Martin. While Muns stated that such an incentive is a way for agents to become familiarized with the ship, it could also indicate anticipation of a tough sell.
Star Clippers has identified Southern California, New York, and Chicago as its key marketing areas and is actively telemarketing and visiting travel agents in these areas. Muns added that the company has been participating in trade shows and will continue to keep in touch with agents via a follow-up newsletter.
Star Clippers has also been marketing itself to corporate and incentive groups through mailings, telemarketing, visits, and advertisements in corporate and incentive magazines. Both groups and charters are being pursued. Muns said that some of the corporate groups being marketed include retail chains and franchises while booked charters include alumni associations, international companies, regional companies, and special interest groups.
Muns said it was too early to say what percentage of the overall capacity groups and charters would compose.
The 357-foot Star Clipper is being constructed by The Belgium ShipBuilders Corporation in Antwerp, Belgium. According to Muns, start-up costs for Star Clippers – which includes construction of two ships – is $50 million.
The Star Clipper is scheduled for sea trials in January, 1991; the scheduled delivery date to the owner is set for March. By the end of this September, transatlantic packages will be offered from Lisbon to Las Palmas, and from Las Palmas to St.Maarten/Martin; these sailings will be from mid April to mid-May. Regularly scheduled Caribbean service will commence in July. A sister ship, the Star Flyer will begin service in the summer of 1992 in the Mediterranean and will winter in the Caribbean.
Star Clippers is owned and financed by White Star S.A. group, a Brussels-based firm owned by Mikael Krafft, who created the concept of these two ships. Star Clippers’ main office is in Coconut Grove, Florida.
The ship’s interior was designed by Studio Acht while construction/installation is being done by a Dutch firm, Struik and Hammersclag. At present, Star Clippers has not yet decided on a food concessionaire. Muns said that the company may not deal with one supplier, but instead hire someone as a food consultant.
As far as entertainment is concerned, the line is hiring “self-contained” acts, such as magicians and comics, and also will have a pianist onboard to entertain at the piano bar. Local entertainment will also be featured, along with a staff cabaret evening.
Presently, Star Clippers has not finalized whether the ship will be homeporting out of Philipsburg, on the Dutch side of St. Maarten, or out of Marigot, on the French side of St. Martin. “We like the central Caribbean location that the island of St. Maarten/Martin offers,” said Muns. He added that the final decision depends on infrastructure, including transfers available from hotels and the airport.
Two different seven-day itineraries are being offered so that passengers can combine two voyages for a 14-day sailing with St. Maarten/Martin as the only port repeated. Ports of call include less frequented islands such as Saba, Statia, Nevis, St. Kitts, Barbuda, Montserrat, and the British Virgin Islands.
Rates for a seven-day voyage range from $995 during economy season for a cabin with upper and lower berths, to $2,595 for a deck stateroom during the high season. These prices do not include airfare; Muns stated that air/sea packages will be finalized within the next month and will include transfers and baggage handling. Star Clippers will be offering a number of direct flights from gateways such as New York and Miami and according to Muns, the line is “trying to bypass San Juan” due to possible congestion and tie-ups.