Orient Lines Making a Comeback?

Orient Lines is about to be re-introduced, planning to start taking reservations in August and with the first cruise slated to sail April 15, 2009, according to Wayne Heller, president and CEO.

Last week, the company announced the appointment of Bruce Nierenberg as executive vice president. Nierenberg has held a variety of senior management positions, including president and CEO of several cruise lines, going back to the late 1970s. Heller told Cruise Industry News that negotiations are underway for the line’s first ship, which he expects to announce shortly. The ship will be in the 600- to 800-passenger range.

By the time, the new Orient Lines is up and running, there will be some 40 to 50 employees in-house, plus six regional sales representatives, Heller said.

“We will put our mark on Orient Lines over time,” Heller said, who has a long track record in cruise travel, with his wife Judy as his partner, having founded Cruisesonly and later Travel Services International. “! have done everything in cruise travel, except to own a cruise line,” he said. “My dream is have a niche company – or companies.

“The big guys are in a different league and they are in the mass market. We do not want to be there. “This company (Orient Lines) will give us the opportunity to take passengers to experience Antarctica in more depth, for instance.

“There is not a lot of competition in this niche. There are not many ships that carry less than 1,000 passengers at affordable, high-value rates, and offer enrichment programs,” he said.

Whether Orient Lines buys or charters ships depends on the deal, according to Heller, who said that hotel and marine operations will be outsourced. Heller’s business model promises to make money with one ship. “I have never operated a business that lost money,” he added.

The first ship will spend summers in Europe and sail in Antarctica in alternating years, according to Heller. The company plans to offer 30 cruises a year.

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