Azamara: Connections and Destinations

Carol Cabezas, chief operating officer for Azamara.

“We will get out of this (COVID-19), and when we do, this (cruising) is something people will need even more, to get that joy back in their life, to keep their minds expanding, and we will be there for them,” said Carol Cabezas, chief operating officer for Azamara.

What attracts passengers to Azamara are the “connections” the brand is offering, she said, enabling them to “connect” with people and cultures in the destinations they visit. In addition, people are attracted because the crew is so passionate about bringing the brand to life, as well as the intimacy and warmth offered by the size of the ships.

She said the brand fits a unique niche in the Royal Caribbean portfolio.

Meanwhile, today the name of the game is adapting, according to Cabezas. “From a shoreside point of view, everyone is at home, connected virtually, collaborating and moving forward with initiatives for when we do get back into service. (At press time, Azamara had suspended its 2020-2021 winter sailings while planning to return to service for its 2021 spring season in Europe.)

“When it comes to our shipboard teams, our ships are currently docked in Glasgow. When they arrived, sailing up the River Clyde, people gathered to greet them. There has been a wonderful outpouring of support for the ships. We have also hosted visitors from a local children’s hospital. Using all the protective equipment, we were able to welcome them aboard, helping them understand what a cruise ship is.”

“Absolutely, we are marketing,” Cabezas answered, when asked how the brand is maintaining a presence in the market while its ships are laid up. “Our bookings are strong,” she added. “When you look at our business for Europe and beyond, it is stronger now than it was last year at this time for 2020. It is driven by loyalists at the moment.

“We have opened our deployment through the first quarter of 2022 and even that far out it is showing some very positive trends.”

Cabezas joined Azamara in 2017 after 17 years with the Royal Caribbean Group. She started out in what she called an analytical and financial role in sales, before moving to revenue management, and was later put on the front line of sales, taking over national accounts for Celebrity Cruises, before being named vice president of investor relations. That position, she said, gave her a tremendous perspective and understanding of the business as a whole, as a corporation, and of the inner workings of each brand.

Among her career highlights: playing a role in the launch of Azamara, the introduction of the Celebrity Solstice ships, and when Royal Caribbean’s shares passed the $100 mark, and the company reached investment grade.

As COO at Azamara, Cabezas said she gets involved in every single aspect of the operation, but taking most of her time is the people aspect.

“I like to have an understanding of what is happening across all of our business and how our teams are motivated, the shipboard teams as well, and keeping our executive committee members, in particular, highly engaged.

“This is a product that is so dependent on people and relationships so you have to invest the time to understand people’s level of morale, their enthusiasm, and how they see the brand as we move forward.

“We are all so hopeful that this industry will get back on its feet soon,” she continued, “and overcome the doubts and negativity surrounding cruising.

“We have to work together to help people understand that cruising is a wonderful vacation option and that the industry has always done everything possible to make it a safe environment and now we are going to take that to an even higher level.”

Her motivation? “I love the Azamara product. When you look at what we do; we are providing a service that gives joy to people and makes their lives better.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2020

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