Scenic and Emerald Cruises are looking for “real and unique” assets in destination, according to Claudius Docekal, vice president of ocean deployment.
With four ships now in service, the two brands tend to focus on areas that offer interesting “flora, fauna, geology, culture” and more, he said, speaking at a conference in Florida in March.
“Anything that’s real, where people can connect with nature or the local culture, such as village visits and farm visits. Anything that’s unique and where you don’t have 52 buses pulling up from another cruise line,” Docekal added.
With capacity of no more than 228 guests, Scenic and Emerald vessels don’t overwhelm the local infrastructure at the destinations, he noted.
“We are small, we also use small groups of people and try not to send everybody at the same time. We might have people going on a hike or a beach while another group does a zodiac ride or does kayaking,” Docekal said, noting that even with less passengers, the company still tries to disperse them.
“As the ships get larger and larger, there’s been a pushback for communities about cruise lines, limiting or cancelling ship arrivals all together. That’s where we have an advantage. Once the community finds out that we are not coming with 5,000 but only 200 passengers, they are quite welcoming because they know they will not be overwhelmed with tourists,” he explained.
Different Needs and New Destinations
The destinations, on the other hand, need to cater to the cruise and expedition lines individually, Docekal said.
“All the cruise lines are different. They are individuals looking for different things and that’s also true for the expedition market,” he said, noting that not all the brands on the segment are looking for the same things either.
With that in mind, destinations should treat each cruise line as a particular company and not just assume everyone has the same needs, Docekal added.
The repositioning voyages and the period in between the polar seasons offer good opportunities for the development of different regions, he said.
“Between the middle of March and mid-June, we are looking for other destinations. We have some of our expedition ships spending a month in the Mediterranean, along the coast of South America and, in the case of Asia, spending time in Japan.”
While cruises in Antarctica and the Arctic tend to focus on expedition experiences, some of the itineraries in other regions may have “hardly any” expedition, he noted.
“Still, we keep onboard expedition leaders, who may, for instance, supplement a tour run by bus, assisting with local guides. We may also do bicycle or e-bike rides through a farm field.”
Challenges when visiting new destinations may include the lack of customs and immigration clearance and “too aggressive” proposed activities for guests, Docekal said.
“In the case of our two companies, although we are going on expedition cruises, our guests tend to be on the older side and, because of that, physical abilities vary.”
With helicopters and submarines onboard Scenic ships, Docekal also faces a challenge when getting permits for their operations.