V.Ships Leisure: The Cruise Incubator

Per Bjornsen

Providing vessel management services for various cruise lines, V.Ships Leisure is a flexible behind-the-scenes incubator for cruise brands.

“For new brands, start-ups and transformations, we can help take an existing company and transform them,” said Per Bjornsen, CEO.

Recent examples include the refurbishment and technical management of both the Crystal Symphony and Serenity.

“They wanted to focus on the hotel product, passenger experience and itinerary, and asked us to take care of the technical refit, upgrades and management” Bjornsen said.

For Azamara, new owner Sycamore called on V.Ships to help run the operation as it decoupled it from Royal Caribbean Group.

“In China, we were part of a huge start-up involving deck, engine and hotel operations. The deal was to set it up for the cruise line to do it themselves,” said Bjornsen. “We produced manuals for deck, engine and hotel procedures and sourced a Chinese crew. It was set up to be a step-by-step learning process where the cruise line would eventually take over. We call it ‘BOTS;’ build, operate, transfer and support.”

Another further project, for The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, where V.Ships provides hybrid management.

“They manage their vessels using our platform for crewing and procurement support, and plug into that,” Bjornsen said.

Flexibility

“Cruise is very entrepreneurial,” continued Bjornsen. “We find the most beneficial way to support our customers both new and existing.”

Start ups and smaller brands can rely on the company’s air booking platform as one example.

“Small cruise lines have no leverage with the airlines,” said Bjornsen. “We support hotel operations, crewing and even payment solutions for crew. There are so many different areas, we can take them on so a brand can focus solely on the passenger experience, sales and marketing.

“New companies come in and think they can do it, but then they realize how complex it is. You may be taking delivery of a new ship when starting up a cruise line, and it’s all happening together with a tight timeframe and limited budget.”

Using the company’s services means a leaner shoreside operation.

“You still need a technical manager and you can’t outsource the strategic part of itinerary planning, but bookigs, vetting and setting up the itinerary is something we can do.” Bjornsen said. “We help with how you buy supplies, how you plan capex going forward and the efficiency of the operation. We can also compare in-house costs with outsourced costs. All cruise lines are different, so you can’t compare apples to apples.”

Another big focus has been on IT systems, assisting cruise companies migrate from fragmented legacy systems to a more modern software.

“You need custom systems,” Bjornsen said. “They are not off the shelf. It is complex to start a new cruise line as an in-house operation as you need to be running at a sophisticated level from day one.”

Excerpt from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine Winter 2023-2024

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