Mitsui Ocean Cruises: Building a Luxury Operation in Japan

Seabourn Odyssey

After acquiring the Seabourn Odyssey, Mitsui Ocean Cruises is planning to launch a new luxury operation in Japan.

According to Anthony Kaufman, the company’s head of commercial strategies, the newly launched brand will build on the country’s culture to create a unique product.

Mitsui Ocean Cruises is owned by Mitsui OSK Line, which is one of the largest shipping companies in the world.

The publicly traded company operates a fleet of 100 cargo ships, in addition to one cruise vessel, the Nippon Maru.

“When I went on Nippon Maru for the first time, it was one of the most amazing experiences that I ever had. To me, Japan is like a luxury destination. The quality of goods and services that you get there is really second to none,” he said.

With the former Seabourn Odyssey joining its fleet in December as the Mitsui Ocean Fuji, Mitsui plans to launch a new concept that incorporates these and other aspects of Japanese culture, he added.

“The product is based on the culture, tradition and history of Japan in a way that no other cruise line is able to do because it is in the DNA of our company and the people that have been doing it for 30 years onboard the Nippon Maru,” Kaufman detailed.

Mitsui is currently working with crew from two different countries, he explained. In addition to Japanese, the company is hiring Filipino crew members.

“They are very closely aligned in their cultures. With their language skills, many of the Filipinos also speak Japanese,” Kaufman said.

“With this mix, we provide a very clear and different-styled service to the passengers. In Japan, there’s something called Omotenashi service, which means service from the heart,” he continued.

It’s in the country’s DNA, Kaufman added, explaining that employees do not work purely to make money but “because it’s their job, they love it, and they want to provide the best possible service to you.”

Luxury is a “state of mind,” he said, noting that ships are “nicely decorated chunks of steel” before they get passengers and crew onboard.

“That’s what drives the product and the experience of the product,” he continued, adding that one of the brand pillars for Mitsui Ocean Cruises is the value of time and space.

“In the Japanese world and culture, time and space are at a premium, in terms of how you experience the world and your surroundings,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman has no worries about adding supply to the Japanese cruise market.

“I had experience in expanding the Japanese market while I was with Princess Cruises and we found out that when a ship is added to the market, there is a way to find demand there. Adding supply creates the demand in many ways,” Kaufman said.

Mitsui Ocean Cruises’ product will eventually be available to international passengers as well, he said.

“For now, the ship is completely Japanese and will be for the first six months or so,” Kaufman said.

“We are really excited to get that mix of international passengers and Japanese onboard. We found that it works very well.”

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