Sailing ahead

Since 2016, Barbara Muckermann, president and CEO of Silversea Cruises and member of Royal Caribbean Group’s executive committee, has been at the forefront of Silversea’s brand evolution, helping to establish the company as a leading ultra-luxury and expedition cruise line. Here, she reflects on the company’s recent developments and what might lie ahead

The cruise industry has experienced a difficult time due to Covid-19. How do you envision the future of cruising?
Having successfully led the global restart of ultra-luxury cruising, with 11 ships now operational around the world, Silversea placed itself perfectly to cater for guests’ changing needs following the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, we saw that travellers booked longer voyages and closer to the date of departure, and we expect this approach to remain in favour.

Now more than ever, travellers have a renewed appreciation for getting out into the world and we have seen a growing interest in travel to remote destinations such as the Galapagos, the Arctic, Antarctica, and the remote Kimberley Coast in Australia. We expect this trend to continue, with a preference for extended voyages for even deeper immersion. The role of travel advisors was, and remains, more important than ever.

What is Silversea’s strategy to maximise on the global appetite for travel as we emerge from the pandemic?
With an unusually high proportion of new clients booking with us, Silversea is seeing a huge surge in interest from Asia-Pacific travellers booking cruises at present. We have seen a double-digit percentage increase in guests booking cruises in Asia in January 2023, to depart in 2023, versus corresponding periods pre-pandemic. In 2023, Silversea is offering almost 30 per cent more cruise days in Asia versus pre-pandemic levels, and approximately 40 per cent more for 2024. The global appetite for travel is remarkably strong and we are strengthening our product offering by introducing some of the most luxurious new ships at sea, innovative itineraries, including our newly announced World Cruise 2026, and a host of incentives for guests and travel advisors.

Recent years have seen the launch of Silversea’s S.A.L.T. culinary programme and Otium wellness programme. Can you share more about them?
The S.A.L.T. culinary programme connects travellers with each destination’s authentic culture through the lens of food and drink, with a dedicated culinary ecosystem on board Silver MoonSilver Dawn, and, soon-to-be Silver Nova.

On each of these ships, there’s a dedicated S.A.L.T. restaurant called S.A.L.T. Kitchen, which offers regional cuisines from different parts of the world, with a menu that changes every single day. S.A.L.T. Bar serves regionally inspired cocktails, made with local ingredients, and regional wines. Guests can also visit the S.A.L.T. Lab, an interactive test kitchen, where they can get hands-on experience with local recipes and learn from the best regional food experts. S.A.L.T. shore excursions enable guests to experience the food culture first-hand, perhaps preparing the most authentic dishes with the best local chefs or learning about organic farming, done in the regional way.

Otium, by contrast, is our Roman-inspired wellness programme, which focuses on indulgence, pleasure, and the very best treatments available. It’s about champagne and chocolate in a beautiful Romanesque spa, and other delights. The wellness aspect extends throughout the ship to guests’ suites, with enrichments like the first balcony experience at sea, in-suite bathing experiences, and even sleeping experiences. Silversea always goes above and beyond to exceed our guests’ expectations; Otium is our latest enrichment programme to do exactly that.

Two super-sustainable ships will soon join Silversea’s fleet. Why is sustainability important to Silversea and to what extent will sustainability factor into customers’ decision-making regarding travel in the future?
We are one of the world’s largest cruise companies. For us, respect for the oceans isn’t a choice – it’s a way of life. We are committed to delivering the best vacation experiences responsibly. Sustainability has become an expectation from travellers, and consumers broadly, and Silversea is steadfast in its commitment to leading the ultra-luxury cruise industry in this regard.

Revolutionary technology and pioneering design will mean that the 728-guest Silver Nova is set to become the most sustainable ultra-luxury ship ever launched. She will emit approximately 40 per cent less emissions than the previous class of ship.

Sustainability extends beyond our new ships, of course, and we will continue to enhance our current fleet with sustainability in mind. Beyond this, we are actively working with destinations around the world to champion sustainability initiatives. For example, we have launched The Silversea Fund for the Galapagos, which supports grassroots conservation efforts. More than just a strategy, it is a deep-rooted commitment to the planet and its inhabitants.

Do you expect any change in Silversea’s business direction going forward? If so, how and why?
Our strategy for the future is to evolve our current approach – with travel advisors being at the top in terms of importance for us. Asia is a strategic region for luxury products and we keep investing in the region, appealing mainly to Baby Boomers who value experience-led travel to bucket-list destinations, such as Antarctica, the Galapagos, and the South Pacific. We are expecting the Asia-Pacific market to overtake the UK as our second largest market in the world.

In terms of our product offering, we launched three new ships in just nine months during the pandemic, with an additional two ships on order, as part of an aggressive shipbuilding strategy aimed at introducing new vessels that are perfectly tailored to sail in specific regions or on specific itineraries, such as Silver Origin in the Galapagos and Silver Endeavour in Polar regions. We will continue with this approach to further strengthen the cruise experience for our guests’ enjoyment. Silver Nova will launch later this year as the perfect ship to sail on the broadest possible array of itineraries.

Editor’s note: Watch out for our conversation with Silversea Cruises managing director Asia Pacific, Adam Radwanski in TTG Asia July-August 2023 issue

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