Cruising is no longer associated with grey hair and crowded lines to lukewarm buffets. Instead SeaDream Yacht Club is disrupting the industry with its intimate fleet of luxurious yachts sailing to idyllic tourist-free parts of the world.
The dreamy experience is defined as ‘yachting, not cruising’ where only 112 guests can sail on one vessel, with many itineraries booking out a year in advance.
"As a vacation, you don’t have to go on big ships – there are alternatives," SeaDream Yacht Club Vice President Jannicke D. Rognstad tells The CEO Magazine. "We usually go to smaller places without the crowds."
From the spectacular islands of the West Indies to the hidden pearls of the Mediterranean Sea, the intimate size of the mega-yachts allows travellers to experience often-untouched towns in quaint ports, making for one-of-a-kind holiday.
"Being a small ship, we’re welcomed into the smaller towns," Jannicke says. "All the small ports think it’s amazing because they don’t have any other ships that visit them, so it’s quite special.
"Even in places in Italy and France, we visit towns that are not well known, which is just beautiful."
By accessing smaller ports, the family-owned company supports sustainable tourism by not contributing to influxes of holiday makers at particular destinations.
Green tourism is something held closely to the heart of SeaDream Yacht Club. From sailing at low speed, using biodiesel and making the most of every meal ingredient, the business keeps the preservation of the environment at the fore.
"Just the way you get your food has a lot to do with sustainability, maybe even more so than petrol," Jannicke says.
"If you look at what’s polluting the world today, food is a big part of it, so that’s why we have what we cater on board. We don’t have big buffets. We have a sustainability director working with all the companies to make sure everything we do is sustainable."
"Sustainability is a question for the industry – it’s much more than being on a ship or not."
VIP SeaDream experience
The magic of yachting is not lost on the crew. With an almost one-to-one ratio of guest-to-staff on board, special moments are created when guests’ names are remembered, their dietary requirements aren’t forgotten, allergies are common knowledge, and their dreams are brought to life.
Whether you want to sleep on deck under the stars, have apple pie for breakfast or sausage and potatoes for dinner, if it’s within the crew’s resources, it’s possible.
"’No’ is the word our crew doesn’t know," Jannicke explains. "They always try to please you and always walk the extra mile for our guests."
Local market walks with chefs, joining the club director for a hike, bike riding with the captain or foraging for truffles in Italy with local experts are just some of the activities on offer to SeaDream Yacht Club guests.
"People go jetskiing or stand-up paddleboarding and then there are those who don’t go anywhere and stay on board all day – there are lots of options you can take or leave," SeaDream Sales Director Australia and New Zealand Julie Denovan says. "Every day you’re free to take advantage of what you want, whether it’s on shore or on board."
With such flexibility and freedom, it’s little surprise the low season occupancy rate hovers around 80% while the European summer season is fully booked.
For ultimate privacy and utter luxury, people charter entire yachts for family holidays, birthdays and weddings – making up for 30% of the business.
"Last year, we had a family on board where we rebuilt the library on board to a big nursery and gaming room for the kids," Jannicke says. "We’ve had families take the artwork down and put family photos up. If you’re chartering, there are no limits.
"You can really customise the ships."
It’s the notion of personalisation that creates the luxurious experience. Having the most expensive objects was once the definition of luxury, but now more than two thirds of luxury consumers is the US and EMEA believe luxury is about differentiating themselves from others through customisation, according to Skift.
"Luxury is very individual, so what’s luxury for me is not luxury for you," Jannicke agrees. "I think any product, any company who can see that will win the high-end game."
Offering unique destinations adds to the opulence of the mega-yachts. One of the most breathtaking experiences unlike anything else is sailing along the Garonne river into Bordeaux.
"It’s a unique thing to be able to do and dock right there in the middle of town rather than bus people around," Julie says. "That’s the joyful thing – having it all at your doorstep when you wake up in the morning."