Roberto Martinoli, president and CEO
Founded in 1994 and now
part of the Royal Caribbean Group, Silversea Cruises is an ultra-luxury cruise line
with itineraries covering all seven continents and more than 900 destinations.
Roberto Martinoli has
been president and CEO of Silversea Cruises since 2016. Earlier in his career
he was president and COO of Norwegian Cruise Line and held executive positions
at Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Crociere.
COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated adoption of e-commerce, yet most cruises are
still sold by traditional travel agents. Do you expect this to change, and how
can cruise lines update their digital platforms to help consumers feel more comfortable
Cruising and particularly the segment we are in is a little
bit different than another type of vacation. The complexity for the proposition
is such that it’s not so easy to make it something without the support of a
travel advisor that would help you find the right product. With that said there
are indeed people that want to book direct, and you need to make sure you
satisfy the needs of these people. What we are doing - and this is more in
terms of giving full transparency to people and because we have so many
different products - we are working to make sure that we implement shortly an e-commerce
platform so that people can access all of the information.
Before the end of the year, we’ll go out with a pricing
structure that will be visible to passengers. The biggest component is a back-end
price configurator. We have about 560 itineraries on sale at any given moment
and if you add to that the combination of flights … it’s very diverse. You will
see what you need to see to understand what options you have, what costs you
have to pay. So it’s going to be extremely transparent for you. At the very
beginning you won’t be able to transact in that, but you will see pricing and
get the quote. And then the next step next year you’ll be able also, if you so
wish, to do the transaction. It will also be a very powerful tool for travel
agents to be able to access that without having to call our call centers.
back on the last year, is there anything you wish Silversea had done
course, the pandemic was something we did not expect. We have been going
through other health crises in the past … but they lasted very short. The effect
of this has been 18 times bigger than the last financial crisis. What I would
say is that first of all, would I have done things differently, I’m not sure.
We have been working constantly in trying to reforecast and foresee what is
going to happen, and we have been wrong all the time. But this is an inevitable
What I think we learned is we’ve been extremely agile and flexible,
and we’ve been able to kind of enter into emergency mode right away. We’ve been
able to operate without anybody in the office, which is an enormous task. So
I’m really very proud of what the industry has done in that respect. We
are probably profiting off our experience with the hurricane emergency plans in
Florida, and so we were prepared in that way, it’s in our DNA.
Caribbean Group had held a two-thirds share of Silversea Cruises since 2018,
and last July, in the midst of the pandemic, it acquired the remaining shares
to become the full owner of the line. How did that impact your ability to get
through this crisis?
been great support, undoubtedly, in every respect but especially in two areas.
First financially, of course, to be part of a very large corporation is
absolutely a game-changer, and their financial strength has been paramount for
us to survive this very difficult situation.
And also operationally. They’ve
been able to access expertise that if we were on our own we would never be able
to access. The sail panel, the corporate structure, all of the departments we
had available - they made a huge difference to us and they’ve been extremely
supportive in helping us to navigate these unchartered waters.
April, Silversea announced it will require vaccinations for all crew and guests
beginning with sailings in June. How did you come to that decision?
essence that decision was made first of all by our guests. In asking our guests
what do you expect when we come back, the vast majority of our guests said for
us to come back we need to have everyone vaccinated on board. The same applies to
the crew. So it’s not our policy, it’s our guests’ requirement. So that was an
easy decision. It is clearly obvious that having vaccinated people is of a
great help in simplifying procedures and dramatically reducing the risk you
have to deal with infections onboard.
sails out of ports in Florida and that state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has said
businesses, including cruise lines, cannot require proof of vaccination. What
will that mean for you?
still have some time before we go to Florida. And the thing is, this
requirement is not meant to stay there forever, so it can very well be that if the
travelers and the infection situation changes, we might well reverse it. So I
think we all need to be very careful about not thinking that what we do today is
what we will be doing tomorrow, one way or another. It might be stricter, it
might be more loosened. This is for our short term, and I would expect that
many, many things will change, hopefully for the better.
We are seeing numbers
improving dramatically in many parts of the world, unfortunately not all over
the world, but in many parts of the world that are the most important for the cruise
business, things are looking much better. So let’s not think of that as a permanent
measure; it’s a temporary measure and there will very well be changes. And it
can come any time.
took delivery of two new ships last year and will have another, the line’s tenth,
launching this fall with two more in development. How are
you incorporating technology into new ships?
We are already using technology quite extensively. All of our
customers’ habits and needs and desires are recorded to make sure that we
satisfy their needs without having to ask. So we made a big investment in our CRM
system to make sure that our crew are getting the information out of that. In
today’s world we are all desperately needing data, and we need to be disciplined
in making sure that whatever decisions we make are supported by data. In order
to do that you need to collect the right information, you need to be able to access
the right information and you need to have that as the support in making every
strategic decision – marketing, sales, product innovations and everything.
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And we are using technology to enhance the personalization of
service. It is hugely present in the back end, but it is really not invasive. But
once you have been on board once, the second time we already know what your
favorite wine is, so as soon as you step on the ship that will be offered to
you. You’ll find your Diet Coke in your refrigerator, your favorite bathroom amenities,
your favorite pillow choice. We believe that luxury is about anticipating your
future desires and of course it’s much easier to do that with a strong data structure
that shows the preferences you had in the past.
The pandemic has caused some companies to allow their employees
to work from anywhere, and I talked with Princess Cruises about how they are
encouraging people to work and live on their ships. What are your thoughts on
If you think of the product that we have, the world cruise is
a very good example, we have people staying four months on board. Our most
loyal clients have spent on board way more than 2,000 days. Teleworking was
already in the DNA of our passengers. We have already gone to offering
unlimited internet access with more than decent speed to our guests because it
was a necessity. Our best clients are doing the world cruise for four months
and then they spend another two months or a month here or there, so they do
live and work from the ship.
Of course we have some challenges because of the variety
of places we visit in the world, and the satellite service is not equal
everywhere, so there are places we had to adapt and find alternative solutions.
But if you come to a Silversea ship you would be able to be connected all the
time with an included basic service that would allow you to do anything, not stream
videos, but do all the rest. And for certain suites and for an additional
charge you can access a more efficient service, and it is definitely something
that is continuously evolving.
is your strategy to attract new customers to
Silversea? Is it from other luxury lines or more so people who are new to
Of course we don’t mind getting people from other cruise
lines, they are most welcome to come with us and we have quite a few of those,
but we also have quite many people that are new to cruising. One of the ways we
get more of the new to cruising is through expeditions as an example because our
expeditions are the bucket list destinations where the choice is not about
cruising but it’s about going to Galapagos or going to the Kimberley Islands or
going to Antarctica. And the people that are doing that have the opportunity to
understand what cruising is about.
We visit many very remote and particular
destinations and these indeed attract many, many people that wouldn’t be
thinking of cruising otherwise. And because of the great product delivery we
provide, once they are coming, we hook them in and they come back.
seen disruptions in the last decade in other sectors of travel – for example Airbnb
in accommodations, Uber in ground transportation. What might disruption in
cruise look like?
not have such concern. It is a very solid proposition that works extremely
well. With the level of loyalty as well, I see very hard to invent something
different. We are always going through the evolution of what we offer to our
guests, Our net promoter scores are so high I think it would be very hard to
beat them. We are also a very capital-intensive business with purpose-built
ships. Most of the disruptions have been in the shared economy.
are you addressing issues around sustainability, both in terms of overtourism
in destinations and in operational areas such as fuel and energy consumption?
are lucky enough to be small. So we are really the best option for a
destination because not only are we small, but we also are carrying passengers that
are a very affluent people and they are very well behaved and they spend a lot
of money when they go to a destination. It makes us probably the most wanted
client for a destination because we do not have all of the disadvantages of the
Also we are used to going to very sensitive areas - Antarctica, the Arctic,
Papua New Guinea - we want to show our guests the real world. We are very
respectful of what the local communities want to do and are willing to show to
our clients. We have great relationships with our destinations, and they want us
to come back again and again. I’m not saying we are better than anyone else,
but by definition because we are small and because of the type of people we
carry we definitely have a big advantage.
terms of sustainability related to environment we’ve been doing all of the
right things like everybody else. And we’ve been investing billions of dollars
in new technology to make sure that we do what we need to do. I can say that
there are certain standards for the discharge water from cruise ships that exceed
standards for drinking water for some destinations. I don’t think there is any
doubt that we have right now the best technology that is available.
said, stay tuned because we are building a new class of ships in Germany - the
first ship coming out in ‘23 where there will be groundbreaking news about
sustainability for the systems on board ... like dynamic positioning so you don’t
have to drop anchor to upset the sea bed, the waste water treatment is
unbelievable, doesn’t produce anything, what goes out is impeccable. I can’t
wait to be able to tell you more about it, and it will come soon.
What initiatives is Silversea putting in place to address the imbalance
in diversity in leadership and mid-management roles?
This is one of the things where corporate is helping us. Royal Caribbean
has a huge diversity and inclusion program. We do very extensive training. With
that said Silversea was already quite advanced. Of course think of the cruise
business and shipping business – it used to be a male-only business, but things
have changed a lot. There is a still a prevalence of men ... I would like to see
more females in back of engine. ... We can do better, and we will do better for sure
and it is one of the big goals that we have. And we are very committed to it.
you have any advice for people thinking about working in the travel industry?
first thing I would say is that if you see how we went through this very tough
crisis, it’s a very good example of resilience, agility and ability to survive
any event. The world is coming back. The 62 million jobs lost will definitely
come back. Also it is very rewarding to work in a business where you give
people memorable experiences. That’s what keeps us motivated. To be able to be
in touch with people from different parts of the world, it opens your mind and
gives you the ability to learn things that would be difficult to learn in other
businesses. Travel gives you a wide open view of the world.
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