Voyages to Antiquity won a major, consumer voted, travel industry award last week. “Best Specialist Cruise Line” in the British Travel Awards 2016. Managing Director, Jos Dewing, reflects on such a major achievement for the company.
Less than two years ago, I embarked on the most rewarding adventure yet in my career, leading the highly regarded and completely unique small-ship cruise company, Voyages to Antiquity.
One thing I quickly realised after taking up the new post, was how difficult it was to market the company and product, as it was so very different to other cruise lines. The company was truly full of life, the guests were so passionate about the product, the crew so committed to delivering something special and the staff on land equally focused and aware that we have something very special here. For a company that has such a strong focus on ancient civilisations and the true understanding of history in our world today, there was so much energy and forward thinking too. How do you get this across simply in words, websites and pictures.
One of the great things about cruise travel in general is that there is something for everyone. Large floating resorts for those seeking entertainment and glamour, ultra-luxury for those seeking high-end indulgence and true expedition for the seeker of all things experiential in travel. There are huge ships, large ships, small ships and tiny yachts. They all work hard to deliver the experience that we fondly refer to in the travel industry as cruise and sea travel.
Voyages to Antiquity was formed to do something different and quickly carved out an authentic niche in the busy marketplace. To combine a discerning small-ship cruise product, with expert led and relevant itineraries in an informal, welcoming and open environment. The clichéd ‘home from home’ tagline really has found a home on this ship as there is no better definition.
The founder of Voyages to Antiquity wanted a ship that was uncrowded, relaxed and comfortable. Doing away with announcements, formal evenings and set dining restrictions. Queues were not conducive to enjoyment and relaxing, so the facilities, staffing levels and meticulous planning would ensure they were avoided. And to create a true sense of space, reducing the capacity of a ship designed to carry over 500 passengers to 350 was the only way forward.
Aegean Odyssey was effectively rebuilt and a new concept in travel was created. A ‘new concept’ with an authentic nod to the ‘Golden Age’ of sea travel. A beloved and yearned for zeitgeist that is so beautifully adopted by the Voyages to Antiquity product, yet with a focus on learning and the world as it is today too.
Combining dedicated hotel stays on cruises was also important. To stay in the heart of the destination, giving guests the very best opportunity to explore and offering a valuable and varied insight into the heart and culture of our chosen locations. And to enhance this even further we created the overland experience, taking guests off the ship mid-cruise to take advantage of a land adventure simply not achievable from the port or ship. Add to this the best guides, the best lecturers and the best destination partners.
On top of this though, we are small, we are flexible and we are extremely agile as a cruise company. We are able to support very specific requirements from our guests, develop exclusive land arrangements, welcome suggestions and ideas and always put our guests as the absolute priority throughout their stay with us. We are quick to respond to feedback and we encourage and embrace it too, our focus as a company has always been to retain guests rather than a continual focus on acquiring new ones, perhaps why our returning guest numbers are so high. And our all important guest satisfaction survey results are always extremely high for the industry, a typical end of season average being in the high ninety percent’s of those assuring us they will be back. And they always are.
So, to summarise, it is a truly special moment for us as a company that is only 7 years old, to receive the accolade and honour of “Best Specialist Cruise Line” in the most prestigious awards in this industry. This is a consumer voted award and there are some very large companies that are nominated that have many thousands more customers than we do and therefore the opportunity of many thousands more votes. Yet our guests have come out and voted for us and we have won.
So thank you to all that voted, we couldn’t have done it without you.