It was announced today that Josh Leibowitz – who, admittedly, was truly my nemesis – is out as Seabourn’s president; a notably brief tenure of less than three years. The announcement states that “he is leaving the brand to pursue new opportunities”, which usually means he was involuntarily terminated. This is of note, since previously he was Carnival Corp.’s chief strategy officer for seven years and there is no mention of his relationship with Carnival continuing.
Personally, I never thought Leibowitz even liked his job. He never moved to Seattle and has even asserted that he actually had very little physical contact with Seabourn’s head office; rather preferring his being located in Miami, Florida. He spent little time on the ships or with the travel agent industry. Not exactly a strong commitment…even with telecommuting.
During the Leibowitz era I saw a number of troubling trends, with most focused on dubious changes to customer service, loss – better “exodus” – of numerous “old school” Seabourn executives and staff, etc. As an example, some former longtime Seabourn staff explained they were no longer permitted to be “personally nice” but rather were, in a very corporate manner, told what do deliver as corporate defined as “nice”.
I made my concerns, even protests while fighting for my clients, very well known. It seems clear, this resulted in the conflicts and litigation between Seabourn/Holland America and myself, personally, and Goldring Travel. (Why fix things when attempting to decapitate a very credible critic is an easier – possibly egotistical – option?)
In other words, I see the change…any change…as being a positive!
The new president is Natalya Leahy. She was, in 2019, promoted to Chief Operations Officer of Holland America Group, with operational oversight of Seabourn, as well as Princess, Holland America, P&O Australia, and land operations. Prior to that she was SVP and CFO for Holland America and Seabourn. Interestingly, I don’t believe I ever heard of her, no less met, her before today. What I do find encouraging is Ms. Leahy’s statement at the end of her letter to travel agents, “I promise to engage deeply and listen well to the needs of our guests, travel partners, and teammates.”
Also interesting, but not surprising, Ms. Leahy’s role will be subservient, with her reporting to, Holland America’s president, Guy Antorcha. I find this interesting because Carnival Corp. recently began unwinding the Princess-Holland America-Seabourn combination and now, it seems to me, is returning to how things were when Seabourn was first moved into Holland America’s offices in Seattle, Washington. Not perfect, but certainly better.
NOTE: As you know there have been rumors about Seabourn being for sale. I was previously advised by the Saudi Tourism Authority that the Saudis had purchased Seabourn, but I qualified that by stating I would like to have it further confirmed by others. While Seabourn’s attorneys denied the sale, Seabourn refused to directly deny the sale and the Saudis have never stated they misstated anything. However, this news probably means that Seabourn was not sold to the Saudis…but, for those who are extremely skeptical or suspicious, it could further the rumors (which I do not subscribe to) that Holland America is also for sale.
Over the past few years I, along with many others, have seen Seabourn – the cruise line that we lived, breathed, and bled for – change…and not for the better. It has been disheartening to received calls and emails – including just this morning – from people concerned about their booked or contemplated Seabourn cruises because of all of the recent consistently negative comments from those recently and currently sailing. Especially in the luxury market, emotions matter; including the emotions of my friends that are still working on the Seabourn ships and in the (virtual?) offices. I am hoping this change brings positive emotions and actual changes.
While Seabourn may not be what it was, it does have the potential to return to its glory. I am hoping that this change signals that was Liebowitz put in place is being unwound and that the process is underway. (And, remember, imperfections and all, Seabourn is still a solid cruise product that remains in the upper echelons of the cruise market.)