Seabourn Cruise Lines announced it has sold the Seabourn Odyssey to Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. The Seabourn Odyssey will continue, under a charter agreement, to operate as a Seabourn vessel until August 22, 2024.
With the loss of 450 passenger berths from this sale, but the recent addition of the Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit (each at 264 passengers), there will be a slight net increase in overall capacity if one is looking for optimism…but, alas, a significant loss of classic cruise capacity…and an underscoring of there being no plans for growth.
When Seabourn’s prior announcement that it has no plans to expand the fleet with new hardware, is considered along with the loss of Seabourn Odyssey, there is no question that there are more questions than answers about the future of Seabourn.
I can appreciate – and in the Seabourn past there was – a philosophy of “small and mighty,” but with Silversea, Explora Journeys, Regent, Ponant, Windstar, etc. all expanding…and soaking up more and more of the luxury market…the sustainability of Seabourn is going to require – at least in my opinion – a real boost in the pre-cruise and onboard experience as well as creative itineraries.
Seabourn is stating that the sale allows it to focus a bit more on the expedition side where, in reality, the revenue per guest can be significantly higher. But that has to be balanced against the higher costs associated with expeditions and, of course, the rapid expansion by so many operators into this market. Silversea, Quark, Aurora, Lindblad, Ponant, Atlas Ocean Voyages, and the list goes, on are significant competitors in the true expedition market. But there is also competition with more cruise ships heading to Antarctica and the Arctic for sail-by experiences…which is historically what a good number of Seabourn guests are satisfied with.
However, Seabourn announced that the first seven sailings of Seabourn Pursuit are only going to be classic cruises, it makes me wonder if that is really the strategy.
I am not sure what this sale is going to do to consumer confidence in Seabourn. On the one hand, it brings in needed cash (and/or debt reduction) and will alleviate some of the excess capacity Seabourn has seen post-Covid. On the other hand, it might signal the first step in making it a more attractive target for purchase by venture capitalists or another cruise line.
Regardless of the actual reasoning and planning, there can be no question that the move is going to help Seabourn financially in the short term. How much is the question.
The other big question is, “Why is Mitsui O.S.K. Lines purchasing the Seabourn Odyssey?”. It is a large Japanese containership line.
It reminds me of the Seabourn Odyssey being the vision of Seabourn’s president Debbie Natansohn, who tragically passed away before her baby, the Seabourn Odyssey, was born. Alas, losing Debbie was tough. Losing her “child” is not has hard, but reminds me of Debbie and her tough warmth, great sense of humor…and always having my back. You know, “This is Seabourn!”