Speaking at the “shakedown cruise” for Silver Muse, the line’s ninth ship, which sailed with invited passengers for the first time out of Genoa on Monday, Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio said it had always been the dream of his late father to have 12 ships and that dream would now become a reality.
Lefebvre told an audience of travel partners from around the globe: “If you help me fill the ship, I will build three more of these."
And speaking to TTG onboard the ship, UK commercial director Lisa McAuley, added: “When Manfredi says something in an open arena, you know he means it. It’s a case of ‘watch this space’ for now, but I think we can expect to see a mix of classic and expedition new Silversea ships – especially as expedition continues to grow in popularity.”
Meanwhile, chief executive Roberto Martinoli announced the new ships could be delivered as soon as 2020, 2021 and 2023.
The line is also undergoing what it now calls the "Museation" of its other ships to bring them to the same level as Silver Muse.
"We will be announcing soon which ship will be next to have a major refurbishment," said Lefebvre. "We already have a budget set for all the changes to the current fleet and we will increase that if we need to."
Almost 100 UK travel industry guests joined the 596-passenger ship’s first two sailings this week.
“The majority of guests we have invited to experience Silver Muse have never been on a Silversea cruise,” said McAuley. “Since I started with the company, I have been set on trying to expose the brand to a wider trade audience.
“I think in the past people perhaps thought we were a little aloof, but we really want to made a bigger noise,” she said. “We were first in the ultra-luxury market really, and then the competition became more active. But we have more ultra-luxury ships than any other brand and we need more people to know that.”
Lefebvre said Silversea had been “a quiet voice” in the past, but that things would be changing on that front, while newly arrived UK and Ireland head of marketing Erin Johnson told TTG there would be “major changes in the coming months”.
McAuley said the line’s new UK-specific training "academy" has already received 1,000 registrations and would be a key tool in growing awareness among agents, with eventual modules per ship.
“We want more people to really understand the product, especially expedition, as there is huge potential there for agents who get behind selling it as a concept,” she said.
To that end, Silversea is converting its Silver Cloud ship – the line’s first ever vessel – to ice-class. The ship will undergo a “multi-million dollar” refurbishment between August and October, when there will be a full interior renovation, as well as a strengthening of the hull to enable polar sailings.
To ready the trade for the relaunch of Silver Cloud on November 15, four roadshow events will kick off from May to replicate the experience and rev up key travel sellers.
“Silver Cloud is well known and also loved by customers, so we just need to enhance that knowledge among key partners,” said McAuley, adding it would most likely be consumer daytime events, matched with trade evenings.
She said the trade now accounted for 80% of all Silversea’s business from the UK and that sales for the line had “outperformed” the most recently announced Clia figures of luxury cruise of almost 9%.
“The UK is the number two source market for Silversea globally and I intend to keep it that way if possible,” said McAuley. “With Erin’s appointment and the really strong sales team we now have in place, I think we are in a very good position; and we have small, luxury ships that can go to places people really want.”
She added the UK’s luxury travellers seemed resilient to any doubts over travel bought on by Brexit or the weak pound to dollar exchange rates.
“I wouldn’t say affluent consumers are immune, but we certainly haven’t felt any slowdown or impact as a result of those factors,” she said.
Silver Muse will be christened on April 19 in Monaco with a “low key” event - Lefebvre’s teenage daughter is to be godmother - before starting a season in the Mediterranean; the ship will touch 130 ports in 34 countries in 2017.
On September 11, the ship - which has eight restaurants and a Zagara spa - will be in Southampton, when Silversea plans a large trade and consumer event onboard and overnight stays.
Soon after, Silver Muse will head off on the first Transatlantic sailing, spending Autumn on the east coast of US and Canada before heading down to the Caribbean for the winter and then onto South America.
“Silver Muse was such a success from the get go – I’m really pleased with how well the UK has sold the ship,” said McAuley. “And I absolutely believe there is room to grow further.”
“While others may have been saying there is too much capacity in the luxury space, we’ve had the excitement of a new ship to drive business,” she said. “And even if we do feel certain places are looking too busy, our ships are small enough to pick new places to avoid the crowds. Also, perhaps there had been feedback that we needed to update our hardware - we have been investing $170 million in doing that. And now this new arrival really puts us firmly on the map. Silver Muse is a reflection of where we are now and the direction Silversea is heading in.”
The line will also undergo a major brand overhaul in the coming months.
Chief marketing officer Barbara Muckermann said: "You could expect to see all the new brand work from the summer onwards. We have some ideas about where we need to be and that hypothesis will be tested with customers this month. We will move forward from there, probably looking at launching it first in the US, our biggest market, and then localised events in the UK and other areas."
She added that the company would stay committed to babyboomers, rather than chasing millennials. "They may be the sexy market at the moment, but they don’t have the budget for a cruise like ours. But we will have to grow the market in the future of course if we want to fulfill the growth expected. But for now, we are trying to cater to perfection for their [babyboomer] desires."