2024-02-22T17:35:00Z By Keeley Rodgers
Promoted as Britain’s premium value no-fly cruise line, chief commercial officer, Phil Gardner gives us the lowdown on Ambassador’s rapid rise.
With more than 20 years in the travel industry under his belt, including at UK Cruises, Phil joined the Ambassador team in February 2022, less than a year after the cruise line launched commercially. And what a whirlwind it has been so far.
Promoted as Britain’s premium value no-fly cruise line, Ambassador’s first ship Ambience sailed her maiden cruise in April 2022. This May, its second ship Ambition launched - setting the cruise line up to take about 100,000 guests on trips around the world over the next year.
We caught up with chief commercial officer about the cruise line’s group appeal…
How would you sum up the Ambassador Cruise Line experience for groups?
One of the advantages for groups is that there’s an intimate feel on board because we have medium-sized ships. It can be difficult to coordinate groups when you’re on bigger vessels.
The difference with us is that there’s an easier layout to navigate. The other thing that goes hand in hand with this is the level of input we can have with our operations team. We all work very closely together which means the level of service groups get, from the beginning enquiry through to the experience on board is a lot more consistent because of the coordination between the teams.
You’ve also got the other selling points that apply across the board which includes having a no-fly cruise proposition that’s keenly priced with an end to end service delivery.
Which areas of the cruise experience do guests provide feedback on?
There are three areas that we hear about and read about the most. They are: the service (crew friendliness), the food and the entertainment.
These are the main features that guests say are our strongest and they’re all very important to us. It’s great for groups too because I know that they place a particular emphasis on the food, service and entertainment for their members.
Tell us about the group offer…
We’ve already got quite a firm offering for groups which includes a five per cent discount across the two fare types - our Saver Fares, and the Ambassador Fares (which include our top end drinks package).
There’s a free place for every 25 guests and for groups of any size (from 15), we include a special welcome with a cocktail party. We also have Dine Together which gives groups preferential dining experiences which we know is important.
The bottom line is that we can tailor any cruise for groups, we want to create an experience to remember. We know that groups operate in different ways; some group leaders will take the lead in all aspects of the trip whereas others want individual contracts for their members - we can cater for both of these and we’re very keen on remaining flexible to the groups’ needs.
What else is particularly attractive to groups?
When I first joined Ambassador one of the things I noticed was that, for a small cruise line, we have a very broad range of itineraries which is something I’ve wanted to maintain. The itineraries feature anything from a three-night European festive market cruise to a 120-night around the world cruise, and everything in between. The list is very long.
“The itineraries feature anything from a three-night European festive market cruise to a 120-night around the world cruise, and everything in between…”
Our festive events are also very popular with groups. We run several overnight stays on board throughout December in Tilbury which serve two purposes. They are great for giving a taster of what to expect from an Ambassador cruise, because guests enjoy the same food and entertainment as they would on a longer voyage. The other thing is that there are Christmas parties for groups which are very reasonably priced.
What advantages does Ambassador have for group travel organisers?
Because we’re a smaller business, it means that we all have a very good insight across all parts of it. What I’ve found since joining in February 2022 is that we can cut through a lot of red tape and make quick decisions. We’re keen not to apply a one size fits all groups policy.
There have been some changes in our team structure and we recognise the value of groups. They’re very important to us and it’s an area we want to continue to serve well. So we have been looking at making processes smoother - we don’t want there to be confusion about who to go to for what and I feel really positive about the future.
For more information about group holidays with with Ambassador Cruise Line, visit www.ambassadorcruiseline.com/groups/