There’s a new player on the cruise field, and its name is Selectum Blu Cruises. Snapping up the ex-Saga Sapphire from Saga Cruises, Selectum Blu Cruises will be focusing its passenger sourcing on Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe.
“It’s a huge market, more than 300 million people,” the CEO at Selectum Blu Cruises, Necdet Ucarlar, told Cruise Industry News.
Despite being new to operating its own cruises, Selectum Blu Cruises is actually part of Turkish tour operator giant Anex Tour, which has been selling holidays since 1996 – including cruises.
“We are the biggest tour operator in Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe. The cruises are our new product for our source market especially, for Russia and Ukraine. Last year, we tested with MSC and Costa in our networks. We tried it because we have to be working with our summer programs, for example. We can see other cruise lines’ tickets selling out in days, in some days. They are waiting for the new products,” Ucarlar said.
The cruise line plans to start sailing from May 2021 from Antalya for Eastern Mediterranean itineraries.
From September 2021, it will be sailing from Marmaris, Turkey.
“For September, for three months, it will start from Marmaris just for Turkey and Greek islands. But the first eight itineraries will be Eastern Med, and the rest of the summer, we will visit the Greek islands. So, we have two different homeports – Antalya and Marmaris,” Ucarlar said.
The Saga Sapphire, after being acquired in 2019, was soon renamed the Blue Sapphire. The 1981-built ship can accommodate 750 passengers. Selectum Blu Cruises hasn’t even launched a website yet but has confidence that the cruises will sell.
“We have a huge sales network. I mean, huge, huge sales network. We are so confident about our ship because all we need is 750 or 800 passengers a week. So, it is very a small part of our general operations,” said Kunter Kurtogullari, Director of Cruise Operations at Anex Tour.
Ultimately, the cruise line plans to expand to three ships.
“But the other two ships will be bigger than (Blue Sapphire)… (T)hese big cruise ships will be the sailing in Asia and the Caribbean,” said Ucarlar. “For example, from Vietnam, or Sanya. And to the Dominican Republic for the Caribbean.”
“We (already) have operations there,” Kurtogullari added.
The two men said that several languages will be used onboard the Selectum Blu cruises.
“Russian is one of the languages on the ship, but, of course, (service will also be) in English and partially in Ukrainian and Kazakh languages. We also have 15 or 20 percent of Turkish passengers, so we are planning to arrange some Turkish language, especially for the summer tours,” Ucarlar said.
(Source : Cruise Industry News, 24 February 2021)
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