Update on January 27, 2021: Orlando Ashford has been named executive chairman of Azamara
Cruise line Azamara has got off to a flying start since Royal Caribbean Group agreed to sell the three-strong fleet to private equity firm Sycamore Partners.
The new owners have already announced they are buying a fourth ship, the former Pacific Princess. But plans to acquire any more sisters from the original Renaissance Cruises R-class would depend on Oceania Cruises giving up one or more of its four small ships – Insignia, Nautica, Regatta or Sirena.
It so happens that Oceania has two new Allura-class ships on order, the first due to begin service next year. These two additions, each carrying around 1,200 guests, are much closer to the size of the line’s existing two bigger ships, Marina and Riviera.
Oceania declined to comment on speculation that it might be willing to trade any of the smaller members of the fleet. However, the future of one of them, Insignia, certainly seems in no doubt as plans have already been announced for a 180-day world cruise in 2023.
The other interesting angle about the ‘new’ Azamara is what role, if any, Orlando Ashford might play. The former president of Holland America Line joined Sycamore Partners as a ‘strategic advisor’ in September last year.
Although Mr Ashford has a wide range of experience across many industries, including Coca-Cola, and sits on various boards, he spent six years at Holland America providing, as he states on LinkedIn, ‘unmatched guest experiences on board the fleet of 15 premium cruise ships’. Azamara declined to comment.
Sycamore Partners’ strategy of sticking to R-class ships for its fleet has divided cruisers between those who love the classic vessels and others who believe they are showing their age and need to be replaced with newer stock.
Whatever happens in the future, it’s good to see Azamara has a new lease of life while other small lines, such as CMV, have fallen to the curse of Covid.