Ambassador encourages his team to be themselves so that they can help to leave lasting memories for guests

When guests stepped onboard Ambassador Cruise Line’s first ship Ambience for its maiden voyage from London Tilbury, UK, to Hamburg, Germany, in April 2022, they were warmly welcomed by crew members.

Throughout the cruise, the guests and crew created new friendships and lasting memories with one another – and Ambassador has been replicating that experience on all voyages since.

“We are seeing a lot of guests who are new to cruising and who are attracted by our smaller, classic ships and traditional values,” says Christian Verhounig, CEO of Ambassador Cruise Line. “It is important for crew members to represent the values ​​of a cruise line and I believe that our kind, friendly and attentive crew is doing just that. It’s amazing to see the friendships that have been created and the family spirit that runs through the crew.”

Verhounig himself began his cruise career 25 years ago, starting as a crew member onboard German operator’s Astor. He then worked his way up the ranks to leadership positions at various companies, most recently serving as CEO and chairman of Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) before it ceased operations in 2020. Reflecting on his experiences, he says that the crew are the most important factor when it comes to creating a memorable cruise experience. “The effort and enthusiasm of the crew is what sticks with guests,” he explains. “This experience is what I’m eager to offer at Ambassador. Being part of a crew and forming connections with guests was something I relished, and it has provided me with greater insight into what makes a successful cruise. It also helped me to understand the challenges the teams on the ship face on a daily basis.

“My time as a crew member plays a huge part in my role now as CEO. For example, when recruiting new crew members, it’s important for us that they fit with our traditional values ​​and ethos – something I always felt resonated most among the guests from my own experience.”

As Ambassador prepares to welcome its second ship Ambition to its fleet in March 2023, the cruise line is focusing on fulfilling its brand values. “We take pride in being able to build communities at sea and a fantastic crew will always be at the heart of that,” says Verhounig. “We want all our onboard team to have the freedom to be themselves and help create lasting memories for our guests. We have huge growth potential and as we look to expand, we want to retain as many of our best crew members as possible to stay with us on the journey so they can help shape our proposition and be our brand ambassadors. We’ll offer plenty of career progression opportunities for our team.”

Ambassador has already achieved its aim of filling the gap in the market for no-fly cruises from the UK tailored guests over 50, which was left by CMV. However, the brand has taken a different approach to creating its programming, especially with destination experiences.

Itineraries are designed to help guests immerse themselves in the ‘true’ culture of a place, while supporting local business owners as part of Ambassador’s commitment to a sustainable cruise industry. Ambassador is also working hard to find destination experiences that will meet the preferences and expectations of its guests. “We are tailoring experiences to suit our guest demographic,” says Verhounig.

Ambassador also offers a varied program of entertainment. From musical theater productions to craft sessions, the brand aims to provide something for everyone. In 2022, the line has invited younger guests to join two multi-generational cruises this year. This program has been designed for children, parents and grandparents to engage together. “Everyone has missed family interaction over the past couple of years so it’s important that we bring this back,” says Verhounig. “I think this is being received extremely well.”

Ambassador plans to offer the same guest experience onboard its second ship Ambition, which sailed as Costa neoRiviera for Costa Cruises and AIDAmira for AIDA Cruises. The ship was delivered to Ambassador on 15 March 2022 and is currently undergoing rebranding and renovation work to improve the engines, add a new wastewater treatment system and more. Ambition, which is slightly smaller than ambience and carries up to 1,200 guests, is set to debut in March 2023. It will offer a palladium theatre, casino, craft studios, six bars and restaurants, as well as two swimming pools, a wellness centre and a range of shops.

“Ambition is a vision of beauty and is progressing well,” says Verhounig. “Like its sister ship, Ambition will offer no-fly sailings predominantly targeting the 50-plus market with a premium-value, authentic cruise experience. What is most exciting about Ambition is the new range of regional departure ports including Bristol, Newcastle, Liverpool and Falmouth in the UK, Dundee in Scotland and Belfast in Ireland.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may have changed since.

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