Silversea Turns 20

Kristian Anderson: The SVP and general manager of Silversea’s North America operations hints at a notable expansion in the coming months.Pictured: Kristian Anderson: The SVP and general manager of Silversea’s North America operations hints at a notable expansion in the coming months.

Kristian Anderson, SVP and general manager of Silversea Cruises’ North America office shared the lowdown on the luxury cruise line’s 20th anniversary and hinted at some big news for things to come with Ruthanne Terrero, VP/editorial director of Luxury Travel Advisor.

Here’s a condensed version of their conversation.

RT: How is the expedition side of the business going? That’s a big focus, right?

KA: Well, yes, there’s no doubt about it. We have five ships in our fleet that are classic cruise-oriented and three ships in our fleet that are expedition-oriented. In some ways they serve the same guest. In other ways, they really reach into a different segment, people who are adventurous and thrill-seeking travelers.

RT: You’ve got the Silver Explorer in the Arctic region and the Silver Galapagos. What’s the latest with the Silver Discoverer, the newest vessel?

KA: It’s a beautiful ship for expedition cruising. Many of the places it’s going to are remote, unique and exceptional; it’s not a common experience. There’s the South Pacific; the Russian Far East; Alaska and Papua New Guinea. The Kimberley, for example, in Northwest Australia, is virgin cruise territory for everyone; we’re going there and our guests love it.

RT: What’s new for the classic fleet?

KA: Silversea, and I have to be delicate in how I say this because I don’t want to speak prematurely, is definitely in an expansion mode. The remainder of 2014, and 2015, without question, is going to be a year of pretty significant progression for Silversea. The best way to say it is, to paraphrase your question, “What’s next?” Really big things, really big things.

RT: How big? Are you getting a new ship?

KA: Anything is possible. I do know we’re looking to expand and in a big way. The excitement is palpable here in the Fort Lauderdale office and in all of our offices worldwide.

RT: What’s it like running the Fort Lauderdale office, because that’s a new thing for you, aside from everything else you were doing.

KA: It is, and it isn’t. To your point, the most interesting dynamic about running the Fort Lauderdale office since I assumed this role over nine months ago is that this is truly a strong family environment and there’s also the sense that we’re all moving in the same direction, in concert.

We take a real vested personal interest in the wellbeing of our company and our guests. We obsess over things that perhaps are considered abnormal on the outside. We obsess over linen napkins. We obsess over the quality of our bed linens. We obsess over if a guest is dissatisfied about even the most minute aspect. If we found out that a steak has been prepared at the wrong temperature; it was medium when it should have been medium-well done, we have people in staff meetings to discuss what actions we are going to take to rectify these types of things.

We take guest satisfaction very seriously, and I’m very proud to be associated with people who bring such passion and dedication to their job every day.

RT: The travel advisor business for you is almost a no-brainer in that you’ve been with them throughout your career, but how’s that going? How often are you out visiting them?

KA: I’ve been doing this since I was 18 years old. I worked my way through college. In a funny way, you can say that my entire career has been subsidized by the support of travel agents. At Silversea, we take our relationship with travel agents very seriously. For instance, we just recommitted to supporting our ASTA partnership for the next year.

I wish I were out there 24/7. I’m out and about in the trade probably, if you had to knock it down, about 50 percent of the month visiting with our partners to develop and support the business and to find new and creative ways of doing things, because sometimes business as usual gets only the same results as usual. Our travel partners are critical to that equation. There’s no doubt.

RT: Is it competitive out there?

KA: We work in a free market and there are plenty of options; we have some very worthy competitors. The best thing about competition is that it keeps you on your toes, it keeps you sharp. It encourages and fosters the thought, how can I do something better? I welcome that. I don’t shrink from competition. I welcome it. No problem.

RT: Silversea is 20 years old this year. We should talk about that.

KA: Can you believe it? It started with just two small ships and now here we are with eight and who knows where we’ll be in three or four years’ time.

RT: How have you been celebrating?

KA: We had some really wonderful events throughout the world. We’ve hosted several dinners and luncheons, primarily related to our important Venetian Society members, those guests who have been onboard the vessels several times.

You talk about family. It really becomes an extension of family when you’ve met guests who have been onboard 400 days, which is equal to 40 different voyages. They have a right to be celebrated and they have a right to be heard, and we take their comments extremely seriously.

RT: Are you done celebrating?

KA: Obviously, we were a bit reserved in our celebration in the sense that we’re really focusing on the 25th, which coincidentally, is the “Silver” Anniversary. We’re putting our big momentum into that.

RT: In what sense?

KA: Our expansion will be very evident in five years.

RT: So, what’s the latest on your personal life?

KA: Well, I’m a Gemini. I like long walks in the park.

RT: Anything else?

KA: Yes, I was very blessed and very fortunate to marry this year my partner, Julius, of the last eight years, and we reside here in Miami. I was joined by over 100 family and friends, including a number of colleagues whom I work with each day. We had about 25 people from Silversea who were able to be there and I was really touched by their support and their friendship. There would have been more but we had to keep the cruise line running.

RT: I heard you can dance.

KA: I surprised a lot of people because I’m not known to be a dancer but I was informed that I needed to do a little dance at the reception and it was the talk of the wedding. They’re still talking about it here at the office. And it’s not because I was overindulgent with the food or the wine. It was in the moment and I knew exactly what I was doing. Let’s put it that way.

RT: We’re a travel publication. Our readers will want to know the details of where you held the reception.

KA: We had everything at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa; they have this deck that overlooks a vineyard. It was gorgeous. That’s where the ceremony took place. Immediately after that, the reception took place in a wine cave that was just incredible. It was a black tie affair. My best man, who’s also a colleague and who’s worked with me for 15 years in two previous companies, stood up and made the comment: “I want you to look to your left and to your right. Take it all in because this is called ‘Casual Friday’ at Silversea.”

RT: How do you really describe luxury?

KA: Luxury is often described in a lot of different ways, but the fact is that luxury is not pretension; it’s privilege. We recognize that our guests have worked hard in their lives to enjoy these moments. That’s what we keep our focus on. We want to make sure we provide the best experience possible.

RT: That’s a big responsibility.

KA: It really is when you think about it. I often say, it’s not about the Rockefellers or the Vanderbilts, it’s about mom and pop enjoying their silver anniversary or what have you, and we want to make sure that their expectations are met and significantly exceeded.