Azamara Club Cruises has won “Best Small Ship Cruise Line for LGBT Travelers” two years in a row. I (Randall) have sailed with them, and have my own beliefs about why they’ve twice won the category. But we wanted to hear it from the other side. So we reached out to Azamara CEO, Larry Pimentel, for a bit of Q&A on what makes his job interesting, and why he believes Azamara is such a good fit for gay travelers. Be sure to scroll all the way down for some awesome photography!
The LGBT audience we serve is upmarket, sophisticated and eager to explore the world in the unique way we deliver it…. This is our market. — Larry Pimentel, CEO, Azamara Club Cruises
You have a long and distinguished career in the cruise industry, having held leadership positions at Cunard, Seabourn, and SeaDream Yacht Club. What first attracted you to work in this field?
My late first wife Lyn was employed by Royal Viking Line, and my first cruise experience (in my 20s) was so impressive, I really wanted to be a part of the sector. I love the industry and knew early on that it was where I needed to be. It truly is my passion.
You have been CEO of Azamara for 6 years now, after coming out of retirement in 2009 to helm the company. What are your proudest achievements during this period?
The creation of our unique branding has been tremendously successful in attracting first time cruisers. Destination Immersion® means longer stays, more overnights and night touring. That approach appeals to travelers, as well as traditional cruise guests. Our clients want a unique, localized travel experience, and that’s what we deliver. We have created one of the finest niche products in the world and it is only going to get better.
What goals do you still hope to achieve with Azamara?
We’re expanding onshore experience through exclusive programs like AzAmazing Evenings, Nights and Cool Places, Insider Access and Cruise Global, Eat Local. I also hope to grow the brand with new purpose built tonnage that pushes the Destination Immersion® experience even further for our guests, building on our unique attributes.
You’ve worked a lot of years in the travel industry—a popular industry for LGBT folks. How have you seen the industry change for LGBT people, both as employees and travelers?
We serve many communities and lifestyles simultaneously around the world. We also employ many communities and lifestyles onboard and onshore. Respect for everyone is a core value that fits our company culture and our industry. These are exciting times as we recognize diversity as positive and enriching to all. We take pride that Azamara is a leader in this area for travel.
What changes would you like to see within the cruise industry?
I’d like more consumers around the world to be aware of the great value and the unique travel experience we offer. Not all cruises are the same.
Azamara is one of the few cruise companies to advertise directly to LGBT cruisers. How do you perceive the LGBT demographic as fitting into your vision for Azamara?
The LGBT audience we serve is upmarket, sophisticated and eager to explore the world in the unique way we deliver it. They are travelers, explorers, and adventurists. They enjoy culture, art, music, food and wine. This is our market. This audience is a perfect match for our brand and what we believe in.
What cruise experience is still on your personal bucket list and why?
I’d like to explore the Seychelles! Azamara will be traveling there for the first time at the end of 2017, and we cannot wait.
*Note: This content is sponsored by Azamara, a MeetMeOnBoard Rainbow-Level sponsor. The Editor has previously traveled as a guest of Azamara.