Expedition cruises venture to frozen corners of the world little visited by fishing vessels, let alone passenger liners. Here, amid the icy wastes of Antarctica, Spitsbergen, Greenland or the Northwest Passage, travellers can marvel at the vast glaciers and the white stillness of distant snowdrifts from the comfort of their resplendent staterooms. Meanwhile, a small troop of barman and butlers, cooks and cleaners work hard to maintain this luxurious experience so far from home and so close to the pole.
Providing this level of service comes with its own logistical challenges, as Dietmar R Wertanzl knows only too well. As president and CEO of CMI Leisure Management, Wertanzl runs one of the most experienced hotel management services in the cruise sector. Expedition cruises are its speciality. "Small and niche cruise operators are looking for a company like ours," explains Wertanzl. "They know we have great synergies and economies of scale to offer. They know the value proposition we offer is better than crewing and supplying in-house."
The key to CMI Leisure Management's success in this arena has been to remember one key fact: you cannot over-prepare for an expedition cruise. "You really need to plan ahead and know what you are doing," says Wertanzl. "We have the operational know -how developed over years within our company. At CMI Leisure Management, we provide our clients with a turnkey operation, including the crewing, supplies and all the hotel services delivered on board."
The company relies on a robust network of suppliers, which is all the more important given the distances that many expedition ships end up travelling. "These are remote destinations," says Wertanzl. "Over the years, we have cultivated a deep level of knowledge about how to provision these ships appropriately. After all, once you leave a port like Ushuaia, you only have the ice and penguins for company."
The company's most recent collaboration has been with Aurora Expeditions. Wertanzl and his colleagues have been busy provisioning and crewing its current vessel, the Polar Pioneer. "We are currently providing the hotel manager and the culinary team on board the ship," he explains. CMI Leisure Management has also consulted closely with Aurora Expeditions.
For the Greg Mortimer, which will follow next year, CMI Leisure Management was instrumental in tailoring the hotel function design of the ship. "This comprised the service area, back of house and the galley operation," says Wertanzl. "It's all finalised now. Everything is in motion, and we're going to take delivery in September 2019."
The next step will involve fine-tuning the details on board the new vessel. "We're working with the client to decide on aspects that include the china, glassware, towels and the uniforms," explains Wertanzl. All of this preparation serves to create the most comfortable experience for passengers and crew.
As demand for expedition-type vessels continues to grow, the expertise of CMI Leisure Management is in great demand. "From week to week, we're hearing about new operators entering this niche market," Wertanzl says. "There is a lot of activity in this segment, with the promise of new ships." This means that, as far as CMI Leisure Management is concerned, there is always a project on the horizon.