Frank Del Rio is the rare CEO who doesn’t mind stepping into a bathroom to make a point.
On a recent day aboard the newest addition to the cruise line he co-founded, the point to be made involved the presence of too many showers — a misstep he said would be corrected on any future ships.
It’s one of the few flaws he can point out about the Riviera, which he calls “the perfect ship.” But the episode also illustrates Del Rio’s attention to detail, his willingness to tweak those details as needed and, well, frankness.
Those qualities have served him well in the nearly 10 years since he started Oceania Cruises with a partner, two ships and a vision to carve out a place for itself in the industry: “upper premium.”
Now chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, the parent company that includes Oceania and the luxury Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Del Rio oversees two distinct companies that have managed to differentiate themselves from competitors — and each other.
Private equity firm Apollo Management bought a majority stake in Oceania Cruises in 2007; later that year, the firm acquired Regent Seven Seas Cruises and placed both under the ownership of Prestige Cruise Holdings, which is controlled by Apollo. At the time, Apollo said the two lines would keep separate operations and management.
Today, even as they continue on individual tracks, their operations are streamlining: Regent moved its headquarters from Broward to the offices of Oceania and Prestige Cruise Holdings in Doral last year. This year, the line shifted sailings from Port Everglades to PortMiami, where Oceania also sails in the winter. In October, the parent company announced that Regent president Mark Conroy would step down from that role starting Jan. 31 and Kunal Kamlani, president of both Prestige and Oceania, would add the same title at Regent.
Conroy, who was not available for an interview for this story, will still be involved with the company as an ambassador and consultant, Del Rio said.
“He wanted to step back a bit, still wanted to be involved and he’s going to be involved in many ways,” Del Rio said.
The recent changes, however, don’t mean the two cruise lines will ever become one (a question Del Rio said he hears frequently). Only about five percent of customers overlap on both lines, he said.
“I’ve got two different brands, two different types of ships, two different types of customers, two different brand positionings,” Del Rio said. “Why in the world would I want to combine them? I have the best of both worlds now ... It would literally be the dumbest thing we could do to combine both brands together.”
Regent, founded about 20 years ago as Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, sits firmly in the luxury category, with two 700-passenger ships and one 490-passenger vessel and an all-inclusive policy that includes alcoholic beverages, airfare, gratuities, a pre-cruise hotel stay and shore excursions. Free excursions — some activities carry an extra charge, but there are a multitude of options included in the fare — were added to the package during the recession as an incentive for travelers; they were so popular that the company chose to keep the feature in place.
“Its inclusivity program is the best; I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of the website CruiseCritic.com, which recently named Regent best for luxury in its Editors’ Picks Awards. “You’re spending a lot of money up front, but you’re spending very little on the back end.”