Larry Pimentel delivers the destination while living his passion.
By Susan J. Young
When European explorers sailed across an abyss of vast ocean in search of the New World, their crews — as legend goes — cried “Land Ho” when spotting a coastline. Today, Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, is a modern-day captain of the cruise industry who also looks ashore with an entrepreneurial spirit, an intense passion for the business — and plenty of moxie.
In 2009, Pimentel arrived at Azamara, a small line that sailed with just two vessels, the 686-passenger-each Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest. But he soon learned that potential cruisers just couldn’t put their hands around the brand. What was it? What wasn’t it? How did it differ from other cruise lines?
With his branding and luxury marketing expertise, Pimentel dug in with gusto — immersing himself in the brand, talking with guests, and studying research. “I came across the McKenzie study, which looked at 50 years of research about why people travel,” he says. “It showed that people travel for the destination, for the culture, for the sights and sounds, as much as for the ships. Often cruise lines forget about the destination.”
The former president and CEO of SeaDream Yacht Club, Cunard Line, and Seabourn certainly knew about upscale cruising, but he also understood tour operations from a past stint as president and CEO of Classic Hawaii. Drawing on his three decades of travel industry experience, Pimentel set out to meld land and sea elements.
He developed a business plan, presented it to Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), Azamara’s parent company, and hired a small team to promote “Destination Immersion” as a concept. He also created brand pillars because “we have to have something to rest our head on and to articulate what differentiates the product.”
Azamara definitely needed a new focus….