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June 26, 2019

CMI Leisure: Running the Hotel Operation

                                                                   June 26, 2019

Dietmar Wertanzl


“Everything. Full turn-key hotel operation,” said Dietmar Wertanzl, president and CEO, describing the scope of CMI Leisure’s services.               

The Miami-based company manages hotel operations on six expedition ships, the World Odyssey for Semester at Sea, and both niche Victory Cruise Line ships.

“It’s all customized to the client and their needs,” Wertanzl said, in the 2019 Expedition Market Report by Cruise Industry News. “Our clients are very international.”

Managing hotel operations including catering, food and beverage, spas, gift shops, crew and more areas, clients include Canada-based Quark, Poseidon Expeditions, IcelandPro’s Ocean Diamond and the Ocean Endeavor for Atlantic Canada, as well as the Denmark-based Albatros Expeditions fleet.

Later this year, CMI will manage the startup of the Greg Mortimer for Australia-based Aurora Expeditions, including the entire initial hotel purchasing from flatware to linens.

The 160-guest expedition ship is being built for SunStone Ships in China and will be on long-term charter to Aurora, year-round.

“Generally speaking, everyone is looking at an increase in quality, upgrading the product, or having an additional food outlet or multiple dining concepts,” continued Wertanzl, who said the company had 16 employees in Miami and was poised to grow with an expanding expedition fleet.

Most quality improvements come in the culinary arena, with more regional cuisine and fresh fish, which are not areas where there are much cost savings. Some clients have also opted for sustainable seafood programs.

For Iceland ProCruises, a regional food plan was put together earlier this year and fully in place by April prior to the company’s May start. New regional cuisine will rely on a local supplier in Iceland.

“That also includes a fresh fish supplier in certain ports,” Wertanzl said. “We want a certain reliability with the partners and suppliers.”

Also new is Green Program 2.0, focusing on eliminating waste, single-use plastics and conserving hotel energy.

While the onboard product can be tailored from three stars to five-star plus, the general offering is four-star plus. Some clients are hands on, involved in every decision, while others focus more on sales and marketing.

Economies of scale are found in purchasing and knowledge.

"We are really experts in this segment,” Wertanzl said. “We provide synergies, consistent delivery, and the more ships we have under us the more buying power we have.”

Running ships all over the world in the expedition market, it also means CMI is used to ports no one has ever heard of and the logistical challenge to supply a fleet.

"We have a pretty good database of suppliers,” noted Wertanzl.

The company also has all the systems in place across its ships: point of sale, procurement, hotel management and more.

Challenges are simple: finding crew.

That is compounded by the quickly expanding Mandarin-speaking market.

With regular Chinese groups and more full-ship charters, front-of-house, bar and restaurant staff that can speak both Mandarin and English is becoming a normal requirement. In addition is a need for Chinese and Asian chefs.

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March 2, 2019

CMI Leisure's Dietmar Wertanzl will lead the case study based on how CMI Leisure creates a memorable culinary experience for guests on expedition ship Ocean Diamond in Iceland

Honing in on several key culinary trends, an interactive (and tasty) case study in Seatrade Cruise Global's new Cruising Innovations Theater will look at enhancing the on-board experience with regional and farm-to-table cuisine to create memorable experiences for guests.

The presentation, by cruise hospitality experts CMI Leisure, will demonstrate the importance of staging culinary experiences to engage today's travelers, given the fact that dining is the single most talked- and written-about aspect of cruising. It will tell how culinary trends like mindfulness/quality awareness, sense of touch, where food comes from and neuronutrition are making the leap to sea.

The case study is based on the real-life example of CMI Leisure-managed expedition ship Ocean Diamond in Iceland.

Iceland is booming as a cruise destination. In 2017, there were 620 calls at 20 ports and 400,998 passengers, up from 437 calls and 285,903 passengers in 2015, according to Cruise Iceland.

Case study participants will get to taste specialty dishes like Icelandic lamb soup, salmon marinated in Icelandic aquavit and Icelandic yogurt for dessert. Wine will be served with tastings sponsored by Vintners Alliance.

Culinary innovator Dietmar Wertanzl, president and CEO, CMI Leisure, will present, with the support of VP hotel operations Donald Cameron and corporate executive chef Peter Hoefler.

CMI Leisure, a Miami-based firm that focuses on quality hospitality for specialized itineraries and challenging operating environments, will spearhead this first Cruising Innovations Theater educational and interactive experience on Tuesday, from 12:30 to 1 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center.

Currently operating eight ships, CMI Leisure was just selected by Aurora Expeditions to handle hotel operations development for its newbuild.

Posted 02 March 2018

© Copyright 2019 Seatrade UBM (UK) Ltd. Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Seatrade UBM (UK) Ltd.

Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review


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March 1, 2019







“Effective leadership is not about making

speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”







Most of our KPI’s were on or above target including the overall guest satisfaction scores. The ships guest occupancies have also been on the high side and the niche and expedition cruise segments are thriving. I would like to take this opportunity again to thank you; our clients, suppliers, onboard crew, hiring partners everyone in the corporate office and our friends for all of your support on a job well done.

On December 6th we hosted our annual Holiday Party at our corporate office in Miami; it was a huge success. A special thank you to all the organizers for a wonderful evening.

During the summer we had Sea Spirit, Ocean Diamond, Ocean Endeavour, Sea Endurance, Ocean Adventurer, Victory I and Victory II in operation. We started with our new client Institute of Shipboard Education and the World Odyssey early September in Hamburg, Germany for the first semester cruise which ended in San Diego in December. This is an exciting new opportunity for us, working with the fine team and crew of Semester at Sea and the M/V World Odyssey.

Our Antarctica season for 2018/2019 has already taken off. We have three dedicated ships for this winter season out of Ushuaia. The Sea Spirit, Ocean Adventurer and the Ocean Atlantic. The Ocean Atlantic is also going to operate for 2019 during the summer season under Albatros Expeditions. We are very happy to have her with us on a full year basis.

This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to China and visit one of our crew hiring partners in Xiamen. It was a very productive and eye-opening experience for me. China is developing more and more. I met with Mr. Zhang at the Sea-Land Maritime Service office. They invited me to give a speech and a presentation followed by a question and answer session with some of their future potential crew members. I was impressed with the genuine interest all the candidates showed; their excitement and enthusiasm were clearly reflected in their questions.


Looking forward, we have a strong, positive outlook about the future market in China.

Every New Year many of us start with some New Year’s resolutions. Though in theory it is a positive thought process, the real challenge is always the implementation of the resolution. Most resolutions vanish in a few months and the goals are forgotten. One of our programs, which we started two years ago, is our ISO 9001 certification. This helps us to systematically stay on track with our New Year’s initiatives and resolutions as a company. Like every year, we have an internal and external audit ensuring that we are on target.

Our crew questionnaires have been sent out again this year to all our operated ships. Our crew continues to display satisfaction with living conditions and onboard food quality. In fact, 98 % of hotel crew strongly agree/ agree that CMI Leisure is a good company to work for. As we all know, what sets apart working on a cruise ship from working in a land-based resort or hotel is the completely different lifestyle experience. You are living and working with the same people for a longer time period. Spending more time with the same group of people allows for stronger onboard connections and relationships. With this kind of environment, different issues may sometimes arise, and we make a concerted effort to create a positive working culture onboard all our ships. A happy crew translates into happy guests.

Please continue to provide us with your comments and feedback on our surveys, they are much appreciated.

We also operated the first “Taste of Place” cruise onboard the Ocean Endeavour with Adventure Canada in Northern Canada. It was a real “GLOCAL” regional food and wine experience. Adventure Canada has put a lot of time and effort into the cruise and we had members of the American “Slow Food” organization participating, supporting

the overall cruise experience. Thanks to everyone for making this a success and pioneering the way for a new series of special sailings. We are very excited to be planning another cruise for 2019.

“Learning through food, culture, music, arts, and science have long been at the core of Adventure Canada expeditions. The company routinely travels with leading experts and visionaries in their respective fields. Taste of Place represents Adventure Canada’s latest extension of this ethos. The program aims to heighten travelers’ culinary experience with onshore and onboard events, presentations, meals, and celebrations that showcase unique flavors and the people that create them.

2019 will be an historical year for us, starting with the inauguration of our group’s first New Build, the M/V Greg Mortimer, later in the year. She will operate the Antarctica 2019/2020 season for our Australian client, Aurora Expedition and replace the M/V Polar Pioneer. It will also be the first cruise ship build in China. We are all very excited about this special occasion as it is a major milestone for all of us; it’s a dream come true.

I will keep you posted on the development of our next addition.

Wishing you a joyful and prosperous 2019 from Miami.

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March 27, 2018

Creating a memorable hospitality experience in adventure cruising's remote reaches

Before, expedition cruising 'was all about the destinations, People now want a different standard. They're more demanding,' Dietmar Wertanzl said Before, expedition cruising 'was all about the destinations, People now want a different standard. They're more demanding,' Dietmar Wertanzl said

Imagine provisioning cruise ships that operate in such far-flung areas as the Northwest Passage, Greenland and Antarctica, while providing an upscale and memorable experience with regional dishes and customizing the hospitality offering for brands that carry a wide range of nationalities, from Germans and Danes to Americans, Australians and Chinese.

That's the tall task of cruise hospitality experts CMI Leisure, the Miami-based company that provides turnkey management and concessions services to expedition and boutique cruise operators.

'It's highly complicated. You need to plan. You need to react to the weather,' CMI Leisure president Dietmar Wertanzl said. He added that 'all our actions are tied in with the local community. Think globally, act locally—"glocal"—is something we practice.'

Serving expedition ships is extra-demanding because of their remote and complex operations. In Greenland, should unexpected ice alter the course or bad weather delay the ferry carrying provisions from Denmark, the only option is costly—air freight from Copenhagen. When a vessel leaves Ushuaia for South Georgia and Antarctica, every item that's needed for a 21-day round-trip must be on board.

Plus, the expedition cruise business is changing, placing new demands on the food and service delivery.

'Before, it was all about the destinations, People now want a different standard. They're more demanding,' according to Wertanzl. Even on an expedition, dinner becomes a main event.

Customer demand for small ships is growing, and the price point is high. Until recently, mostly older, repurposed ships made do. The industry's appetite for building small ships is currently strong. China's emergence as a market for expedition travel is another factor. And people don't just want to explore the poles; there is appeal in warm-weather expeditions to places like the Amazon.

'The product is getting better with the newer ships. There is more room for growth,' Wertanzl said. He also cited increasing differentiation driven by the boom in luxury adventure, comparing that to the safari business. Many hotels currently rated 'world's best' are African safari lodges.

Like a safari, an expedition cruise is 'a once-in-a-lifetime experience,' Wertanzl said. 'It's a life-changing experience.'

The hotel product is crucial to making a memorable experience overall, and each brand has specific needs. CMI Leisure clients span the globe—Adventure Canada, Denmark's Albatros Expeditions, Australia's Aurora Expeditions, Iceland Pro Cruises, Sweden's Polar Quest, Europe's Poseidon Expeditions, the UK's Quark Expeditions and US-based Victory Cruise Lines.

Eight ships are currently under management, with more in the pipeline. Aurora Expeditions recently selected CMI Leisure to handle hotel operations for its newbuild Greg Mortimer, to be delivered in 2019.

'The key is to understand each brand,' Wertanzl explained, elaborating that his company works with the operator's ideas and budget to develop and customize the branding and amenities, carrying that through in aspects like the china.

When launching Victory Cruise Lines with an older ship, founding president (now chairman) Bruce Nierenberg wanted to elevate the product through food and service. The vessel was built in 2001 with two-seating dining.

CMI Leisure created an alfresco buffet breakfast and lunch venue that transforms into a 'hot rocks' cooking experience for dinner, seating about 50 people.

'Guests love it. It's different,' Wertanzl said.

The venue will be upgraded on the new Victory II, which enters service in late July.

Victory Cruise Lines also presents themed evenings such as a lobster cookout on deck, and regional food is highlighted overall, especially fresh seafood. Wine pairings are included at lunch and dinner. Wertanzl called it 'definitely a high standard.'

Since last November Albatros Expeditions has dedicated one ship largely to Chinese travelers, and CMI Leisure supplies Chinese service personnel, reception and galley staff.

Wertanzl said Chinese are the fastest growing market segment for expedition cruising. Concerning dining, 'They like a mix. They like Western-style food but there are certain must-haves' like congee for breakfast and side dishes like sticky rice at dinner. Almost every ship CMI Leisure manages has at least one Asian chef now.

When it comes to Iceland Pro Cruises, the operator 'wants to bring Iceland on board,' so CMI Leisure developed a farm-to-table experience where a menu might feature Icelandic lamb soup, salmon marinated in Icelandic aquavit and Icelandic yogurt for dessert (as presented in the first case study for Seatrade Cruise Global's new Cruising Innovations Theater earlier this month).

Small expedition ships now provide vegetarian and even vegan options, low-calorie and gluten-free selections. Vegetarian dishes are in huge demand, in part to satisfy the expedition staff who work on board and dine with the passengers.

More variety, more specialization and more special orders are also trends. 'You have to be flexible,' Wertanzl said.

CMI Leisure employs 700 crew, most from the Phillippines and Asia. Head chefs typically have European culinary education.

'Our turnover is very low. We have a very stable crew, with us for many years,' Wertanzl noted, adding they enjoy the intimacy and camaraderie of working on smaller ships—'not being a number.'

Fifteen people staff the Miami office. All department heads in operational areas, and Wertanzl himself, have seagoing cruise experience—'a must,' in his view.

CMI Leisure is part of a group led by Niels-Erik Lund, whose SunStone Ships together with China Merchants Industry Holdings is building a fleet of expedition vessels in Shanghai that will be chartered to new and existing clients. One of those is going to Aurora Expeditions, and Wertanzl expects opportunites for new contracts in the near future.

The recent years have been 'the best time we've ever seen in this segment,' he said.

Meanwhile, CMI Leisure also has several opportunities in the works to manage a mid-sized ship. As Wertanzl put it: 'With us you are not just one of many. We are a great choice for a start-up with a mid-size ship. We could be a great partner.'

He extolled CMI Leisure's 'speed to market. We are agile.' For an operator aiming to start in a six-month timeframe, 'We can do it.'

Wertanzl's background includes running Cruise West as CEO, SVP fleet operations for Celebrity Cruises, managing director of Celebrity Xpeditions, SVP hotel operations at Crystal Cruises and earlier roles with Royal Viking Line and Norwegian America Line.

'It's a lot of fun to be in the cruise industry, a very rewarding journey,' he said. 'I'm lucky, I've seen it from the small ship and large ship, publicly traded company [perspective].

'It's still a fantastic industry, and more to come.'

Posted 27 March 2018 Anne Kalosh

US editor of Seatrade Cruise Review and Seatrade Cruise News


© Copyright 2018 Seatrade UBM (UK) Ltd. Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Seatrade UBM (UK) Ltd.


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