Ambassador ramps up executive team

2022-02-12T13:20:00+00:00 February 12th, 2022|Appointments|

Newcomer Ambassador Cruise Line has appointed three people to its recently formed executive management team.

Joining as CCO is Phil Gardner, while Matthias Seeger takes on the role of CFO and Nick Hughes as COO.

Together they bring both substantial cruise and wider business experience to the fledgling cruise line that is to add a second ship to its fleet joining the ‘Ambience’ in 2023.

“I am very excited to formally welcome Matthias, Phil and Nick to the Ambassador family. Their expertise from both within and outside the cruise industry will bring extremely valuable and diverse knowledge to the business, further accelerating Ambassador’s growth plans to be the leading premium-value, authentic cruise line,” said Ambassadors’ CEO, Christian Verhounig.

Gardner has over 20 years of travel industry experience, commencing with First Choice where amongst other roles he was an integration programme manager for the First Choice/Thomson merger.

He went on to lead the ‘flight only’ division of the newly created TUI UK business and then progressed to run the commercial arm of TUI UK Cruises. He moved to Thomas Cook in 2015 to focus on distribution, where he assumed several different roles, including Director of Sales, E-Commerce & Marketing and was a member of the UK Board.

Prior to joining Ambassador, Gardner was CCO at Fosun Tourism Group, where he focused on re-launching Thomas Cook.

As Ambassador’s CCO, Gardner will have responsibility for the guest proposition, sales, marketing and commercial planning, including digital and reservations centre interaction with guests and the travel trade.

“Opportunities like this don’t come round often. To be joining Britain’s newest cruise line, with the prospect of building on the amazing start Ambassador has made and be part of growing the business, was a compelling proposition. I look forward to being back in the heart of the cruise industry and developing a brand and business that is the envy of the UK cruise market,” Gardner commented.

Seeger brings with him over 25 years’ experience as a finance and business executive from a broad range of commercial disciplines, spanning large blue-chip consumer goods and retail companies, the company said.

His most recent appointment was as CFO and Board member of the Costcutter Supermarket Group where he served from 2015 to 2021.

“Within under a year, Ambassador has achieved a solid financial basis to build on. It’s an exciting time to be joining the executive team. With ambitious plans for its growth and development, I am looking forward to further defining the company’s financial plan and expanding the strategic finance function,” Seeger said.

Hughes is a Chartered Marine Engineer and his career has involved many different sectors, including defence, shipping and cruise ship operations.

Until 2020, he had spent seven years as head of technical operations with Marella Cruises (TUI UK) where he was responsible for fleet management, budget control and compliance and contributed strategically to asset management and business growth.

His most recent role was as Director of P&O Ferries’ ropax fleet.

As COO for Ambassador Cruise Line, Hughes’ responsibilities will include overseeing maritime operations, engineering and the delivery of the on board/in cruise experience.

“I am really delighted to be part of Ambassador’s exciting plans for the future. It is a great product, and I am looking forward to working more closely with guests. The overwhelming attraction for me was Ambassador’s clear vision and commitment to environmental protection, sustainability and upgrading the fleet to qualify within the top 10% of all cruise ships globally in terms of ESG rating.

“This is critical to the future of cruising. It will be fantastic to demonstrate Ambassador’s serious commitment to responsible holidays,” Hughes said.

As a result of these changes, Chris Coates, who delayed his retirement plans to become the first CCO of Ambassador Cruise Line, will take on a consultancy role as an ambassador-at-large, from this June in a part-time capacity.

Seeger’s appointment will enable Simon Weeks, who has been operating as an interim CFO, to fully take up his new position as Chief Administrative Officer.

Weeks, who helped establish Ambassador’s corporate, financial, and regulatory structure, will now focus on building and maintaining business processes, performance, and inter-departmental collaborations throughout the organisation.

“The contribution that both Chris and Simon have made to the initial set up and commercial launch of Britain’s first new cruise line in over a decade has been exceptional. It is a real asset to the business and the new team we have hired to have both continue their involvement in the business in their new roles outlined, leveraging their considerable experience.

“We are about nine weeks away from our inaugural cruise. Our first ship, ‘Ambience’, is completing her refit in drydock in Croatia, our crew are assembling for training and the excitement about what we are going to deliver to our guests is palpable,” Verhounig added.

In addition, the new cruise company has announced that it can offer visas, entry forms and testing protocols through Travel Visa Co.

These include any passenger locator forms, travel visas and necessary outbound Antigen or PCR travel tests necessary using Travel Visa Co applications.

Travel Visa is partnered with UK Government approved testing providers.