Sycamore Partners on Wednesday named Orlando Ashford, former president of Holland America Line, as the new executive chairman of Azamara, a boutique cruise brand being acquired by Sycamore from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Ashford’s appointment will become effective upon the completion of that transaction, expected in first quarter 2021. Separately, earlier this week, Azamara announced that it will acquire a fourth vessel, the former Pacific Princess, which will increase fleet capacity by 33 percent. 

Azamara is an upmarket brand with a hefty destination focus—something that Ashford focused on during his time with Holland America Line. “We are pleased for Orlando to take on this role as Azamara embarks on its next chapter supported by Sycamore Partners,” said Stefan Kaluzny, managing director of Sycamore Partners, in the press announcement.

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“Orlando brings significant leadership experience as well as specific expertise in the cruise and travel industry, making him well-suited to serve as Azamara’s executive chairman,” Kaluzny added.

Ashford served for five years as Holland America’s president before leaving the brand in 2020. He’s credited with rejuvenating the historic brand and bringing in new such concepts as the destination-intensive Explorations Central (EXC)  and Music Walk with multiple “live” entertainment venues. During his time with Holland America, he also elevated the dining experience and added more perks for suite guests. 

“I am thrilled to be appointed to the role of executive chairman at this exciting time for Azamara, having long admired the business and the brand,” said Ashford in a statement. “I believe Azamara is uniquely positioned in the industry, and I look forward to executing on our shared vision for growth.”

He added that together with Azamara’s team, “we’ll focus on offering Azamara’s loyal customers more of what they have come to know and love.” 

Previously, Ashford was president of the Talent Business Segment for Mercer, a global consulting firm focused on talent, health, retirement and investments. Previous to Mercer, he served as senior vice president, chief human resources and communications officer at Mercer’s parent company, Marsh & McLennan Companies. Earlier in his career, Ashford held several leadership roles with organizations such as Coca-Cola, Motorola, Ameritech and Andersen Consulting. He currently serves on the board of directors of ITT, Inc., Perrigo Company plc, Array Technologies Inc. and Hershey Entertainment & Resorts.  

Carol Cabezas, president of Azamara, who spoke with our sister publication Travel Agent about her vision for the sale of the brand, said that she looks forward to working with Ashford: “With the recent news of a planned addition to the fleet, Orlando will bring perspective that will support expansion of the brand while maintaining and growing the unique programming and itineraries beloved by guests and travel industry partners.”   

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