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Alumni Profiles

Bob Binder, MBA '90:
Elegance On the Sea

Bob Binder

If you think running a five-star hotel might be daunting, Bob Binder, president of Oceania Cruises, would ask you to consider the logistics of running a five-star hotel that moves.

"The challenges are amazing," say Binder. "Our three ships operate across the globe, so we have to plan to have provisions brought to each of the ships several times a week in different ports. The tomatoes always need to be fresh, the pasta cooked correctly and all 220 wines on our list need to be available whether the ships are located for the day in Venice, Bali, or even Antarctica."

Launched in 2003, Oceania Cruises seems to be meeting these challenges well; already it has been ranked as one of the top three cruise lines in the world. Binder attributes this to not only the breadth of luxuries offered on his ships — on any given day guests can lounge in private cabanas by one of the pools, make use of the personal butler service, bid on art by Picasso and Chagall, and eat at one of four restaurants, one of which boasts a five-star menu designed by chef Jacques Pepin — but also the high level of service offered by its staff, many of whom have been trained by consultants working with the Ritz Carlton association.

An average Oceania cruise costs $7,000 and most guests tend to be in their early sixties. And because their clientele can accommodate increased costs, Binder says the company has thrived despite the recent spike in gasoline prices.

On its record of success, Oceania was recently purchased by private equity powerhouse Apollo Management, a development that enabled an order for two new ships, built from scratch, to the tune of $1 billion. Everything from the selection of fabrics to designing storage space and the layout of the galleys is being overseen from Binder's office in Miami, an undertaking he calls "immensely gratifying."

An avid traveler and wine enthusiast, Binder spends time whenever he can in the Provence region of France, Switzerland, and St. Barts. He also finds time a few times a year to ride the ships he so painstakingly manages, an experience that he says helps him create a personal bond with his clientele.

"Our guests tend to be well traveled and lovers of art, culture, and food," Binder says. "They're a delight to spend time with."

— Mark Rader, MFA '02
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