For the holiday edition of Business Travel News' monthly cruise feature, we interviewed Nick Wilkinson, vice-president and managing director UK&I and MEA for Norwegian Cruise Lines. There is also a news update on what is happening in the industry, a few cruise bargains, and the result of a visit to Europa 2, Douglas Ward’s top cruise ship.
Nick Wilkinson can be best described as a cruise enthusiast with a commercial hat on. Having worked at Norwegian for 15 years, his passion for travel and cruise has not dwindled. He continues to play a key role in the significant growth of the award-winning operator, spearheading the brand’s sales and marketing direction in what is its largest market outside North America.
Wilkinson for one is looking forward to 2018. “A particular exciting year for Norwegian Cruise Lines,” he said. “On 21 April, Bliss leaves for New York and will traverse the Panama Canal before embarking on an Alaska Highlights programme based in Seattle. It is the fourth and final European-style ship in the hugely successful Breakaway Class”. A fifth Breakaway, yet to be named, is under construction at Meyer Werft in Germany, a dedicated ship for the Chinese market.
For the future, Norwegian is planning for a new class of ship smaller than the 4,000-passenger Breakaway’s, named project Leonardo. Due for delivery from 2022, these will be of around 140,00grt with a 3,300 capacity, and said to be revolutionary in design. They will be built by Fincantieri in the former STX yard at St Nazaire.
In April, Norwegian introduced Premium All Inclusive, in which items formerly classed as ‘extras’ were included in all cruises. Wilkinson describes it as a win-win for both clients and travel agents: More value for passengers and greater flexibility for the trade who can add-on holiday packages at each end of the cruise.
As he said when it was unveiled: “The launch of our product as Premium All Inclusive is a game-changer for the large ship ocean cruise market and it offers a wealth of opportunity for our valued travel partners. We have armed them with a powerful sales tool, helping to convert customers who may not yet have considered cruise as a holiday option, whilst also introducing new-to-brand cruisers to the Norwegian product. We know that our travel partners have seen an increase in enquiries for all-inclusive holidays, and our new pricing will continue to keep a cruise holiday with Norwegian in the equation.”
Premium All Inclusive includes premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks in all bars, lounges and dining venues at any time throughout the cruise. Unlimited juices, water and soft drinks for children and teenagers. Lavazza coffee specialities during meals. One free bottle of water per person, per day in staterooms. All service charges and gratuities are included. For guests in suites and the very private Haven area, there are further exclusive benefits and privileges.
Wilkinson pointed out that the UK was the largest Norwegian market outside North America. Surprisingly, Israel comes in at number six with 85,000 bookings for 2017. For 2018, Jade will again be based at Southampton with Epic, Spirit and Star operating out of a number of Mediterranean ports.
Norwegian’s sister companies are small ship specialist Oceania and very much up-market Regent Seven Seas. All are based in Miami.
Fuente: BTN and www.ncl.com