NCL boss warns cruise could return to heavy discounting

by Lee Hayhurst

NCL boss warns cruise could return to heavy discounting

Cruise is in danger of slipping back into the rampant discounting ways that saw a wave of commission cuts by operators five years ago.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Nick Wilkinson admitted agents are polarised between the discounters and those selling at higher prices based on customer service.

“We are at the top of the [sales] pyramid and it could go either way,” warned the line’s general manager for northern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“We are seeing travel partners who are being very aggressive.

“And we are seeing those that understand that with good service they can get the price they need to earn a living. We are really seeing a split in the marketplace.”

Asked to comment on a seven-night Mediterranean P&O Cruises deal for the equivalent of £400 per person when free onboard spend is taken into account, Wilkinson said: “I see the emails. I do not know how they do it. We will choose very carefully how we discount. If you look at our core products you will see what’s important is added value.”

Challenged to explain how throwing in complimentary extras isn’t another form of discounting, Wilkinson said: “If you just focus on the price point, the consumer is only going to move from price point to price point.

“If you look at the added value, they stop focusing on the price point and that gives you the 
scope to increase the base price.”

Wilkinson said Norwegian had been doing this for 18 months and it had resulted in increased yields and revenue.

And he said Norwegian segments its product, so not all agents are competing on price for the same customer.

“We will not have partner after partner advertising the same thing,” he said. “As an industry we cannot just keep cannibalising the same clients.”

NCL to consult trade on TV advertising ahead of ex-UK return


Norwegian Cruise Line plans to consult with the trade before making a decision on whether it introduces TV advertising in the UK.

Speaking as the line revealed plans to have a ship sailing from the UK for the first time in seven years, Harry Sommer, executive vice president of international business development, said the line would discuss marketing with key agent partners before making a decision.

“I’ve been asked to speak to our trade partners about doing TV ads in the UK, Germany and Spain – our three top European markets.

“I can’t rule it in or out but because so much of our marketing in Europe is with our travel agency partners it is a decision we’d like to make jointly with them.”

The line will base Norwegian Jade in Southampton in 2017 and will offer a series of 11 Western Europe and three Norwegian Fjords sailings between May 12 and June 20 and August 7 and October 16, 2017.

Sommer said the decision to return to Southampton was partly due to “market demand”, but also that it was “reflective of the growth of the company”.

The ship will arrive in Europe after a two-and-a-half week dry-dock. Ports of call featured on its itineraries include Hamburg, Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Le Havre, Alesund, Geiranger, and Bergen.

Asked why the line wasn’t offering Mediterranean sailings out of Southampton, Sommer said they’d found it difficult to put together a “good itinerary” and instead believed the fly-cruise market was better suited to that part of Europe.

Senior vice president international sales and operations, Francis Riley, said basing Norwegian Jade in Southampton, and Hamburg, where the ship will also offer sailings from, would be a way of “testing it” for the future.

“When we started looking at deployments we said as a team we were ready to have a ship back (in the UK), and we’ve been ready for some time,” he said.

The line’s 2017 programme includes a total of five ships sailing in Europe, NCL’s biggest-ever European deployment.

Norwegian Getaway, which launched in 2014, will return to Europe to sail eight or nine-night Baltic Capitals cruises to and from Copenhagen.

Norwegian Epic will sail in the Western Mediterranean; Norwegian Spirit will offer 10 and 11-night voyages between Barcelona and Venice and Norwegian Star will sail between Venice and the Greek Isles.

Norwegian’s managing director for EMEA, Christian Boell, said: “Not only are we offering the possibility to embark in Southampton but we are also bringing one of our newest and most innovative ships back to Europe.

“We’re convinced that this will encourage continued growth in the UK market, where we have just seen record breaking guest numbers in 2015.”

Northern Europe general manager, Nick Wilkinson, added: “I’m sure these exciting Southampton sailings will be music to our travel partners’ ears.”

“We are back, we’re in Southampton and we are in it to win,” Wilkinson added.

Royal Caribbean adds perks for Boardwalk and Central Park cabins

Royal Caribbean International said it will add a package of perks for guests in interior-facing cabins on its Oasis-class ships, including the upcoming Harmony of the Seas.

Guests with views of the Central Park neighborhood on Oasis-class ships will get lunch for two at Jamie’s Italian on Harmony of the Seas or Giovanni’s Table on Oasis or Allure of the Seas. They will also get a complimentary bottle of red wine at check-in and perks in the casino.

Those with views of the Boardwalk neighborhood will get lunch or dinner for four at Johnny Rockets, a soda beverage package for two and “private time” on the ship’s rock-climbing wall, Royal Caribbean said.