Norwegian Encore will have guests on their feet

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Norwegian Encore outside Meyer Werft where she was built.

NEW YORK — The Norwegian Encore arrived here Monday to make its debut as the newest Norwegian Cruise Line ship and take a bow as the last in the Breakaway Plus class.

Travel sellers who have seen any of the Encore’s sisters — the Escape, Bliss or Joy — will be familiar with the basic layout of the ship. But there are always modifications to each ship in a class, and so it is with the Encore. Norwegian has added a chic new restaurant, Ondo by Scarpetta, and brought on new evening entertainment. 

The ship is also notable for being the last to be delivered to president and CEO Andy Stuart, who is leaving the company and will be replaced in 2020 by Harry Sommer.

In an interview on board the Encore, Sommer said the Norwegian brand was “in a great place,” and a priority would be to “spend more time on that marketing message to really have guests understand what a fascinating experience, a fantastic vacation a ship like this represents.

A popular feature of the Norwegian Bliss is the Speedway race track, where passengers can drive go-karts. Photo Credit: Dave Jones

“I credit Andy for creating experiences — a combination of ships, restaurant choices and activities onboard — that really provide a wonderful vacation for our guests,” Sommer said. “We’re not changing that.”

A two-day, pierside preview of the Encore was conducted for travel partners, VIPs and media ahead of the ship’s repositioning to South Florida. 

The experiences on the Encore appear at first glance to be tilted toward active ones. The aft sections of the top decks are devoted to activities like the Speedway, a fast-paced, go-kart ride that got its start on the Norwegian Joy. Waterslide options include the Ocean Loops, which, as its name suggests, drops riders down a tube that twists up and down and beyond the edge of the ship. 

Norwegian describes the laser-tag section as “laser tag meets augmented reality” set in Atlantis. 

On Deck 17 are the Galaxy Pavilion, a room with multiple virtual-reality games, simulator rides and an escape room.

Even the evening performance in the Encore Theater was active in a sense. “Choir of Man” features about a dozen young men singing and playing contemporary and classic hits in unique and fun ways under the pretence of hanging out in an Irish pub. In the hour-long show, the performers sing (occasionally in beautiful a capella harmony), dance and play live instruments. As I said, it was active: The show brought the audience to its feet for two standing ovations. 

A view of the Norwegian Encore's midship pools.

A view of the Norwegian Encore’s midship pools. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin

However, the Encore isn’t all about heart-racing activity. The ship also has a large observation lounge that wraps around the forward section of Deck 15, where there are couches, loungers and nooks galore for relaxing with a Kindle and a coffee (a Starbucks shop is located on Deck 6). Or if the sun is what passengers desire, there is the Vibe Beach Club, which occupies the topmost Deck 20 of the Encore. Additional relaxation options are offered to Haven passengers in an exclusive zone of the ship. 

As far as dining options, the Encore introduces Onda by Scarpetta, an a la carte Italian restaurant. There are about 20 eateries on the Encore, from old favourites like Le Bistro, Cagney’s Steakhouse and Teppanyaki to relatively newer entrants such as Ocean Blue and the Food Republic.

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Harry Sommer Named Norwegian Cruise Line CEO; Stuart To Step Down

Frank Del Rio (left) and Harry Sommer (right)

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) today announced organizational changes at the Norwegian Cruise Line brand as Harry Sommer has been named the successor to Andy Stuart, president and CEO.

Stuart is set to step down following the launch of Norwegian Encore. Sommer is currently president of international for NCLH. 

Stuart will step down from his role on December 31, 2019, and remain with the Company as Senior Advisor through March 31, 2020, to ensure a smooth transition, according to a press release.

Stuart joined Norwegian in 1988 and held several key executive positions during his tenure of more than three decades, including President and Chief Operating Officer; Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Passenger Services; Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer and Executive Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Passenger Services. 

“I could only have dreamed about my journey at Norwegian when I joined the company in 1988 and am extremely fortunate to have witnessed firsthand the incredible evolution of this pioneering brand,” said Andy Stuart, President and Chief Executive Officer of Norwegian Cruise Line. “I am honoured to have played a role in the leadership position Norwegian now holds in this incredible industry and continue to be proud of the commitment, dedication and passion of our team for delivering a best-in-class vacation experience. I have worked closely with Harry and am confident he is the right person to take the helm and continue the journey for Norwegian Cruise Line.” 

“Andy has accomplished everything possible in the cruise industry, including leading its most storied and innovative brand. He will leave on a high note after delivering the brand’s latest ship, Norwegian Encore, the last ship in the most successful ship class in the Company’s history,” said Frank Del Rio, President and Chief Executive Officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “We are extremely grateful for his leadership and contributions to Norwegian Cruise Line, our company and the cruise industry.”

Del Rio continued, “Over the last several years, Norwegian’s management and Board of Directors have worked closely on a comprehensive succession plan that leveraged the considerable bench strength across the organization. The Board and I are confident that Harry is the right person to succeed Andy as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Norwegian Cruise Line brand and look forward to him leveraging his breadth of knowledge and extensive experience in the industry and our Company to take the brand to new heights.”

“Andy and I have worked closely together over the last several years and I am humbled and honoured to follow in his footsteps and lead this renowned brand,” said Harry Sommer, President, International for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “I look forward to working with all of our incredible partners worldwide, building off the strong position the brand holds today and charting the strategy for the next phase of Norwegian’s journey.”

Sommer currently serves as President, International for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. where he is responsible for all sales, marketing, public relations and office operations for Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises in all markets outside of the United States and Canada. He previously served as Executive Vice President, International Business Development and Executive Vice President and Chief Integration Officer for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and held various executive positions for Prestige Cruise Holdings including Chief Marketing Officer; Senior Vice President, Finance and Chief Information Officer and Chief Accounting Officer. Sommer holds an MBA from Pace University and a BBA from Baruch College.

Andy Stuart to depart Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Andy Stuart in his office in 2015 with a framed jersey from London's Arsenal Football Club, his favorite soccer team.

Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Andy Stuart in his office in 2015 with a framed jersey from London’s Arsenal Football Club, his favourite soccer team. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Andy Stuart, a 31-year veteran of the company and long the company’s bridge to the travel trade, will step down at the end of the year following the delivery of the last Breakaway Plus vessel, Norwegian Encore.

Stuart is beloved by agents for his warmth, humanity and deep knowledge of the business. He will stay on with the company as a senior advisor through March 31, 2020.

Norwegian named Harry Sommer, currently president, international for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, as Stuart’s successor.

“I could only have dreamed about my journey at Norwegian when I joined the company in 1988 and am extremely fortunate to have witnessed firsthand the incredible evolution of this pioneering brand,” said Stuart, who is 54 years old.

Stuart became president and chief operating officer in 2015, after the surprise resignation of Drew Madsen, who was in the job only five months. 

“Andy and Norwegian are virtually synonymous,” Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said at the time. “He is very well known and respected by our guests, travel partners, officers, crew, and team members.

Signature Travel Network CEO Alex Sharpe said Stuart’s departure will be a blow not only to Norwegian but to the industry generally. “He’s an incredible ambassador for the cruise industry. He’s an incredible asset to the travel advisor trade. He’s just an incredible man. A good friend, a loyal guy. From that perspective, any time we lose someone of that calibre from the industry, it hurts,” Sharpe said.

Before he was named president in 2015, Stuart had been serving as executive vice president of sales. Prior to that, he had held many positions at Norwegian including global sales, passenger services, revenue management, and marketing and public relations.

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“Andy has accomplished everything possible in the cruise industry, including leading its most storied and innovative brand,” Del Rio said Thursday. “He will leave on a high note after delivering the brand’s latest ship, Norwegian Encore.”

Sommer’s background includes stints at NCLH as executive vice president, international business development and executive vice president and chief integration officer.

He also held various positions at Prestige Cruise Holdings prior to its consolidation with NCLH, including chief marketing officer, senior vice president of finance, chief information officer and chief accounting officer.

Sommer holds an MBA from Pace University and a BBA from Baruch College.