NCLH Honored in New York for Gender Milestone

Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has been honoured by the Women’s Forum of New York at the Breakfast of Corporate Champions in New York City, an event which recognizes the S&P 500/Fortune 1000 companies which have achieved 30 per cent or greater female representation on their corporate boards.

The event gathers more than 600 leaders and change-makers including CEOs, board directors and government officials in support of the shared goal of gender parity in the boardroom by 2025.

“Our board is committed to seeking out directors and management leadership with diverse backgrounds. We have actively recruited women and members of minority groups to where today our board is comprised of 30 per cent women and 60 per cent members with diverse backgrounds,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands.

Two years ago, Norwegian Cruise Line appointed its first female director to its board: Stella David, former CEO of William Grant and Sons Limited. In 2018, retired U.S. Coast Guard rear admiral Mary Landry, and Pamela Thomas-Graham, founder and CEO of Dandelion Chandelier LLC were appointed as new directors to the company’s board.

“As an organization of top women leaders, the Women’s Forum of New York salutes the 2019 Corporate Champions which are raising the bar for female board representation by actively seeking more women directors,” said Janice Ellig, CEO of the Ellig Group and chair and founder of the Breakfast of Corporate Champions.

Stella David is a Cambridge University graduate with a degree in engineering, who has extensive management experience with companies such as William Grant & Sons, Bacardi, Nationwide Building Society and others.

Mary E. Landry has a 35-year career in maritime operations, including service on the White House National Security Council and Senior Director for Resilience Policy, and active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Pamela Thomas-Graham is the founder and CEO of Dandelion Chandelier LLC, a private digital media enterprise focused on global luxury, who has also worked for Credit Suisse, Angelo, Gordon & Co, and was president at Liz Claiborne and at CNBC. She began her career at McKinsey & Company, in 1989, and became the firm’s first African American female partner in 1995. She is a Doctor of Law from Harvard University.

Cruise lines brace for a downturn as presidential election looms

Photo Credit: Elnur/Shutterstock

With less than a year to go until the 2020 presidential election, travel suppliers and sellers are bracing for the slowdown that typically accompanies an election year’s commotion and distractions.

Every four years, sales run into headwinds as politicians and interest groups load up on ad time and consumers, especially in battleground states, are besieged with debates about the fate of the nation. 

And this time, the quadrennial cycle could be a doozy, as impeachment proceedings run parallel to the election campaign.

“It will be a very interesting Wave season, for sure,” said John Chernesky, senior vice president for North American sales and trade marketing at Princess Cruises. 

Chernesky said Princess is taking steps to mitigate the anticipated pause in bookings momentum that has built up this year.

“I think at Princess we’re seeing a good forward booking curve going into 2020, but we’re not oblivious to the fact that, historically, there has been a business downturn in the election years,” Chernesky said. “So we’re trying to work with our trade partners as best we can to essentially base-load as much as possible into the [coming] year. 

“We know the marketing spend next year is going to be less effective than this year, because there’s going to be so many distractions,” Chernesky said.

In 2016, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent $1.8 billion on the election, much of it for television ads, some of the same news, public affairs and sports programming favoured by cruise lines.

Eva Jenner, vice president of sales at Holland America Line (HAL), said what’s true for Princess and HAL is true industrywide.

“We all are aiming at the same goal of base-loading and having a further [out] booking window than ever before,” she said.

For agents, that means that some of the best pricing for 2020 is available now when consumer receptivity to the cruise line marketing message hasn’t yet become blocked by political static.

“If nothing more, it might be a great year for consumers,” said Michelle Fee, president of Coral Springs, Fla.-based Cruise Planners. “It’s the travel advisor’s job to let the consumer know, ‘Hey, this is a great deal. You might not see this next year.’ So we need to continue to be in the marketplace and get the word out.”\

Although travel advisors have been aware of it for years, the presidential election-year slump in sales was documented in research by the Virtuoso travel network that it released at its Las Vegas conference in August.

Virtuoso found that U.S. travel sales grew an average of 14.3% in a year before a presidential election, but only an average of 2.9% in the year of an election. In 2016, sales actually fell 0.2%, after growing 15.4% the year before.

One reason for the slump, according to some, is the reluctance of consumers to make big-purchase decisions while economic uncertainty hangs in the air. Some support for that theory comes from data on auto and home sales.

Meyers Research, a real estate data firm, examined the past 13 presidential elections and found that home-sales activity dropped 15% in the November of an election year, versus 8% in the same month a year later.

And a 2016 study for Dealer.com, a site for car shoppers, found shopping behavior dropped 9% year over year in the months going into a presidential election in battleground states where no one candidate was a clear favourite.

James Grace, then director of analytics product management at the site, attributed some of the slumps to a spike in the cost of digital advertising, leading to fewer car ads and diminished shopping.

Sheer uncertainty could also factor into the presidential election-year slump. For example, travel sales in the U.K. have sputtered this year as the government has repeatedly tried and failed to resolve the terms of its exit from the EU.

But Fee said the daily combat between Trump and Democrats might have already caused consumers to tune out.

“If you look back historically, there are things that happened that used to shut our business down,” Fee said. “If something would happen in Europe, it was six months before people would travel there.” 

Not anymore, Fee said. “Today, we’re numb to all of it, so they might be numb to the presidential election, too.”

Fee is telling Cruise Planners agents to stay positive and stick to business. 

“I feel like we need to focus on people who we know travel through it all and who might be celebrating some kind of milestone,” she said.

With newly developed analytics, agency groups such as Cruise Planners can find prospects celebrating a 25th wedding anniversary or a 60th birthday, for example. 

“They’re not going to wait until next year to go because of an election year,” Fee said.

Another positive for agents that could help offset the election-year drag is a tsunami of new cruise ships. Twenty-one vessels are set to debut in 2020, including first vessels from new lines such as Virgin Voyages and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection as well as the first ship with a roller coaster being rolled out by Carnival Cruise Line.

Doug Seagle, Seabourn’s vice president of business development, said, “A good counter to everything that’s going on in the world is that there’s a lot of new product out there. New product raises consumer awareness and creates excitement. Our travel partners want to get that message out there so that it counters the negativity in the marketplace.”

Hurricane Humberto Causes Cruise Ships to Alter Course

Five-day forecast for Hurricane Humberto.

PHOTO: Five-day forecast for Hurricane Humberto. (Photo courtesy of National Hurricane Center)Hurricane Humberto, which has developed over the weekend from a Tropical Storm into a full-blown, Category-1 hurricane, is making its way toward Bermuda, forcing cruise lines operating in the region to reroute their ships.

According to CruiseCritic, Humberto has thus far affected two Carnival Cruise Line itineraries that were scheduled to be sailing in Bermuda between Wednesday, September 18, and Friday, September 20.

Carnival Pride, which left Baltimore on September 15, is now spending two days at sea before sailing on to visit Grand Turk and the Dominican Republic’s Amber Cove, rather than Bermuda, as was originally intended.

Carnival Sunrise, departing today from New York City, will stop in Charleston, South Carolina, on September 18 before spending a previously-unscheduled day at sea. Sunrise will then spend a single day in Bermuda on Friday, September 20, by which time the storm is expected to have moved on, before cruising back to New York by September 22.

Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas is also scheduled to weigh anchor in Bermuda on September 21, after Humberto is forecast to have already moved away from the island.

While no warnings are currently in effect, the National Hurricane Center anticipates the need to a Tropical Storm Watch for Bermuda later this afternoon, as Humberto continues to gain strength and move east-northeast over the next two days or so.

With sustained wind speeds of 85 mph, the hurricane was this morning sitting about 710 miles outside of Bermuda but is expected to reach the north end of the island by Wednesday night. Humberto is expected to peak as a major hurricane within the next 36-48 hours, with forwarding speed intensifying through Thursday, September 19.

Other effects of the storm include large swells, which will affect portions of the northwestern Bahamas and the southeastern U.S. during the upcoming few days. People in those areas should be aware of dangerous surf conditions and potentially life-threatening rip currents.