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.

Disney Cruise Line seeks further growth

Disney Cruise Line will continue to look for growth opportunities, says company president, Karl Holz. By David Mott

The 17-year-old cruise line’s four-ship fleet came in two tranches – Disney Magic and Disney Wonder in the late 1990s, as the initial ships, augmented more than a decade later by the larger Disney Dream in 2011 and Disney Fantasy a year later. Karl Holz says the launch of the two larger ships “transformed our cruise business in many ways. Simply put, we further expanded the blueprint for family cruising.” Both the newer ships have a passenger count of 4,000 against 2,700 for each of the first two vessels. The latest ships, at 130,000gt, are classed as large resort ships because of the self-containment of their facilities.

“We have noticed continuing popularity among our passengers since Disney emerged in the cruise industry in 1998,” says Holz. “With this expansion we have more opportunity to surprise and delight with an ever-increasing list of ports of call around the world.” These include a return to New York in autumn 2016, where Disney Magic will operate a series of cruises and a first-ever British Isles cruise with calls in England, Scotland and Ireland as well as in France.

For a family entertainer like Disney, where the focus is every bit as much on the children as it is on the adults, safety and the environment have a particular resonance and the cruise line is no exception. “We focus our environmental efforts on utilising new technology, increasing fuel efficiency, minimising waste and promoting conservation. We comply with and sometimes exceed all international environmental regulations,” says Holz.

To boost fuel efficiency, Disney claims it is the first cruise line to use an innovative hull coating on its ships which is both 100% non-toxic as well as reducing surface resistance in open water. “In addition, all Disney ships have dedicated environmental officers who are responsible for compliance and are ranked among the most senior leaders onboard.”

Much has been said over the years about the position of people without children on a Disney vessel and this is a subject Holz tackles. “What I can tell you is that there is that there is something for everyone on Disney ships, which all include areas created exclusively for adults. They also have the options of spas, nightclubs and lounges, as well as adult-exclusive dining and pools.” In addition, there is an adult beach at Serenity Bay at Disney’s private island in Florida, Castaway Cay.

Asked how Disney has been able to transpose its stories to shipboard life, Holz says this has been achieved by the extensive use of new technology. “Our team of ‘imagineers’ is always working to bring to life Disney stories for our passengers. 

We have a portfolio of characters and intellectual property and are always looking to anticipate industry trends and plan strategically to deliver entertainment on our ships. As a member of the cruise industry we are always looking to identify trends alongside our competitors and to innovate.” Indeed, Disney’s use of technology has enabled it to become one of a growing number of lines which give passengers in interior cabins a real-time view of the ocean thanks to high-definition cameras positioned outside the ship.

With ships relying so heavily on shipboard attractions, a constant programme of technical updating is obviously important. Holz says: “Reinvesting in our ships, also to meet increased business, is part of the Disney heritage and over the years we have made many changes to upgrade our vessels. In 2013 the Disney Magic spent six weeks in drydock in an operation which made a wonderful ship even better.” The work involved the ‘reimagination’ of the whole upper deck. This autumn Disney Dream will dock in Freeport, Bahamas, when spaces throughout the vessel will be transformed. This work will include the addition of two interactive youth areas, one with a Star Wars theme and another slanted towards Disney Infinity.

In keeping with the international nature of its business, Disney Cruise Line, headquartered in both London and Florida, positions its ships in North America and Europe. In May this year, Disney Magic started sailing the Baltic and the Norwegian fjords out of Copenhagen. That done, she switched to Dover in the UK for two Baltic sailings and a repositioning voyage to Barcelona for two Mediterranean cruises before returning to Miami in the autumn.

Disney Wonder sailed Alaska out of Vancouver this summer before going to Hawaii for two cruises, followed by a return to San Diego for trips to Mexico. Throughout this year, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy will operate out of Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Early in 2016 Disney Magic will carry out her maiden British Isles cruise as well as calling at ports in northern Europe, the Greek islands and the Mediterranean. Disney Wonder will reposition from Galveston to San Juan for a southern Caribbean itinerary including, for the first time, the French island of Martinique.

In common with a number of companies operating ocean cruises, Disney has just gone into the river cruising business. But in Disney’s case this is quite separate from the ocean cruise line and river itineraries are operated by Adventures of Disney in conjunction with AmaWaterways. From next year, sailings along the Danube will be operated using AmaViola. There was an initial programme of five sailings and another two have just been added. Passengers will be able to visit eight destinations in four countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

So growth is certainly on the cards for the operator, but (for now) this does not imply any new additions to the fleet, says Holz. “At this time we do not have any further details to share on building new ships,” he concludes.

MSC Cruises changes course for Divina

By Tom Stieghorst

MSC Divina in the Caribbean Video

MSC Cruises said the MSC Divina, a ship that was scheduled to sail year-round from Miami, will be moved to the Mediterranean for summer 2015 before returning for the winter of 2015-16 in the Caribbean.

The ship began sailing from Miami in November and was the centerpiece of an MSC marketing campaign in North America. It will continue on current Caribbean itineraries for the rest of 2014 and the first four months of 2015.

In a statement, MSC Cruises USA President Rick Sasso said “customer surveys are showing an increased desire for North Americans to sail onboard MSC Divina in the Mediterranean.”

Industry-wide, Caribbean pricing has suffered from a glut of capacity this year, while demand for European cruises has been surprisingly strong, especially from North America. The weak economies in several European countries and high airfares led some cruise lines to reduce capacity in Europe this year.

MSC said the changes to Divina designed to bring it more in line with American tastes will remain in place for its summer in Europe. Upon returning in the fall of 2015 to the U.S., Divina will get some “surprise enhancements” for the North American market.

In a conference call with analysts earlier Tuesday, Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan mentioned the Divina move, saying its arrival in Miami was a significant addition to capacity in the Caribbean that would be removed next summer.