Norwegian Encore draws applause for big views and thrills

The Observation Lounge on the Norwegian Encore offers ample seating and food and drink options.

The Observation Lounge on the Norwegian Encore offers ample seating and food and drink options. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin

ONBOARD THE NORWEGIAN ENCORE  — When Harry Sommer, the incoming president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, spoke to travel advisors aboard the line’s newest megaship, the Encore, he reeled off a list of its activities: 29 dining options, a collection of virtual reality games, laser tag and the 1,100-foot racetrack.

But surprisingly, it was the “huge, huge” observation lounge that elicited spontaneous applause from the travel advisors in the audience. 

“Prime waterfront property,” Sommer said. “I think some of our cruise line competition uses that to put cabins; we like all our guests to experience that type of view. The exact same view the captain gets from the bridge.”

He then deadpanned, “Though he hasn’t invited me yet.” 

Sommer wasn’t kidding when he said the observation lounge was huge. It takes up a generous chunk of Deck 15 and offers vistas both port and starboard plus two-deck-high, floor-to-ceiling windows over the bow. There are loungers galore for disappearing with a book plus couches grouped in conversational seatings.

The decor is done up in soothing shades of sea green, taupe and wood tones, and basket-style chandeliers are suspended from the very forward part of the room. Three buffet stations and a bar offer food and drink at various times of the day. 

Haven passengers get their own generously sized forward lounge on the deck above. 

The Encore is the billion-dollar finale in Norwegian’s Breakaway-Plus class, so many of the travel advisors who saw the ship in New York, like those who would later tour it in Miami, were familiar with the ship’s layout. Agents, media and Norwegian VIPs were able to tour and stay on the ship during a two-day visit to New York  —  a “cruise” in name only, as the Encore remained docked. 

The Encore is not too different from its sisters, although, of course, there are tweaks here and there. More than one travel advisor on the ship raved about the interior decor. More than one executive pointed to the design influence of Frank Del Rio, the CEO of parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. 

A unique feature on the Encore that is destined to become a recurring feature on other ships is a new restaurant, Onda by Scarpetta, which specializes in upscale Italian cuisine. 

On the interior entrance, Onda is tucked behind Cellars, the wine bar runs in partnership with Michael Mondavi. But it’s also part of the wraparound Waterfront dining and drinking promenade and as such has tables for dining outdoors.

Also unique to the Encore is the slate of entertainment, and advisors I spoke with talked up the main-theatre productions of “Choir of Man,” which got two standing ovations during my viewing, and the Tony Award-winning musical “Kinky Boots.” 

In the category of super-active vacation, the Encore doesn’t disappoint. 

The Speedway go-kart racetrack is wider and longer than on other Breakaway-Plus ships, and each participant gets to drive for eight minutes, a suitable number of laps around the track. Passengers who aren’t into driving can watch the action from the observation platform.

Behind the go-karts is the laser tag zone, where teams of up to five players each are pitted against each other in the ruins of Atlantis. Adjacent is the gravity-defying Ocean Loops waterslide that twists and turns off the side of the ship. 

One deck below, passengers will find the Galaxy Pavilion, a collection of intense VR games, and yet another deck below that is the gym  —  and the spa, for when they’re ready to trade activity for a massage.

Another feature new to Norwegian, although not unique to the Encore, was the presence of water cartons instead of plastic bottles. In his remarks to agents (see a report, this page), Sommer talked about Norwegian’s investment in “doing the right thing,” which includes eliminating single-use plastic and plastic straws fleetwide.

“You can’t get a plastic straw on any of our ships,” he said. “Don’t ask.”

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.

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.