Attention, all cruise enthusiasts: CLIA Cruise 360 is today!
Keynote speaker Andy Stuart‘s presentation isn’t until this afternoon, but luckily for you, we caught up with him earlier this week to find out what he has in store for attendees today, what sets NCL apart and where the future of cruising is headed.
Stuart hasn’t spoken at Cruise 360 for three years and told Travel Weekly that this year presented a great opportunity to speak to Aussie agents.
“I’m trying to stay off the Norwegian brand and talk more generally about innovation and why it’s important,” he said.
“Agents shouldn’t just be looking at the cruise industry to innovate, theres a lot of innovation in the travel agent community themselves, in distribution, in how to reach customers.
“So I’m trying to talk more broadly about innovation – the heart of how everyone should think about their business.”
Stuart added that for agents to be able to sell cruise effectively, they need to understand that each cruise line is unique.
“There’s a lot of different cruise lines out there, and understanding the differences between the cruise lines is important. There is a brand for different consumers. We’re not the brand for every consumer that walks into their office,” he said.
Stuart’s trip down under is timed perfectly – and follows an avalanche of exciting announcements for the brand.
NCL has expanded it’s itinerary offerings, with an increased presence in Asia. Norwegian Jade will offer a season of sailings throughoutdeparting from Singapore and Hong Kong in summer 2019/2020 – stopping in ports like Phuket, Langkawi, Penang, Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My) and Ha Long Bay.
The cruise line’s newest, and seventeenth, ship, Norwegian Encore, will begin cruising at the end of 2019, and NCL has also proceeded with orders for two additional Project Leonardo Class ships for delivery in 2026 and 2027.
“We’re excited about Norwegian Encore, she’s the next new ship. She’ll deliver in November next year and we’ll have some new things on her that we’re not talking about yet. Then the next new plaster ship is 2022, so lots of new capacity coming,” Stuart told TW.
And they need it: itineraries for early 2019 are already booking out – and since launching in the Aussie market only three years ago, NCL’s Australian customer base has grown exponentially.
“People are booking earlier than they’ve historically booked and 2019 is booking strongly already. It’s ahead of where we were this time last year,” Stuart said.
“We’ve more than doubled the business out of Australia, and I think we can double it again.”
But that business isn’t just Aussies cruising out of Australia – Stuart said more and more Aussies are choosing to cruise out of other countries, too.
“They’re cruising out of the ship in Hawaii, they’re cruising on the ships in Europe, they’re cruising on the ships in Alaska, and that’s how we like it. We don’t want Australians just cruising out of Australia, we like it when they fly further afield to some of the other ships in the fleet,” he said.
Which leads Stuart to his next point: no matter how many activities, dining options or entertainment a ship has on board, the destination will always be paramount to the cruising experience.
“Destination is critical. We’re going to continue to innovate as an industry and do things that are different and new.
“Gone are the days where it can just be ‘okay’ because you’re on a ship. Any element has to be as good as anything else we do,” he said.
That’s one of the main challenges for the cruising industry – remaining new and exciting for customers.
“Every industry has its challenges and cruising is no exception. I think, as a business, we’ve done a good job at predicting what’s coming and investing in the experience, investing in the technology and investing in ships to really continue to keep the consumer excited and continue to deliver an experience that’s better than it was last year,” Stuart said.
And as for the competition?
“The beauty of our industry is that there are a lot of innovative leaders here who are doing things that are exciting and new and different, and we put pressure on each other to continue to make the experience better, to deliver things that you wouldn’t have expected on a ship yesterday,” Stuart said.
“I think the Norwegian brand’s been at the forefront of that, whether it’s entertainment or putting racetracks on ships.
“We’ve got to keep doing that because land experiences are doing that, other cruise experiences are doing that, and that’s why the industry’s growing.”