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Breaking Travel News interview: Nick Wilkinson, director of sales, Norwegian Cruise Line

Breaking Travel News interview: Nick Wilkinson, director of sales, Norwegian Cruise Line Nick Wilkinson talks to Breaking Travel News

An exciting year awaits Norwegian Cruise Line, with the launch of Norwegian Breakaway expected in the first quarter.

Here Breaking Travel News sits down with Norwegian director of sales, Nick Wilkinson, to see what the 4,000-passenger vessel will bring to the cruise line.

Breaking Travel News: Norwegian Breakaway is scheduled for launch in early 2013 - what will this vessel bring to the fleet?

Nick Wilkinson: We are very excited for Norwegian Breakaway to join our fleet – it is the first of two 4,000-passenger vessels that are being introduced over the next couple of years.

Breakaway’s homeport will be in New York, making it the largest vessel to homeport year-round in New York City.

We’re proud of Norwegian Breakaway’s New York connections, which is why we’ve ensured that guests will experience the Big Apple theme running throughout the ship.

This connection is noticeable from the moment anyone is in sight of the ship, as its hull has been designed by the legendary New York artist Peter Max.

His design has included a number of iconic and eye-catching New York images.

On board there are three Broadway shows that guests can enjoy: Rock of Ages, Burn the Floor and Cirque Dreams & Dinner: Jungle Fantasy.

Following Norwegian Epic’s success, there will also be an Ice Bar on board, with its own New York theme.

Guests can try cocktails such as ‘Broadway Dreams’ and ‘Yellow Cab’ while being surrounded by ice sculptures of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

Norwegian Breakaway also has a number of exciting new dining options – The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place will offer an unparalleled experience with a unique connection to the ocean.

At The Waterfront, guests can enjoy al fresco dining as they look out on to the beauty of the seas, choosing from a vast array of restaurants.

Inside, 678 Ocean Place is a space that connects three decks of dining and entertainment. Norwegian Breakaway is also introducing a new dining concept – Ocean Blu, the line’s first ever all-seafood restaurant, which includes a premium raw bar along with a separate sushi bar.

BTN: Norwegian Getaway will be next, sailing from Miami in 2014. Why did Norwegian choose to base the ship there, in this highly competitive market?

NW: Miami has been the home of Norwegian Cruise Line since our beginning in 1966, so we are very excited to be bringing Getaway to Miami.

Norwegian Getaway will embrace all that the Magic City, known as the Cruise Capital of the World, has to offer and will be the largest ship ever to homeport year-round in Miami.

We are confident that Norwegian Getaway will thrive in the competitive market - Norwegian vessels will generate more than one million passenger moves annually through the Port once Norwegian Getaway arrives, with Getaway generating 450,000 passenger moves each year alone.

The vessels are estimated to contribute $500,000,000 each year to Florida’s economy.

BTN: Norwegian has two further ships on order – so-called Breakaway Plus-sized ships – can you tell us a little about how these ships will differ from what is currently on offer, from Norwegian, and its competitors?

NW: We are looking forward to the arrival of Breakaway-Plus to further distinguish the Norwegian Cruise Line brand.

It will continue our trend of innovative design, rich stateroom mix and the world-class amenities of Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway. 

Breakaway-Plus solidifies our commitment to continued innovation in terms of the guest experience and will incorporate technical and environmental advances as well.

As it will be 146,600 gross tons and a 4,200 passenger ship, it will be larger than the Breakaway-class ships, delivered in October 2015.

There is also the option for a second Breakaway-Plus ship for delivery in spring 2017 following Breakaway-Plus.

BTN: Will you be relinquishing any ships to accommodate these new vessels?

NW: We currently have no plans to relinquish any ships so as to accommodate these new vessels - we are very pleased to see our fleet growing as we add new vessels while maintaining and updating the features on our current fleet. 

BTN: With four ships on order, does Norwegian Cruise Lines expect the UK market to remain as buoyant over the coming two-to-three years as it has been over the past two?

NW: The latest UK cruise industry figures released by the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) at World Travel Market are positive for the years ahead.

It has been estimated that 1.72m Brits will have taken an ocean cruise in 2012, 20,000 more than the 1.7m carried in 2011.

For 2013 the PSA is predicting a growth of more than two per cent in UK cruises to 1.76m passengers, on the back of continued investment in new and refurbished cruise ships, a fiercely competitive market, and the continued popularity of ex-UK port cruises as well as Mediterranean fly-cruise options.

With this in mind, we are feeling positive for the next few years ahead.

BTN: Are there any emerging destinations Norwegian considers particularly exciting?

NW: We continue to see growth for our brand in the European markets year round and will continue to ensure we have a strong presence in these markets.

Further afield it’s fair to say that Asia and Australia are becoming more appealing as both source markets for new cruise guests as well as cruise destinations in their own right.

In addition to these emerging destinations there is considerable growth now in Latin America as cruising becomes an ever increasing popular holiday option

BTN: Friends of the Earth recently rated Norwegian as one of the most environmentally friendly cruise lines. Is this an important area for the business?

NW: We take environmental issues very seriously and it is pleasing to see this recognised by Friends of the Earth.

We are very passionate about preserving our oceans, and this is why we have made environmental protection one of our core company values, known as Eco-
Smart Cruising.

Norwegian Cruise Line has been leader in environmental protection.

We have implemented a number of innovative environmental policies and technologies which help to reduce our operational impact on the environment.

This includes garbage, waste and recycling programmes, preventing incidents involving pollution as well as reducing our operational impact on the environment.

Our focus on environmental protection was also acknowledged by the World Travel Awards in 2011 where Norwegian Epic received Europe’s Sustainable Tourism Award.

BTN: Finally, IMG Media has just reaffirmed its deal with the Premier League for a further three years. Will you continue to broadcast football on board? Do you feel passengers respond to these kinds of entertainment offerings?

NW: Yes, Premier League football will be part of the programming on board our ships.

However, the Premier League is just one of the top sporting events we broadcast – in the past year our broadcasts have included the Olympics, European Championships and the Ryder Cup.

As a result, travelling sports fans don’t have to miss a thing and can enjoy all the big events while enjoying their holiday, something we’ve been keen to emphasise as we know how important it is not to miss the big match!

Interview: Chris O’Toole