BTN interview: Norwegian Cruise Line UK, Middle East & Africa managing director, Eamonn Ferrin
With cruise lines in Europe taking their first tentative steps back into the water following the Covid-19 shutdown, the stage is set for a fuller return to operations moving into 2021.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is seeking to maintain its presence in the market, expecting pent up 2021/22 demand will lead to a surge in sales once the future becomes a little clearer.
To meet demand, the company has recently unveiled new itineraries on 13 of their ships, stretching as far ahead as winter 2022/23, and even with some schedules into 2024, as it seeks to tempt passengers back on board.
Highlights of the new plans will see Norwegian Dawn make her European debut next year, offering trips around the UK and Greek Isles from April.
She will be departing from Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Southampton, Rome (Civitavecchia), Stockholm and Venice.
Eamonn Ferrin, NCL managing director in the UK, Ireland, Middle East and Africa, explains Europe will be central to the company’s ambitions looking ahead.
“Europe remains the number one destination for NCL, and next summer we will deploy around eight ships there,” he says.
“It has always been a hugely important market for us, and it continues to be so.
“The UK customer remains fascinated with Europe, with so many destinations to visit – so be that 2021, 2022 or 2023, European travel will remain a mainstay of what we do.”
While the majority of large cruise vessels around the world remain out of action – with NCL itself earlier declaring it would remain out of action until at least the end of November – looking forward to 2021/22/23 demand remains strong, argues Ferrin.
“There has definitely been an upswing in interest in cruising of late especially for 2022 and beyond,” he tells Breaking Travel News.
“Why do British travellers choose Europe for a trip? Because it is convenient, it is easy to get to – and you only have to unpack once on a cruise to see many wonderful destinations.
“All of these things remain true, and will continue to add value to what we offer as a company.
He adds: “Restarting back to cruising will be a gradual evolution, but it is clear there is a huge pent up demand - we can see that from the surveys we do of our customers.
“We see that in calls we have from customers, who are ready to book
“We can only expect this to increase as soon as it becomes clear what the future of sailing looks like – a future we are all keen to move into.
“We have done really well as a team to get our new itineraries on sale this far in advance, even as far ahead as into 2024.”
Also to look forward to, the recently refurbished Norwegian Spirit is set to sail on a series of Mediterranean itineraries.
The ship underwent the most extensive bow-to-stern renovation in the history of NCL earlier this year.
She now features 14 new venues that can be enjoyed by cruisers – including the second Onda by Scarpetta restaurant at sea, a doubled-in-size Mandara Spa, complete with a new thermal suite and relaxation area, and an expanded Pulse Fitness Centre, to name but a few of her new features.
Norwegian Spirit is one of the smaller vessels in the 17-strong fleet, offering a more exclusive sailing experience to guests.
Looking further ahead, NCL is also planning its next generation of ships.
“There has been no change to our long-term plans – we still have the six Leonardo-class ships which will be delivered between 2022 and 2027,” continues Ferrin.
“We are very much looking forward to those.
“They are the next, and newest, exciting venture for us, pitched at around 3,300 customers and 140,000 gross tonnes.
“There are also no plans for any current NCL ships to leave the fleet and the six new Leonardo ship class vessels will bring the total to 23 ships by 2027.
“We have one of the newest fleets and one of the most recently refurbished – with Norwegian Spirit as a good example.
“She is a mid-aged ship by industry standards, but that refurbishment has made her into something close to brand new.”
Ferrin is also quick to point out the travel trade will remain a vital asset to NCL as the line seeks to rebuild confidence following the Covid-19 shutdown.
“The trade is still the main avenue through which we sell here in the UK, as well as worldwide,” he explains.
“The Partners First concept continues to remain vital to us, and we treat the trade as equals and partners in success, in whatever we do.
“We have used this time to work with them to explain our new Peace of Mind booking policies– this has all been explored in webinars to keep everybody up to date.
“Training has also been a focus , as well as incentives to maintain sales and grow business – all of those things go into us working with our travel partners.”
He concludes: “NCL has always been noted for its innovation, and people need confidence to book in these unprecedented times.
“We have tried to build peace of mind by offering that flexibility in our booking conditions – allowing the customer to decide when they feel the time is right for them to cruise again.
“If you want to change your mind, you can carry it forward into 2022 as a Future Cruise Credit, or get a full refund if you cancel within 120 days of sailing, the choice is yours .
“It is still not completely clear what will happen next year, so this is not quite an insurance policy, but is something similar to give the consumer confidence to make a booking knowing it can be changed.
“We do not put any conditions on why you might want to change either, so why not book now?”
As the innovator in global cruise travel, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has been breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising for 53 years.
Most notably, the cruise line revolutionised the industry by offering guests the freedom and flexibility to design their ideal vacation on their preferred schedule with no assigned dining and entertainment times and no formal dress codes.
Today, its fleet of 17 contemporary ships sail to over 300 of the most desirable destinations in the world, including Great Stirrup Cay, the private island in the Bahamas and its resort destination Harvest Caye in Belize.
NCL not only provides superior guest service from land to sea, but also offers a wide variety of award-winning entertainment and dining options as well as a range of accommodations across the fleet.
The company is considered the World’s Leading Cruise Line by voters at the World Travel Awards.
Find out more about the company on the official website.