Sam Ballard sits down with Nick Wilkinson and Christian Boell from Norwegian Cruise Line to find out why they decided to go premium all-inclusive
When Norwegian Cruise Line announced that it was going to be going premium all-inclusive for British passengers, it took many people by surprise. This was a mainstream, resort-style cruise company for which drinks (especially in the case of Brits) were always a bit of a money-spinner. What was the reason behind the change?
Part of the decision, no doubt, has been a narrowing in on the importance of the British market. The company is homeporting Norwegian Jade in Southampton – the first time it has had a ship stationed in the UK since 2010. That is a huge investment, and commitment, to the UK market, and it needs to make sure there is a return on investment. We sat down with Nick Wilkinson and Christian Boell of Norwegian to find out a bit more about the decision to go all-inclusive and where agents stand in their plans.
Cruise Adviser: Tell me more about the decision to go all-inclusive. Why now?
Christian Boell: It was definitely not a decision that we took lightly. It was trialled across Germany first, which is a similar market to the UK in many ways, before we were sure it was right for the Brits.
Nick Wilkinson: Going premium all-inclusive is also a way of really standing out. Ever since the management changes at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and we joined up with Regent and Oceania, we have made incredible improvements to the service levels across the fleet. We now see ourselves as more of a premium luxury cruise line.
What makes you think that this will work for the British market?
NW: We’ve had a huge amount of support from our trade partners on the back of this decision. In many ways it makes us an easier sell – agents can talk to their customers and instead of putting us against other cruise lines we are now challenging other all-inclusive land-based resorts.
CB: That is where the future of the cruise industry lies – the yet-to-cruise market. Not cruise lines trying to take each other’s passengers. With a simpler product proposition we can start to capture new customers.
Was going all-inclusive a decision that was made to bolster UK sales or make your proposition easier to understand?
NW: Whenever we ran campaigns in the past allowing guests to choose an added extra – be it a drinks package, shore excursions or on board spending money – they would inevitably choose the drinks. I think this makes us a far more attractive proposition for British holidaymakers, while also making our product, and the costs associated with a Norwegian cruise, a lot easier to understand and more transparent.
Your corner of the market is becoming increasingly busy. How do you plan to maintain demand as you increase capacity?
CB: We are constantly introducing innovations on board – be it electric go-karts or laser tag – and will introduce more. However, while we know that differentiation is key to success, we also know agents need to look at cruise lines differently. They have to start putting us in the mix with land-based resort-style holidays.
How are sales for Jade now that it’s back in Southampton?
NW: Sales have been very strong and, until very recently, were the best in the company, so the British public have really embraced having a ship sailing from Southampton again. It makes a huge difference to how we can sell the brand too – we have better access to our hardware and can show her off to agents and passengers alike.
How important are agents to your future plans?
NW: Agents are absolutely crucial to our growth. They are our partners. We’ve recently finished a workshop series where our on the road sales team went out and saw as many members of the trade as possible and updated them with our plans, from our premium all-inclusive offering to ex-UK sailings with Norwegian Jade.
How do you plan to take them along with you as capacity grows?
CB: Agents are at the forefront of everything we do. Our recent roadshows highlight just how important they are to our business and these activities allow them to better understand how to sell our product. We have to keep innovating and they, as our partners, have to get the perfect passengers on board. If they do their customers will be happy and their businesses will grow.