This week LATTE chats with Eamonn Ferrin, Vice President International Business for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) to gain his insight on the Australian cruise market and trends.
An industry veteran, Ferrin has more than 23 years of travel and hospitality experience. He joined NCL in January 2019 as Vice President and Managing Director for the UK, Ireland, Israel, South Africa and Middle East, with his role broadened in July 2021.
Ferrin now oversees all NCL’s sales efforts outside of the US and Canada – including for Australia and New Zealand – and his responsibilities include growing the Company’s international footprint by deepening existing travel relationships, reaping new business and further integrating international source markets into the Company’s global business plan.
1. What trends from the Australian market have NCL noticed over the past 12 months as the world reopened to cruising?
We are close to marking our full fleet back in the water, doing what we do best. And one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that cruising is still the wonderful experience it always was!
We are seeing strong pent-up demand in Australia and increasing interest in cruising, and we expect 2022 to be the year that travel comes roaring back.
There is an increased focus on health and safety, which is vital to restoring confidence in cruise. That’s why we work hard to ensure our valued travel partners feel confident to share and showcase our comprehensive health and safety protocols, which guide every touchpoint of their client’s journey with us. With our Sail Safe protocols in place, we believe cruise is now the safest way to travel.
The other changing preference is around having a sense of space – something the new Norwegian Prima, the first in our six Prima Class ships has in spades:
- Most spacious guest/space ratio of any new cruise ship in her competitive set
- Most outdoor deck space of any new contemporary or premium cruise ship
- Largest ever staterooms in the NCL fleet.
Group travel continues to grow – especially among groups of friends and multi-generational family groups making up for lost time, missed milestones and celebrating the long-awaited opportunity to re-connect.
Meanwhile solo travel also continues to gain momentum with travellers keen to treat themselves, pursue their personal interests and take their dream trip – without having to wait for or accommodate anyone else! NCL were the first to offer the industry’s first exclusive area specifically designed and priced for solo travellers. Available on 7 ships, Studio cabins have private key card access to the Studio Complex and Lounge where guests travelling alone can connect and relax in a welcoming, affordable, and stylish environment. Low Single supplements are also offered on a range of voyages.
2. What proportion of your bookings come from Australian and New Zealand travellers?
Australia and New Zealand has typically always performed as one of our top three international markets, and with the positive sentiment we’re seeing Down Under, we expect that to continue.
3. Have you seen any change in the profile of your guests booking from Australia and New Zealand?
Couples continue to be the largest traveller segment on board NCL cruises, and ships such as Norwegian Spirit, which will arrive in local waters in December 2022, have been designed with adult-centric spaces to cater to this group. Also popular are families with school-aged kids, who love the variety of activities and experiences we offer for the young, and young at heart.
4. Where are NCL’s Aussie travellers going and for how long? Does this differ greatly from pre-COVID? NCLH’s sister brands Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises have previously reported that cruisers are booking longer voyages or back-to-back sailings, and spending more on higher stateroom/suite categories. Is the same trend occurring with NCL?
Our Australian guests love to book Europe – primarily the Mediterranean e.g. Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, with increasing interest in Iceland and Norway.
As travellers make up for lost time, our guests are looking to book ‘bucket list’ voyages such as our Extraordinary Journeys, that take travellers off-the-beaten-track on exotic, open-jaw itineraries from places like the Middle East to the Med, and Alaska to Hawaii.
To meet this demand, we’ll continue to reimagine our deployment planning with a ‘Guest First’ lens in everything we do, continuing to create port-intensive itineraries offering more time in port with fewer sea days. For example, in the Med – a favourite among Australian travellers – we’ve extended our standard sailings from 7 to 9 and 10-days to incorporate a more diverse range of destinations.
Our 7-day Pride of America sailing in Hawai’i is also a popular choice for those who prefer to sail closer to home – a sentiment we’ve seen more of since the pandemic.
Norwegian Spirit’s inaugural local season, between December 2022 and March 2023, is in high demand, with limited opportunities still available on select itineraries for those keen to experience this spectacular ship while staying close to home.
Demand for premium staterooms and suites is on the rise as people look to indulge themselves as they return to travel – such as premium staterooms and NCL’s luxurious ship-within-a-ship concept, The Haven by Norwegian.
5. With travellers now wanting more privacy and space, has NCL noticed an increased interest in The Haven product from the local market?
When Norwegian Prima bookings opened last year – setting a new booking record for NCL with the single best booking day ever – nearly 20% of bookings were for Haven suites, underlining the strong desire for top-of-the-line experiences (as well as increased space) as travellers make up for lost time.
The Haven’s ‘ship-within-a-ship’ concept has been particularly popular among those looking to enjoy additional personal space and privacy whilst sailing. A high-end retreat, The Haven offers guests the best of both worlds – the elevated luxury of a small ship with its own suites, private elevator access, restaurants, butler, spa and private pool – combined with the extensive entertainment, food and beverage options and activities of a larger vessel. This reflects the global travel trends both for more personal space and increased levels of luxury whilst travelling.
6. When can the Australian market expect to see The Haven on a regular basis in our own backyard?
With six new ships launching over six years, we are considering all opportunities.
The Haven is currently found on 11 of the 17 ships in our fleet, plus the soon-to-be-launched Prima Class ships.
7. How has the global market reacted to the new Haven experience on NCL’s Prima Class of ships?
As indicated by Norwegian Prima’s booking records, the global market has shown an outstanding reaction to the Haven experience offered onboard the Prima Class ships.
The Haven on Norwegian Prima and her sister ship Norwegian Viva will be located at the aft of the ship, a first for us. The 107-suite area will be more sumptuous and decadent than guests will have ever previously experienced. For the first time, every common area in The Haven offers stunning sea and destination views. The Haven Courtyard on Norwegian Prima has been transformed into an expansive Haven Sundeck, boasting a stunning new infinity pool overlooking the ship’s wake and a new outdoor spa with a glass-walled sauna and cold room.
Pushing the boundaries of exclusive design within the reimagined exclusive space, all public areas and suites in The Haven have been designed by Piero Lissoni, one of Italy’s pre-eminent designers.
8. What are you most excited about with The Prima class of ship?
The Prima Class of ships is our first new class of ships in a decade, and Norwegian Prima will be the first of six ships to launch over six years.
Norwegian Prima marks a step-change for our company, positioned firmly in the premium cruise category, which makes her particularly attractive for Australian guests who’ve had their holidays curtailed for the past two years, and are now looking to make up for lost time.
We are incredibly excited to have just announced Katy Perry as Norwegian Prima’s godmother, and we look forward to launching our beautiful, innovative ship with her in August 2022, ahead of a series of bucket-list itineraries in Northern Europe with voyages from Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London and Reykjavik.
The arrival of Norwegian Prima comes with a series of INDUSTRY FIRSTS (for her category):
- Highest guest to space ratio
- Highest staffing levels of any cruise ship in the contemporary and premium cruise category – ratio of almost 1 staff member for every 2 guests – up to nearly 50% more staff per guest than other cruise lines
- Most expansive outdoor deck space
- Most spacious suites, largest variety of suite categories
- Fastest slides at sea (10 stories tall)
- Largest racetrack at sea (22% longer than Encore)
…and BRAND FIRSTS:
- First new class of ships for NCL in a decade
- First of six ships to be delivered in six years
- NCL’s largest-ever insides, oceanviews and balconies
- First ever aft-facing Haven, featuring exclusive-use infinity pool, sundeck, lounge, bar, restaurant and private elevator bank for access
- Outdoor promenade Ocean Boulevard is more than twice the size of The Waterfront, available on 8 NCL ships currently
9. How important is the Australian market to NCL?
Australia and New Zealand are certainly important markets for us, both as source markets and as destinations. Our inaugural Norwegian Spirit deployment, from December 2022 to March 2023, reconfirms our long-term commitment to the region. We look forward to welcoming Australian and New Zealand travellers back on board.
We know Australian and New Zealand guests love our style of cruising – particularly the laidback, flexible ambience, plenty of good food, wine and parties, showstopping Broadway-style entertainment and raft of onboard activities and experiences to enjoy.
10. What will be the key focus for NCL in the Australian market over the next 12 months?
Our focus in Australia and New Zealand is two-fold:
- Selling international cruises like Europe and Alaska
- Promoting close-to-home cruising in local waters e.g. Australia New Zealand, Hawaii
A key priority is Norwegian Spirit’s inaugural local season – NCL’s eagerly-anticipated return to Australia after almost 3 years – and a fantastic opportunity for Australian travellers to see her in local waters fresh from her more than US$100m renovation, the most expensive and extensive in our 55-year history. Having Norwegian Spirit in local waters will signal a return to confidence in cruising and reaffirm NCL’s commitment to the region.
Europe is always a bucket list destination for Aussie travellers and is back for a huge season this year. NCL has kicked off its greatest Europe season yet with eight ships sailing to over 100 destinations from 10 different departure ports including Norwegian Prima’s global debut in Iceland in August, where pop icon Katy Perry will serve as the ship’s Godmother and perform during the christening ceremony.