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"We want to offer a premium experience to our guests," Kevin Bulboz, Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line, created in 1966 in the Caribbean has developed its identity through premium and flexible products. Taking a view that is opposite that of several competitors. Interview with Kevin Bubolz, Vice President and Managing Director Europe.

Who are your customers?

75% of our clients come from USA or Canada and the 25% remaining are from various other markets. Europeans are first with mostly people from UK, Germany and 3rd Spain. Australian customers are our third market followed by South Americans and Asians.

What markets do you want to focus on, as an incoming destination?

The deployment of our fleet reveals quite well our priorities. We are ending a 6th ship in Europe because it is the product that everybody wants to do from around the world. As an international destination, it is the most important. On the other hand, if you go to the Caribbean, you don’t attract everyone mainly Americans and Europeans; it is a sunshine, relaxing destination. We have also developed a tour in South America.

Around North America, Alaska is growing really fast. That’s why we upgraded our ships in the area.

Asia and Australia as destinations are growing quite fast as well. That’s why we are adding another ship in that region. Up to now we had one ship doing Australia and a part of Asia. Now we will have a ship for Australia and New Zealand and a second one for Asia around Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Some of your competitors are announcing the birth of really big ships, that will be able to accommodate around 6,000 guests. What about you?

At the moment, the ship size we have is really profitable and our ships are full, we have an occupancy rate of 109% which close to the maximum capacity of our ships. We could reach at the most 120%. So, our cruises are working very well.

We really want to offer a premium experience to our clients by proposing them large spaces. People are happy to pay a premium price if it’s a very good experience. For instance, in our ship that goes to Alaska, we decided to put a big observation space. People came to us and told us you could build 40 cabins more in here! We prefer to offer a premium experience in our observation space to allow our guests to enjoy the scenery whether the weather is good or not.

We are in fact reducing our ships’ capacity. We first built the Jewel ships with a 2,000 guests capacity, then Breakaway ships that can welcome around 4,200 and our new generation ships Leonardo will welcome 3,300. It will be 15% smaller than Breakaways and will welcome 25% fewer guests. This is a deliberate will to preserve our guest experience on board.
We operate big ships in the Caribbean and smaller ones for destinations where ports are smaller like Europe.

What is your R&D strategy?

We are not working on a revolution but mostly working on evolution. We have always had a culture of innovation.
We rely on reports regarding our existing products and look at what is working among our guests. We also rely on our teams for instance we have a Swedish engineer who came to us one day telling we should build seafronts. After he demonstrated the feasibility, we implemented it on our Breakaway model.

We are really focusing on customer experience. For instance, we created the concept of Haven which is a ship in a ship, a dedicated space with luxury services and equipment all located in the same area. People have their own sun deck, their own restaurant… We also look at what is done in the industry for good ideas.

How do you recruit, train and keep your employees?

The fleet personal is based in Miami. We have more 50,000 people on the seas and 2,000 on land. We have training hotel schools in The Philippines and Indonesia. They are owned and founded by Norwegians and managed locally. We also recruit all around the world to have different languages on our ships.

We have around 60 to 70 nationalities that are working together and co-living in the same place during the cruises. We have a motto: Happy crew, happy ship. It’s tough work, but we are implementing many things to make our employees’ life as good as possible. For instance, we have changed the cabin for our crew members to propose maximum twin cabins and also single cabins with shared bathrooms, we also have a dedicated area, bar and restaurants for the crew on our big ships.

It is very important for us to have a happy crew because human contact is the heart of the customer experience.

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