NCL update with Damian Borg
travelBulletin caught up with Norwegian Cruise Line’s Damian Borg Director of Sales AUS/NZ to see what the cruise line has been working on over the past few months and what its plans are moving forward.
Q1) It’s been a challenging time for the cruise industry. What have you focused on during this time?
Firstly, I think it’s important to acknowledge that it has been a difficult time for all of the industry, not just cruising. We at NCL have learned over the last few months, not just from a business perspective, but also personally on how to deal with new and unprecedented challenges. From a sales perspective, our focus has been delivering clear and consistent communication to our travel partners and guests. It’s no surprise that a crisis will reveal strengths and opportunities and we have worked hard as a team to improve our capabilities to adapt to different scenarios and find the best outcomes.
On a global scale, we continue to work with a variety of plans and time frames to ensure we are best prepared for the resumption of sailing. In addition to launching our Sail Safe program, which aims at enhancing our already stringent health and safety protocols, we recently announced the ‘Healthy Sail Panel’, which consists of a team of experts who are collaborating to develop recommendations that will help us safely resume operations.
Q2) Have you seen any demand for cruises and if so what destinations are resonating with customers?
This has been a real positive for us and we are seeing some trends form, particularly in the last few weeks. We can already see demand for sailings in late 2021 and throughout 2022. We’re also seeing a diverse destination mix with guests. For NCL we’re seeing Europe and in particular the Mediterranean as a standout cruise destination right now. This may be due to expectations that there will be reduced capacity across cruise operators in the future and guests wanting to secure their cabin early, so they don’t miss out.
We’re also seeing strong demand for Hawaii, Australia & New Zealand and Asia, being our “closer to home” itineraries. We’re excited to welcome the newly refurbished Norwegian Spirit to Australia and New Zealand for the first time for her 2021/2022 sailings, after she underwent the most extensive bow-to-stern renovation in the company’s history earlier this year. Her immersive itineraries and her reimagined and refined adult-centric experiences are going to be very well received. We are also expecting increased interest in Alaska, and our four-ship program is now open for sale for both 2021 and 2022.
Q3) What is the opportunity for Travel Partners to make the most of this demand?
From our research, the main concern of guests is the health and safety protocols onboard. For travel partners, I would recommend they familiarise themselves with our Peace of Mind policy, which, as well as our flexible cancelation policies, outlines the six areas of health and safety measures NCL will be implementing fleetwide as part of our Sail Safe program, these being just the start of range of new technologies and improvements to be announced, including:
- Enhanced screening protocols
- Upgraded medical-grade air filters
- Increased sanitation measures
- Responsible social distancing
- Enhanced medical resources
- Ship to shore health and safety
I’d also recommend that travel partners proactively reach out to their guests that have Future Cruise Credits or CruiseNext coupons and encourage them to book in 2021 & 2022. Travel partners can also look at booking group allocations. This way they can lock in a set price for their group alongside our latest promotional offers. We see groups as being a big opportunity for our travel partners moving forward and will be hosting a webinar soon on the details of booking Groups with NCL.
Q4) What has NCL recently done to support Travel Partners?
We have a strong affinity with our travel partners and as part of our Partners First philosophy we’re always looking to improve and enhance the way in which we connect and communicate with them. Over the last few months we have launched a number of initiatives designed to engage, educate and reward travel partners. We have introduced a Facebook page for AUNZ agents, established our News and Network webinar series and launched the industry first “Book-A-BDM” platform, allowing travel partners to book in time with their BDM in a time and way that suits their needs. We also have some exciting initiatives on the horizon, so stay tuned!
Q5) What’s your current offer and are there any incentives for Travel Partners?
We have a program of promotions and offers that we will be rolling out to market over the coming weeks and months, each with a different and unique value proposition. We have recently launched our Balcony Bonus offer, which is live until 22 September and is combinable with our Free At Sea offer As part of this promotion we’re also giving travel partners a $50 gift card for every deposited booking. To keep up to date with the latest offers and incentives sign up to receive our Partners First email communications by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.