Cruise lines forge community links
THE sight of a senior cruise line executive wielding a wooden paddle aboard one of her ships might ordinarily raise eyebrows. But in the case of Princess Cruises group president Jan Swartz, the opportunity to brandish a new item of seafaring hardware was cause for celebration.
In the Bay of Islands, within sight of the spot where New Zealand’s founding Treaty of Waitangi was signed, Swartz had just met with Maori community leaders to mark a partnership aimed at benefitting both the cruise line and the local community.
The paddle — intricately carved with traditional designs — was given to Princess Cruises as a sign of appreciation, and the occasion was the establishment of a new market at the historic Waitangi Marae where members of the local Maori community will now offer arts, crafts and cultural performances to visiting cruise passengers.
Having pressed noses with some of the most respected Maori leaders in New Zealand, Swartz returned to Majestic Princess where she recounted the experience to 200 travel agents on board for last month’s Next Wave Summit held by the brands of the World’s Leading Cruise Lines (WLCL).
“The markets are up and running because our Princess Cruises team came to the community with a question,” said Swartz, who is also group president of Carnival Australia and New Zealand. “We asked, ‘What would make a difference for you and your people?’.
“One of them told us it was really pretty simple. They were looking to create and operate a market that would showcase their art, crafts, and cultures because it was first and foremost about pride in their people, gathering and sharing their talents and ideas.
“For us it was also pretty simple. It’s about enriching the experience for our guests.”
The initiative was one of several outlined at a summit that had strong themes of community development, environmental projects and sustainable tourism.
“Over the years, Carnival Australia has invested in jetties, toilets, and other passenger facilities, as well as conducted environmental studies in Vanuatu,” Swartz said. “We’ve also worked with the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank on economic impact studies in Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands to support these developing countries to capitalise on the benefits of cruise tourism,” she said.
“P&O Australia is doing some fabulous work through the P&O Partnership Program to support community-based activities in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea as diverse as installing water filters on Mystery Island and paying for the paramedic qualifications for Vanuatu people.”
Agents at the summit also learnt about Carnival Australia’s YuMi project, which helps support and develop indigenous tourism operators in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, and about measures designed to reduce the impact of tourism and spread its benefits deeper into communities.
Carnival Cruise Line vice president of Australia & New Zealand Jennifer Vandekreeke said she met with community leaders in New Caledonia several times a year to discuss ways of managing the growth of cruising.
“What you want to do is reduce the impact and the environmental impact,” Vandekreeke said. “So it’s about creating more shore tours that are going to spread the guests we bring around the island, which has a positive economic impact for the communities that are not right there where we land.”
At the request of community leaders, cruise ship visits to several New Caledonian islands were limited to 100 a year, Vandekreeke said, while on the Isle of Pines, visits were scheduled to avoid Sundays out of respect for the church-going community.
Over an intensive two days, agents aboard Majestic Princess were given updates on each of the WCLC brands as the ship sailed between Auckland and Sydney.
Among key announcements was news that Princess Cruises will boost its capacity in Australia by 40% in 2021 when Majestic Princess is joined by sister ship Regal Princess in sailing from Sydney.
But the news that brought the biggest reaction from attendees was Vandekreeke’s announcement that all 200 agents would be hosted on a special one-night cruise aboard Carnival Splendor when the new ship begins sailing from Sydney in December next year.