A full schedule and a growing brand

From tailoring a newbuild to the China market to overseeing multiple partnerships for the brand, Princess Cruises’ president Jan Swartz is being kept very busy of late. She shares her priorities with Michele Witthaus

A full schedule and a growing brand
Celebrity chef Curtis Stone is a new Princess Cruises partner
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

New ships in the pipeline are always a good place to start any discussion of a cruise line’s highlights, but a ship tailored to a new market is even better. Majestic Princess is just such a vessel: sister ship to Royal Princess and Regal Princess and due for delivery from Fincantieri in spring 2017, she will bring the Princess Cruises fleet to 19 ships – and she is destined for immediate deployment in China. Another interesting morsel of information about the ship was announced on 8 February (Chinese New Year): the vessel will debut the company’s new livery design.

Then there is the excitement of the December 2015 order for an (as yet nameless) fourth ship in the series, due in 2019. “Our Royal-class ships have been extremely well received by our guests and the announcement of ‘R4’, our fourth Royal-class ship, demonstrates the strong support of our brand from Carnival Corporation,” says Jan Swartz. “Like Royal Princess, Regal Princess and Majestic Princess, R4 will feature the signature elements that make Princess Cruises vessels spectacular. It will further evolve the enhancements we’ve integrated into each of the Royal-class vessels too, making it the most advanced ship ever produced for our fleet.”

Back to the former vessel under construction: “Majestic Princess will offer many of the same special features as Royal Princess and Regal Princess,” says Swartz. These include a dramatic multi-storey atrium serving as the social hub of the ship; an over-the-ocean SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending 28 ft beyond the edge of the ship; the Princess Live! interactive studio; and a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light.

As Carnival Corporation grows its position in China and Asia, Swartz sees many opportunities for the Princess brand as a pioneer in the region. “The Asia cruise market has vast potential for growth and is set to expand rapidly. Compared to more mature markets, Asia is the most rapidly evolving travel market in the world, with a greater variety of people travelling and new traveller segments are emerging such as an increase in first-time cruisers and younger passengers.” Citing growth drivers such as larger ships with greater capacity, more local ports and destinations, and new onboard and shoreside activities, she says: “We believe that the desire to travel, specifically the new opportunity of cruise vacations in China, will continue to be a priority for consumers as the market grows. Currently China represents the largest outbound travel market in the world. We’ve learned that people are willing to pay for exceptional travel experiences and we believe the same will hold true in China. We also believe in the long-term growth of leisure travel and we have a long-term commitment to the China market.” She adds that travel agencies in China are supportive of the industry and the Princess product.

Upcoming itineraries and new destinations for the Princess fleet in its more traditional geographies will continue to reflect current trends in cruise travel. “Princess is known as a destination leader and visits more than 360 ports worldwide, so the variety we offer our guests is immense,” says Swartz. “We also have a team of dedicated experts who plan our itineraries based on demand and port infrastructure, and ensure we secure desirable times in port and the best availability.”

When it comes to shore excursions, the company’s More Ashore programme is aimed at giving guests more opportunities to experience the colour, culture and flavours of the regions they visit in 2016 and 2017.

“With port calls offering more time ashore with either late night departures (9pm or later), an overnight, or a two-day experience, travellers can see the sights during the day and then experience the nightlife of select destinations in the evening. Highlights of the More Ashore program in Europe include overnights in Dublin and St. Petersburg on select sailings, as well as late evening stays in more than 15 countries.”

In the Caribbean, guests can enjoy evening stays in Aruba and St. Thomas and visit the new Carnival Corporation-owned port, Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic.

“In addition, through our partnership with Discovery Communications, we offer Discovery and Animal Planet Exclusive Shore Excursions. These excursions are unique tours that cannot be booked independently and are available only through Princess Cruises. Discovery Recommended excursions provide enriching and immersive once-in-a-lifetime experiences while Animal Planet Recommended tours show guests the coolest animals around the globe.”

Sustainability is a core value in all of the brand’s activities, says Swartz. “Princess Cruises is committed to environmental practices that set a high standard for excellence and responsibility and help preserve the marine environment.

“We meet environmental requirements and, in many cases, we go beyond what is required by law while we are continuously working to identify ways we can raise the level of our environmental performance.”

Onboard partnerships are a big part of Princess’s efforts to appeal to its target market. Well-known brands appear onboard in the shape of Kindle Love Stories and Voice of the Ocean, among other activities. “We recently announced a US$450 million multi-year product innovation and cruise ship renovation called The Come Back New Promise. It differentiates our approach to cruising and offers our guests enriching vacation experiences by connecting them with each other, nature and different cultures in a new way,” says Swartz.

“Our promise is to provide guests transformative moments designed to inspire them to discover the world and themselves, ultimately allowing us to declare that a cruise isn’t good enough unless you ‘come back new.’”

The Come Back New Promise is backed up by elements such as a new partnership with award-winning Chef Curtis Stone; the recently unveiled Princess Luxury Bed, which promises to deliver the ultimate night of sleep at sea; the arrival of the Salty Dog Gastropub brand; and Style at Sea with TLC, which helps guests prepare and pack for their cruise. Previously announced ‘Come Back New’ features include the immersive Chocolate Journeys experience; Discovery at Sea in partnership with Discovery Communications, featuring hit shows like Deadliest Catch and Shark Week; Magic to Do, the first of four musical production shows created in collaboration with Stephen Schwartz, award-winning composer and songwriter of Wicked, Godspell and Pippin; Festivals of the World; the Craft Beer Series; and Princess@Sea Messenger which connects guests with their fellow cruisers on their mobile devices.

Princess is also reaching out to prospective guests through the television series ‘The Cruise’. Created by factual documentary company Wild Pictures, the series starts broadcasting on UK television in March and Swartz says she expects more than three million viewers to tune in. “Viewers will gain a unique insight into the day-to-day roles of the 1,400-strong crew, who hail from countries across the world. They will see how the team works together to keep the operations of the ship running smoothly including navigating the 114,000gt, 19-deck ship; preparing over 20,000 meals a day; and servicing 1,800 staterooms.”

Listed in this way, the numbers are certainly noteworthy. Even more impressive is that they pertain to just one of the ships under Swartz’s care. It’s all in a day’s work for her as she tackles the multifaceted job of building the brand in all its markets worldwide.

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Michele Witthaus
By Michele Witthaus
Friday, June 17, 2016