Jan Swartz became president of Princess Cruises at the beginning of December 2013 and it is clear that she relishes her new job. “I feel very honoured to be in this role. I look forward with great anticipation to 2014,” she says.
One thing that she had not expected was the amount of emails and letters she received from women in the industry offering their support. From crew members to travel agents, she comments: “It seems it really touches them that a woman should be appointed. It has been very motivational for me.”
Motivation is something she obviously has in abundance with the world squarely in her sights for Princess Cruises. “We believe that Princess has enormous global potential as a cruise offering and this is because our brand is very well known all over the world.” This is partly due to the line’s connection with the legacy of The Love Boat, an American series aired on ABC Television Network between 1977 and 1986 and viewed in over 70 countries. “The awareness of Princess is quite powerful. Because our ships sail to so many ports we are known in the far reaches of the world as a cruise operator. A real opportunity for Princess is to continue to grow our company and introduce many unique products to countries around the world.”
While North America is the birthplace of Princess, with its passengers being predominantly from the region, the UK and Australia are major markets and the brand now has 11 offices across Asia. “The next five years for Princess will be very much characterised by us building our brand in many countries and also delivering an exceptional product as we sail to some of the most beautiful and historical places,” says Swartz, who reckons that there is virtually nowhere that a passenger may want to visit that Princess does not have on an itinerary.
When asked how she plans to make this global vision happen, Swartz is in no doubt as to the value of the people that work at Princess. “We have very strong, very capable teams in countries around the world. I am a great believer that our business is about people and the quality of our people.”
The onboard delivery of an exceptional product is a very important part of the mix. “We will achieve global expansion through defining the Princess Cruises offering as appealing to meaningful travellers who look for travel to enrich their lives.” This includes new flavours and food, new friends and new cultures and the chance to “bring back a new perspective on life”.
The company is also investing further in advertising and launched a TV advertising campaign in North America for the first time in 10 years in January. The US$20m programme – Come Back New – covers print, TV and radio and is aimed at those who value experiences over possessions and want enriching and transformative holidays. Concentrating on personal experiences at sea, the campaign will also be adapted for use in the UK and Australia.
Turning to Asia and Japan in particular, Swartz comments: “It is a very wealthy developed nation full of travellers. The Japanese love to travel and yet there is no established cruise industry in Japan, where we want to build awareness of Princess as a vacation alternative. In many ways Japan today is like the US was 40 years ago when we started out.”
This year the company has expanded its programme with the Japan-built 2,670-passenger Diamond Princess joining 2,022-passenger Sun Princess sailing out of three homeports: Yokohama (Tokyo), Kobe and – an industry first – Otaru on Hokkaido.
Both ships have undergone or are about to undergo refurbishment in Sembawang Shipyard in Singapore. Changes include some local customisation for Japanese passengers, such as restaurant Kai Sushi, as well as maintaining the core Princess offerings for international clientele.
Princess also launched an advertising campaign in China in February. Swartz says: “China is a bit of a different story. Our competitors have been there for a number of years but we think it is time for a premium brand to be introduced into China.” The 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess is sailing a first season this summer out of Shanghai.
The expansion into Asia is possible because of the two newbuildings, Royal Princess and Regal Princess, joining the fleet last year and this. “This growth allows us to offer new itineraries and deployments worldwide.” Princess is also developing Singapore. “It is a great launch point for some fabulous itineraries, both short and long, which we think will appeal to cruisers worldwide. We have sailed in Asia for over 25 years but historically we were taking North Americans, UK guests and Australians to Asia. With the new itineraries we continue to do so but with certain itineraries we believe that the majority of passengers will be local”.
Swartz says: “In order to achieve this global expansion we will increase the investment we make in telling the Princess story so that meaningful travellers can find us.” She adds that the expansion campaign will be executed by very strong local teams working with the line in Los Angeles.
Continuing to ignite consumer demand is one of the challenges Swartz outlines. In the last five years, events such as the global financial crisis, political and economic unrest and tragic ship incidents have challenged consumer demand. However, she says: “Challenges are also opportunities. Our opportunity is to invest in advertising and promotion and remind the world of what great value and extraordinary vacations Princess offers.”
The plan to deliver Regal Princess, sister ship to Royal Princess, earlier than expected on 15 May 2014 has led to a few extra cruises going on sale. A new ship is another opportunity to get the message across. Swartz comments: “We are very happy with the design and performance of Royal Princess. A few minor modifications will be done.”
This article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2014 edition of International Cruise & Ferry Review. To read the full article, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.