Crane Gladding, senior vice president revenue management and passenger services for Norwegian Cruise Line, gives Lynn Houghton some insights into the line’s itinerary strategy
Fleet expansion is high on the agenda at Norwegian Cruise Line with the surprise announcement in July of two more newbuild orders in the Breakaway Plus class. This follows the launch early this year of Norwegian Getaway with Norwegian Escape, the first in the new class, set to arrive this October. With the fleet now numbering 12, itineraries are growing in number and variety to match this growth.
Finding places for all those ships to go is top of Gladding’s agenda. “One of our upcoming challenges is that, as our fleet grows, we must continue to find exciting ports for our guests to experience,” he says. “We’ve been tackling this issue of finding new ports in several ways. First, we’ve been building incredible activities and unique venues into the onboard experience so our guests will view the ship as a destination itself. Secondly, we’ve been negotiating long-term agreements with ports so we can co-invest in infrastructure.
“We’ve also been investing in our own ports, so as to be able to offer a totally unique destination experiences. These ports include Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas and Harvest Caye in Belize.”
When asked about how Norwegian approaches the basics of itinerary planning, Gladding says: “There are many factors that we take into consideration in regard to itinerary planning – strong source markets; ensuring we offer interesting and exciting itineraries for our guests; and including a variety of shore excursion options for guests of all ages.” He adds: “Of course, we also take into account guest and crew safety and fuel efficiency in all itinerary planning.”
As Norwegian's new ships will be very large, what particular issues will these vessels pose when it comes to port calls? “We look to major homeports with large berths for our larger ships,” explains Gladding. “These ports can support the ship’s size as well as draw a broad range of guests. Our homeports are part of popular itineraries that include ports of call like Bermuda and other islands in the Caribbean.
“We offer more exotic itineraries with our smaller ships, because they can often reach ports that don’t accommodate the larger vessels. Many passengers are still firmly destination focused so these itineraries are perfect for those seeking a more varied experience with a more intimate approach.”
Which itineraries are currently proving most inspiring to Norwegian’s guests? “As for some of our most exciting itineraries, Hawaii remains extremely popular,” says Gladding. “Visiting four islands and sailing past these islands’ majestic coastlines is an incredible experience for our guests. And there is so much to do when in port. Guests are spoiled for choice between taking part in a Luau, hiking to the top of a volcano or just relaxing on a beautiful beach.” Looking ahead, he thinks there is great potential in both hemispheres. “Starting in 2015, Norwegian Epic will be sailing year-round from Europe and we’re also very excited to return to South America in winter 2015-2016, as Norwegian Sun will be sailing 14-day South American voyages between Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina, around Cape Horn and the Straits of Magellan.”
This article appeared in the Itinerary Planning Special Report. To read more articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.