Seatrade Cruise Global: cruise line news

Jon Ingleton shares the second in a four-part review of his time at Seatrade Cruise Global
Seatrade Cruise Global: cruise line news
Norwegian's four Project Leonardo ships will be delivered in June 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025 (Image: Norwegian Cruise Line)

By Jon Ingleton |

Seatrade Cruise Global (STG) provides the perfect opportunity to catch up on news and insights from cruise line executives in person. Part two of my SCG highlights provides a summary of some of these encounters.

Josh Leibowitz, chief strategy officer at Carnival Corporation, has recently taken responsibility for Cunard and took the opportunity to talk about the company at SCG. “For me personally Cunard has special meaning – it’s a brand that has affected millions of lives over 176 years of history,” he said. “We really think of the opportunity to work on this brand as a privilege. I’m only a couple of months on the job, but I have been spending time with travel agents, on the ships and with the press listening to your stories about Cunard. In the world of travel there is a lot of choice. Cunard is a niche brand and there are litmus tests for a company like this, whether we can truly say only ‘One Cunard.’ There are aspects of this brand that are so incredibly unique.”

Carnival Corporation has put a significant amount of resource into Cunard including an investment of close to US$200 million. “That’s the kind of scale that people talk about for a multi-brand fleet, 10-15 ships perhaps,” said Leibowitz, adding that Cunard’s Queen Victoria will enter dry dock at Fincantieri’s Palermo facility in May for a US$45 million refit. “This is a feat of engineering – we’re slicing off the back of the ship so she will have a whole new sun deck, we’ll add 30 new cabins and completely refurbish the 24 existing suites – so there are three benefits.”

At SCG, Cunard took the unusual step of announcing their 2019 itineraries, far sooner than it traditionally has. “We’re thrilled to talk about our 2019 deployment and to be able to talk about it so early,” Leibowitz explained. “Our desire is to increase the globalisation of Cunard and our global sourcing. We’re visiting places that we’ve never been to before and that allows us to attract more guests from key places around the world, to allow us to continue to globalise the brand. For Queen Elizabeth, 25 voyage combinations, 54 ports in 18 countries including 18 maiden calls.”

While big ships dominated most conversations at SCG, Jennifer Tombaugh, president of Tauck, wanted to remind us about small ship cruising, “Maybe my message is a little bit contrarian given what you’ve heard about size,” she said. “Small seems to be the way people want to go – they want more intimate, personal experiences, tailored and customised.”

With a 25-year track record in cruising, Tauck is certainly a major player in the small ship cruising business. “I like to think that we do small better than anyone else, and we’re growing,” said Tombaugh. “No matter what we do, whether on land or sea, it’s all about changing people’s lives. That is our purpose, our mission. It’s not about being the biggest, it’s about being the best. We believe that how you see the world matters.”

So what does Tombaugh single out as the Tauck advantage? “I like to think that we have the most beautiful ships on the water – we have the best space ratios, the most suites, the largest cabins, great public spaces,” she said. “All because we put fewer people on our vessels – where one company might put 190 people on ships of our size, we only take 110. When we talk about Tauck we’re not the cheapest out there, we never will be, but we think we offer great value because everything’s included.”

And what about the future, can we expect to see Tauck building new river and ocean going ships? Tombaugh’s answer was short and prudent: “No. We’ll stick to what we’re good at!”

Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, articulated his brand priorities at SCG. “Delivering a premium type product at contemporary prices to really highlight the value that is Norwegian cruise lines,” he said, before talking about the company’s investment to extend the common standards across the fleet. “We’ve done that [invested] beginning with the Breakaway class vessels. Through the major dry docks under the Norwegian Edge programme we’ve now completed Epic, Dawn, Gem, Pride of America, Pearl and Jade is about to go in. We’re committed to having a ‘one brand, one category, one look and feel’ for the entire fleet of vessels.”

Del Rio is understandably proud and his agenda has a much more international flavour to it today. “Norwegian Cruise Line is a 15-ship brand with the delivery of Joy later this year and by the time 2019 rolls around with the delivery of the last Breakaway class vessel, we’ll be up to 17,” he said. “We’ve moved vessels around so that we have top notch itineraries, we’re not just a Caribbean-focused cruise line, we now have ships in all corners of the world.”

In addition, Del Rio was noticeably excited about the new Project Leonardo announcement. “In the last few weeks we’ve announced that we’ve placed an order for four vessels with options for two more – delivery beginning in June 2022, followed by June 2023, 2024, 2025 and, if we exercise the options, 26 and 27,” he said. “I’ve done my best to look in a crystal ball to figure out what’s going to be hot, what’s going to be cool, what’s going to be the latest thing that guests are going to want. Breakthrough technologies that will enhance the vacation experience.”

From the early visuals Del Rio appears to be spot on, again.

Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, and Roberto Fusaro, president of MSC Cruises (USA), spoke about the global investment in the company and an increased focus on developing their North American business. “We are investing in the organisation around the world and especially here in North America,” said Onorato. “We are moving some departments in order to better supervise and focus the product for the North American guest. We are also creating a new hotel operation into our Fort Lauderdale office. We are investing in marketing, our trade partners and in our infrastructure.”

Fusaro clarified the hardware commitment planned for North America. “Right now we have just one ship operating in North America, MSC Divina, but in just a couple of years we’ll have three ships here – two of them year round,” he said. “And not just any ships – we’ll have our three newest ships here, Davina, Seaside and Meraviglia. The best that shipbuilding can offer in the world of cruises will be represented here in Miami for the North American market.”

Chairman of MSC Cruises (USA) Rick Sasso added: “It’s not just words, it’s action.”

It’s appropriate at this junction in my highlights to conclude with a word from Robyn Duda, portfolio director for SCG. “On behalf of the SCG team, we are humbled by the extraordinary efforts of the caring volunteers at Mercy Ships and the work they do each and every day to make a difference in the lives of thousands around the world. We look forward to raising funds as well as awareness of this non-profit's ongoing remarkable mission during SCG 2017.”

Part 1: The Exhibition
Part 3: State of the Global Cruise Industry 


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