How many times have you been asked what was your favorite cruise line or favorite cruise ship? Having hosted the 2-hour weekly “Vacation and Cruise Club” call-in radio show in Miami from 1995 to 2003, I was probably asked that question at least 400 times. My honest answer was always the same, “Every one I have been on!”
While I was certainly trying to stay neutral to the many cruise executives that were my guests over those 8 years, I was still telling the truth, as I really had enjoyed all 250+ cruises that I had experienced.
In reflecting back to all the “new ships” I have had the pleasure of sailing on, I would have to say that each year the newer ships did impress me and many of them found a place in my “Top Five Favorite Ships.” However, having just come off my 265th cruise, (okay, retirement has slowed me down), I am pleased to inform you I do have a new favorite ship: the Norwegian Escape!
Why Every Travel Agent Needs To Cruise On The Norwegian Escape!
When I attended the inaugural of the Norwegian Escape back in November of last year, I was blown away by all the innovative changes they had on this ground-breaking ship. In fact I was so impressed by my short introduction to “modern cruising”, that I decided to come out of retirement and start to organize group cruises again. My logic was simple, knowing that I had been selling over $20 million a year of cruises when I retired; there was no way that I couldn’t convince people to try the new Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
I was so impressed with the ship that I just returned from a full 7 days on the Norwegian Escape, the first of their Breakaway Plus Class ships. Being the sixth largest cruise ship ever built, it has more room for passengers to enjoy. My favorite area is the “Waterfront”, which is a quarter-mile boardwalk experience along the outside of a full deck. Here you can select from 8 dining experiences or just have a drink or read a book in one of the great outdoor lounge areas. Let’s face it, people who love cruises enjoy looking out to the sea! My advice is to sell this unique relaxing experience, not just the cruise.
In addition, on deck 8, the Waterfront connects to NCL’s three decks of action called “678 Ocean Place”, on decks 6, 7 and 8. Here you can start enjoying the 28 bars and restaurants onboard. Many passengers onboard were taking advantage of NCL’s “Unlimited Drink Package” which is a great group incentive.
They have also improved on their dining options. We enjoyed the free restaurants that offered “All You Can Eat Prime Rib and Spare Rib Specials.” On other nights, we found the new “a la carte” restaurants to be a great value. While I am a devoted Jimmy Buffett Parrott Head and loved eating in the Margaretville Restaurant and enjoying the live music in the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar, my favorite place was “The Cellars”, with the Michael Mondavi Wine Bar. They have changed the pricing on their wine tasting seminars, and we learned a lot and enjoyed all six of them.
The entertainment was as good as I have seen, and we really enjoyed the different venues like the “Supper Club”. They had moved their foot stomping show, the “Brat Pack”, into the main showroom. I could hardly wait to give them a standing ovation and I think your clients will, too. I recommend having your clients make their show and dining reservations as soon as they can, before everyone else starts raving about the shows and experience.
Norwegian Cruise Line Is Redefining Itself!
I have been selling NCL since I was introduced to the “White Fleet” back in 1986… okay yes, I’m one of the old timers you hear about. After experiencing all the cruise line changes during my 25 plus years in this industry, I can honestly say that Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and Andy Stuart, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, are well on their way to creating a major “paradigm shift” in cruising as we have known it.
I know many of you old time cruisers still don’t like NCL’s “Freestyle Cruising”, as you grew up with set dining times and enjoyed getting to know your same waiters and table mates. But folks, times are a-changing, and it might be time for you to rethink what modern cruisers might enjoy. If you still don’t believe me, just Google Pit Bull’s new YouTube sensation “Feel Free” and see for yourself; better yet, send a link to your clients.
When Frank Del Rio told the inaugural attendees on the Norwegian Escape that they were going to combine some of the quality guest experiences from their Oceania and Regent brands onto Norwegian Cruise Line ships, I was somewhat skeptical. However, after seven days on the Norwegian Escape, I experienced the start of them and I am now a believer. The quality of the service and experience onboard should help you place Norwegian Cruise Line much higher than you remember them. Have you sold them recently?
So, before dismissing NCL as an entry-level cruise line, I suggest you give NCL another look for your discerning clients. All I know is I’m so thankful for having the experience to have attended the inaugural on the Norwegian Escape as I know I will be selling a lot of groups on that ship. Now all I need to do is find a way to be invited onto the Oceania Sirena and Regent Seven Seas Explorer, as I think I can put some groups on them, too, as most of my old clients are ready to move up in class.
Larry Norman, CTC, MCC is an icon in the industry. He has been a consultant to over 5,000 Home Based Travel Agents and trained an estimated 22,000 travel agents over his career. He was Travel Trade’s 1996 Travel Educator of the Year. Larry owned a four state network of 16 agencies, with annual sales of $28 million. Larry is known as “The Outside Sales Agent Expert” for his presentations on outside sales at Travel Trade Cruise-A-Thons, ASTA, ARTA and NACOA travel agent conferences among others. You can share your views with Larry at LarryNormanCTC@gmail.com or leave a comment here.