Tuesday, September 19, 2006


The following is a press release issued directly from Norwegian Cruise Line on September 19, 2006:

For the first time in 10 years, NCL Corporation Ltd, (“NCL”) today unveiled a new, all­encompassing brand identity created expressly to capture and articulate the company’s unique Freestyle Cruising—an approach to cruising unlike any other offered in the industry.
NCL’s Freestyle Cruising turns traditional cruising on its head and is characterized, in particular, by having no fixed dining times, no formal dress codes, relaxed disembarkation, up to 10 different restaurants and even more lounges, bars, theatres and other entertainment and activity options.

Spanning all consumer, travel agent and guest touch points, the comprehensive new brand identity captures the non­traditional, free­spirited attitude that is reflected throughout the NCL onboard experience. NCL’s innovative onboard experience offers vacationers freedom from the stress and demands of everyday life and freedom to enjoy a less structured, more relaxed, resort style experience than traditional cruising.

The marketing plan features national television, radio, print, newspaper, out­of­home and online advertising, along with a completely new Web site. NCL’s guests and travel agents will also see all new materials encompassing all cruise line correspondence, onboard and in­ cabin elements and even port signage and terminal d├ęcor.

Consumers and travel agents will get their first look at the new brand identity when it debuts on Oct. 2, 2006 in a variety of media and online at the company’s Web site, www.ncl.com.

The new brand identity breaks the mold of traditional cruise industry marketing with its light­hearted, experiential tone. One way the brand is characterized is with a graphic treatment
­­featuring a white fish swimming against the direction of a school of blue fish, depicting NCL’s innovative spirit in the cruise industry, as well as the type of guest that NCL is looking to attract, one who is a “non­conformist”. NCL’s research shows that the types of people who are attracted to Freestyle Cruising see themselves as individualists in a world in which increasingly
everyone else is doing what they are told and accepting what is offered. NCL guests want to enjoy their cruise on their terms without the structure and regimentation that is still the central feature of traditional cruises.

“With NCL set to have by far the youngest fleet in the industry by 2010, with all of our new ships purpose­built for Freestyle Cruising and deployed in all major cruise destinations and our NCL America fleet now fully in place, the time is right to build large scale consumer
awareness through a major brand identity initiative,” said Andy Stuart, NCL Corporation’s
executive vice president of sales, marketing and passenger services.

“We believe bringing the brand to life in one unified voice across everything we do will help NCL and our travel partners expand the cruising population,” said Scott Rogers, NCL Corporation’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Our travel partners have done a great job helping educate their clients on the benefits of Freestyle Cruising and selling NCL cruises, and now we are ready to bring the story to everyone, driving more guests into their offices.

“Our research shows that non­cruisers and even those who have cruised but were not ‘in­love’ with cruising, readily identified with the traditional, staid norms of cruising such as dining and dress code as key barriers to try cruising or repeat,” Rogers continued. “This all­ encompassing brand identity truly illustrates how we are different from other cruise lines and seeks to create demand not only among those who have cruised before, but also with non­
cruisers who are accustomed to more conventional, land­based vacations.”

Branding agency GSD&M of Austin, Texas, created the new brand identity and is handling the media planning and buying.

“Our challenge was to bring to life the feeling of complete freedom a guest feels on an NCL cruise in every aspect of the brand experience. We created one unified look and feel that extends beyond advertising and surrounds consumers before, during and after their cruise,”
said Roy Spence, president and founder of GSD&M.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Goodbye “Dot Com”, & hello “Dot Travel”

Looking for a travel agency online, but how do you distinguish reputable agencies from potential nightmares. I’ll admit it is a difficult task because there are virtually millions of travel websites at your disposal any day, but who can be trusted. For instance, you can do a Google search for “Royal Caribbean Cruises” and over 16 million web-sites will show up.

Since the travel industry has become one of the largest industries on the Internet, consumers will soon be introduced to the world of dot travel. Yes, you heard correctly. Say goodbye to the “old-fashioned” dot com and embrace dot travel.

The dot travel domain is supported by the global travel and tourism industry through sponsorship by the Travel Partnership Corporation. What does this all mean to the innocent consumer? Only authenticated travel companies are permitted to hold a dot travel domain name. This will provide consumers with complete assurance that they are dealing with a reputable travel company. Essentially if a website has a dot travel at the end of it’s name, then you know you are dealing with a certified travel agency.

Consumers may now visit the www.search.travel directory to find a list of authenticated dot travel websites. The search.travel site has been created and will be maintained by the Tralliance Corporation. I am personally expecting big things from Tralliance and the dot travel industry within the next year or two. They have just begun their consumer awareness campaign in late August and they will continue to educate consumers about dot travel throughout 2007.

If you have any questions about dot travel, please feel free to reply to this post.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Norwegian Cruise Line to Build up to Three NEW Ships

The following is a press release issued directly from Norwegian Cruise Line on September 7, 2006:

NCL announced today that it has entered into a contract with Aker Yards S.A. of France to build up to three new cruise ships, totaling 12,600 berths for delivery between 2009 and 2011. The contract price, comprising two firm ships and one option, is €2.17 billion, or approximately $2.8 billion at today's exchange rate

The ships will be built for the company's Norwegian Cruise Line brand (NCL) and will each be approximately 150,000 Gross Tons and 4,200 passenger berths. The order is firm for two ships for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2009 and the second quarter of 2010, and there is an option for a third sister ship for delivery in the first quarter of 2011. The contract price for each of the first two ships is €735 million, and for the optional third ship is €700 million.

At today's exchange rate, the contract price on the two firm ships translates to approximately $224,000 per passenger lower berth. The contracts are being placed in Euro, equivalent to €175,000 per lower berth. The option ship is priced at €166,667 per berth, or approximately $213,000 per berth at today's exchange rate.

The new ships, with the project name "F3", will incorporate a world of new features and will represent NCL's third generation of Freestyle Cruising ships, a further evolution of NCL's progressive dismantling of the structure, regimentation, and constraints of the traditional cruise experience. Details of the ship's design will be released closer to delivery. The cabin mix will be the richest of any NCL ship to date, and will include the feature that 100% of outside staterooms will have private balconies. In total, the ship will have 1,415 balcony staterooms and suites.

NCL's unique Freestyle Cruising offers vacationers a less structured, more relaxed, more resort-style experience than traditional cruising. It is characterized, in particular, by having no fixed dining times, no formal dress codes, up to ten different restaurants and even more lounges, bars, theatres and other entertainment and activity options. The new ship design will offer 60% more passenger space than the largest ships built so far by NCL, and will use that space to introduce a major leap forward in the flexibility and variety of the cruise experience, entirely in keeping with the Freestyle Cruising philosophy already established.

The unique use of space on these new ships is designed for optimal cost efficiency per capacity day, as well as being highly attractive in terms of cabin revenue mix and onboard revenue generation. The design is a unique blend of cruise industry best practice, offering both an exciting, high quality product, and a space efficient, cost efficient framework in which to deliver that product.

The company is currently undergoing a complete renewal of its fleet and these new orders, when delivered, are projected to take the combined Norwegian Cruise Line and NCL America fleets, in 2010, to a position of being by far the youngest fleet amongst the major North American lines, with an average ship size, fleet wide, of over 2,500 passenger lower berths, and with over 50% of all staterooms fleet wide offering private balconies. Commenting on the order, Tan Sri K T Lim, chairman of NCL and Star Cruises, said: "This order, placed in NCL's 40th anniversary year, marks the culmination of our plans to transform this great company. By 2010 there will be almost nothing left of the NCL we bought in 2000 except the name and the people, and in place of the old, mixed fleet we inherited, there will be the youngest, most innovative and exciting fleet in the industry."

NCL's President and CEO, Colin Veitch, said: "This order is a strong statement of our confidence in the North American cruise industry and NCL's leading role in it. Our U.S. flag start-up costs have obscured, for the past two years, the attractive financial returns on the international fleet of ships that we have built since Star Cruises bought NCL. All our growth from now on will be in this strongly profitable sector of our fleet, and will take us well past the goal we set ourselves of having the youngest fleet in the industry and a transformed financial profile by 2010."

The contract has been placed with Aker Yards S.A., formerly Chantiers de l'Atlantique, in St. Nazaire, France. Since the spring of this year, Aker Yards S.A. has been a subsidiary of the Norwegian shipbuilding group Aker Yards ASA and a sister company to the Finnish shipyard Aker Yards Finland. With this order, these two yards between them have built, or are building, all ten of the largest cruise ships in the world.

Commenting on the choice of yard, Veitch said: "We have successfully built exclusively in Germany for the last ten years but, with our expanding new build program, we have felt the need to work with an additional yard. With this new order we are, in fact, re-connecting with not one but two yards that we know well from prior times." The French yard and the Finnish yard have both built for NCL's earlier generation of ships in the 1980's and 1990's.

The new order is conditional on financing, completion of the design specification, and Star Cruises shareholder approval.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Royal Caribbean “Freedom” Experience

So, practically every travel agent within the cruise industry had been eagerly anticipating the introduction of the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. After all, we have heard the hype and rumors for over the last two or three years. The question is: Does this cruise ship live up to the hype?

Before introducing the Freedom of the Seas to the consumer market in early June 2006, travel agents like myself were privileged to a sneak peek of the cruise ship in May. My wife and a few of my colleagues boarded the ship for a 2-Night cruise from May 16 through May 18, 2006. The ship departed from Royal Caribbean’s new cruise port, Cape Liberty. For those of you who don’t know, Cape Liberty is located in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Immediately upon arriving into the port of Cape Liberty, you couldn’t help but be blown away by the sheer size of this cruise ship. The Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas is approximately 160,000 gross tons, which currently makes it the largest cruise ship in the industry. My question: What is the fuel cost to make this ship move?

Anyway, once inside the cruise ship, I immediately recognized a familiar theme from Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class cruise ships. Just like the Voyager class, the Freedom of the Seas boasted a Royal Promenade, ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, Johnny rockets, basketball courts and a mini-golf course. Make no mistake about it; this brand new cruise ship has a very similar design to the Voyager class. If you have been on a Voyager class cruise ship, then you should have no problem finding your way around this ship. They are laid out in a very similar fashion.

Now, just because the Freedom of the Seas layout is similar to the Voyager class, doesn’t mean this ship has nothing new to offer. While the Royal Promenade looks the same and maybe is just a little longer, Royal Caribbean has added some nice new touches. The Freedom’s Royal Promenade features two eateries, one on each side of the ship. One side of the promenade features an Italian pizzeria and the other side has a coffee shop / delicatessen. I was very glad about the two eateries featured in the promenade because it’s quite a long walk to the other side of the ship and I feared I would starve to death. The new promenade also featured a barbershop, which was a new and interesting idea. Personally, I think I would be a little embarrassed getting a shave while my fellow vacationers passed me by. But hey, that’s just me….

The newest addition that really stood out for me was the H20 Zone water park. While there were barely any children on our cruise (just travel agents), I could really see children and their parents having a blast in this amazing water park. The water park features multiple pools, obstacle courses and colorful statues spitting water out in every direction. My wife and I lounged out near the H20 zone just to soak in all of the great eye candy. Parents can lounge out in the sun while their children have a blast running and swimming for hours. In my opinion, this was the best new addition!

Two other new additions were the FlowRider and the Boxing Ring. I must admit I was skeptical about both of these additions. They had several Royal Caribbean crewmembers demonstrating the Flow Rider surf simulator and it was nice to watch them do some neat tricks. Although, I couldn’t see myself doing this and it did get a little dull to watch after awhile. Now, the Boxing Ring really surprised me. Before, I got onto the cruise ship, I asked myself, “Who would want to fight on their vacation?” Once aboard, I was really impressed and convinced this was a neat idea. The boxing ring was featured in Royal Caribbean’s state of the art gym, which is the largest gym on any cruise ship. While I was exercising, I watched an instructor teach a couple how to spar in the ring. It really looked interesting and they seemed to be getting a great work out. If you get a chance to cruise on the Freedom of the Seas, you must see the gym. It’s even better than most gyms I have used in my hometown. I would cruise on this ship just to use the gym.

So how would I summarize my experience onboard the Freedom? Well, if you have been lucky enough to sail on anyone of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class ships, then you probably won’t be blown away by the Freedom. However, I believe Royal Caribbean has done a fine job addressing some issues with the Voyager class and have implemented some welcome new additions to the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. Again, in my opinion the H20 Zone water park is the best new addition. If you are planning a family vacation, you should really consider this cruise ship because it offers just so much to do for all ages. If you have any questions regarding the Freedom, please feel free to reply to this post and I will get back to you ASAP.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Romance is possible on a family vacation

I was speaking with a friend of mine who has a young family and he was telling me that because he has a one-year-old and a five-year-old, holiday vacations have pretty much become null for them lately. They can’t seem to keep up with the five-year-old as much as they’d like because of the baby, and even though they want to have the whole family for their vacations, they would also love to have some alone time when they go away.

I had suggested they consider cruising for obvious reasons such as the price, the different destinations, etc… but the thing we talked about most was what I considered the most ‘family friendly’ ships which are the Royal Caribbean Voyager Class Ships, such as The Explorer of the Seas, which leaves out of Bayonne, New Jersey.

The forte of the Voyager class ships is that the ships are so large it includes tons of activities to keep the whole family entertained. But actually, what we hit upon wasn’t that the whole family was being entertained “together”. It was actually more that they could still enjoy vacationing together as a family – going to the shows, enjoying meals, lounging by the pool, scaling the rock climbing wall… and that they also have the option to be able to enjoy their vacation alone as husband and wife.

You see, because the Voyager Class ships have so many activities for kids, mom and dad are still free to drop the five-year-old off at the Adventure Ocean Kid's Center and schedule a babysitter for their one-year-old. So even though they are very much on vacation with the entire family, they don’t have to feel guilty when they want to have a nice romantic dinner for two, or simply just have a ‘grown-up’ guilt-free-kid-free evening.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Know a good travel agent?

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has announced that their brand new cruise ship, "Liberty of the Seas" will have a travel agent as it's godmother. In the past, we have been accustom to seeing the likes of Gloria Estefan, Whoopi Goldberg, Sophia Loren and many other popular celebrities appointed as cruise ship godmothers, but it looks like things are changing.....

This past May, Katherine Louise Calder was anointed the godmother of the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. Katherine was selected because of her outstanding work in the community as she is a foster mother to over 400 children.

Royal Caribbean is looking for the Liberty of the Seas godmother to be a travel agent who has demonstrated excellent work in his or her community. Entries are now being accepted by consumers and travel agents at http://www.cruisingpower.com/libertygodmother/. The deadline for entry submission is on December 9, 2006. The Liberty of the Seas godmother will be announced at the Cruise Lines International Association's cruise3sixty conference, which takes place March 30 to April 1, 2007.

The Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas along with the Freedom of the Seas will be the largest cruise ship in the industry, when she debuts in May 2007. This 160,000 ton ship will boast many of the same innovations found on the Freedom of the Seas, such as the FlowRider, H20 Zone Aqua Park, cantilevered whirlpools suspended 112 feet above the ocean, boxing ring and much more. Liberty of the Seas will sail alternating seven-night Western and Eastern Caribbean cruises round-trip from Miami, Florida.