The Haven By Norwegian a new boutique hotel chain, at sea

Norwegian is known as the cruise line of Freestyle Cruising, a concept that is all about giving passengers the freedom of choice to have their own style of vacation. Last year’s debut of Norwegian Epic brought in a new era in at-sea entertainment, dining and accommodations. Looking forward to 2013 and 2014, Norwegian has two new 4000-passenger ships called Project Breakaway in the works. Recently, the line revealed some details of the new ships and an innovative luxury ship within a ship area full of suites called The Haven by Norwegian.

“Norwegian was the first cruise line to introduce the ship within a ship complex with the introduction of Norwegian Jewel in 2005,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer in a release. “These private enclaves at the top of the ships are home to our most luxurious, well-appointed and spacious accommodations offering the utmost in service and elegance. With the introduction of the suite complex on our Breakaway ships, we felt it was appropriate to brand this space as The Haven by Norwegian to better identify and describe the unique luxury cruising experience we offer.”

Officially called The Haven by Norwegian, the company announced that the suite complexes on five of its existing ships, Norwegian Epic, Gem, Pearl, Jade and Jewel, will also bear the same name, contributing to a boutique hotel sort of feel.

Guests booked in the luxury accommodations will enjoy an array of amenities, including private 24-hour International Institute of Modern Butlers-trained butlers and concierge service. The Line is also adding a poolside valet in the private Courtyard area who will provide more personalized service poolside. In-suite dining has been enhanced to white tablecloth service too.

Guests booked in The Haven by Norwegian ship-within-a ship will also enjoy priority embarkation and disembarkation, a distinctive platinum keycard, a priority boarding of tenders to shore, in-suite espresso/cappuccino machines, gourmet treats delivered each evening, the Bliss Collection by Norwegian pillow-top mattress, fine linens, feather duvet and pillow menu along with plush bathrobes, slippers, over-sized towels and more.

“When I described the design theme for Breakaway’s staterooms recently I called it ‘modern boutique hotel meets the sea'” added Sheehan. “Now with The Haven by Norwegian, we truly have our own private boutique hotel on Norwegian Epic, Gem, Pearl, Jade, and Jewel, along with our new Project Breakaway ships, offering the ultimate in luxury and service at sea.”

Details of the two Project Breakaway ships will be released in the coming months and Norwegian has set up websites with more details of Project Breakaway and The Haven.

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Cruise line pays would-be passengers to watch TV

Norwegian Cruise Line’s episode of the hit reality series Undercover Boss was first broadcast last January. But it’s summertime now and that brings reruns. The Undercover Boss episode featuring Norwegian’s CEO Kevin Sheehan replays July 17. In an interesting twist on summer TV viewing options, Norwegian Cruise Line pays an on-board cash bonus to anyone who books a cruise between July 16 and 18.

“While I may not have performed the tasks as well as our amazing crew during the experience, we’ve received a tremendous amount of support from guests and travel partners as a result of our Undercover Boss episode” said Sheehan.

The show, which first aired on January 2, 2011, was seen by more than 14 million people in the US and has also aired in Canada, Australia and Norway. Norwegian Cruise Line’s episode of Undercover Boss was also the most-recalled brand appearance in a prime-time broadcast show in January.Viewers will have the chance to relive everything from the awkward moment when Sheehan’s cover is blown by a waitress in a restaurant on Norwegian Epic to leading a crowd of 1,000 guests in a line dance. Watch as Sheehan attempts to work alongside a deck repairman (and fellow New Yorker) who was frankly critical of his performance. One of the best parts of the episode comes when Sheehan agrees with a crew member that what looked to be a great new feature on Norwegian Epic in the boardroom played out to be a dismal failure in real life. That segment alone is worth the watch.

As an exclusive offer for the rebroadcast of the episode, guests who book a Norwegian cruise vacation between July 16 and July 18, 2011 will get up to $200 to spend on board and a reduced deposit.

“I think the viewers were in awe of our amazing ships and phenomenal hard working crew and truly felt a connection with us” Sheehan added.

CBS’s pseudo-reality series, Undercover Boss, features a high-ranking executive posing as an entry-level worker in the company they manage. Camera crews, lights and associated production stuff is passed off as part of a “documentary” about what it’s like to be the new guy at work. Previous companies featured include Frontier Airlines, Johnny Rockets, Subway Restaurants and Direct-TV.

Undercover Boss can be seen July 17, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT) on the CBS Television Network.

Flickr photo by Stephen & Katherine

Hawaii back in business, just how much uncertain

After last week’s tsunami event and resulting disruptions kept tourists, hotels and a cruise ship from normal island life, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie declared all “back in business” after a tour of the Big island and Maui.

“We can come back quick,” Abercrombie said during a day-long inspection of the islands adding “We’re back in business. I don’t want information getting out to the mainland that we’re not open for business or that Hawaii is shut off.”
Hotels are open and have plenty of tourists. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America returned after canceling last week’s call in Kailua-Kona on the island’s the west coast. Flights in and out of the islands are posting few delays. Still, while tourism is back in full swing, just how much there will be is uncertain.

Ongoing disruption of all things normal in Japan is a big concern in Hawaii. Japan is second only to the U.S. mainland in the number of visitors each year.

“It’s a safe and wonderful place to visit. If all goes well, and that remains to be seen of course, but if all goes well we do think we can come through this in a matter or weeks and not months,” said Lt. Governor Brian Schatz,

“In California, too, right now, we’re seeing some cancelations. But at the same time when people start to realize there isn’t much of a danger in coming to Hawaii, we may see the snap back in tourism,” said University of Hawaii at Manoa Economics professor Sumner LaCroix to

Cruise line price scare: Just how dumb do they think we are?

Just last month, Norwegian Cruise Lines issued a cruise line price scare, what people in sales term a “call to action”, telling us that starting April 1st, prices would go up. Being the nice folks they are though, Norwegian also extended a current sale until the end of the month, just to give us the chance to get in on a good deal. At the time, we called foul. You did too. Now, the line has added another “sale” that lets us in on even a better deal. As my dad might have said if I told a lie as a little boy “I ain’t buyin’ it.”To help cushion the blow of a 10% price increase scheduled for April 1st, the line extended their current promotional offers until the end of March in a “we’re tough, but we’re fair” sort of way.

“We wanted to give consumers and travel agents the opportunity to take advantage of these offers before the price increase.” said Norwegian Cruise Line CEO and former Undercover Boss Kevin (Sneaky) Sheehan.

At the time cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron, CEO of called it accurately saying “This is NCL’s 2nd Annual April Fool’s Cruise Sale. For some, it’s a message of don’t book NCL after 3/31 because you’ll pay more.”

Gadling noted then that cruise lines often promote a call to action for booking in a number of ways that seem to have a bit of strategic ambiguity built in.

“NCL made the same comments last year, but (the timing) followed Carnival’s announcement that they were going to raise summer prices.” added Chiron reasoning “They may be trying to generate additional attention for their possible future IPO.”

Now, the line has added yet another “limited time promotion” to help us out.

In other words, the shocking announcement to buy now or pay dearly later did not work. However many cabins they had hoped to sell did not get sold. Now NCL feels the need to sweeten the deal with not just free upgrades but they’re throwing in onboard credit too along with asking for a reduced deposit to get signed up.

Years ago I was in the restaurant business and you could always tell the places that were having a hard time. Those were the ones that did the “buy one, get one free” promotions or the “All you can eat” offers that their business models did not really support. It was not long before those places went out of business as their last hail Mary pass went uncaught.

Is that where Norwegian Cruise Lines is right now? Are they in serious financial trouble?

Probably no more than they traditionally are. The line has a long history of financial woes fueled by not the economy, not the competition but the fact that they are their own worst enemy.

Don’t get me wrong, NCL does a lot of good things and have made efforts to put some real meat behind their claim of being innovative. This is not one of them.

An onboard credit plus reduced deposit strategy is a popular promotion that only a few lines do and they do it very sparingly. Royal Caribbean might have a “Wow” sale once a year, maybe twice, where they offer a 50% reduced deposit with some onboard credit. I know people that wait all year for that sale to happen because Royal Caribbean just does not do it often. Princess Cruises allows travel agencies to set up one-week sales, one each calendar quarter, to use in conjunction with ongoing and specific marketing strategies. Top-value line Carnival Cruise Line and all the rest, for the most part, never do.

NCL is just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

The cool part of all this is that you “ain’t buyin’ it” either.

The not-so-cool part is that moves like this paint a picture of the cruise industry as being a needy bunch that will stop at nothing to sell you a cruise. While cruise lines do need to sail full ships to be profitable, they’re far from needy. Cruise vacations are a hot travel choice for mainstream America and a growing part of the world. Scare tactics should not be necessary.

The really-not-so-cool/kinda-scary part is that Norwegian seems oblivious to their operational problems that cause this need in the first place. That’s scary when you think that they have a fleet of ships that sail around in the middle of the ocean with a whole bunch of human beings on board.

I’d like to have the confidence that they know what they are doing. You should too.

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Flickr photo by steamboatsorg

New cruise ship coming to New York in 2012, but at what price?

There is a new cruise ship coming to New York in 2012 and its a real pearl. Or should I say “gem”? No, Pearl is right. Norwegian Pearl will replace older Norwegian Jewel and make her New York debut in October, 2012. That’s good news. But poking around the New York cruise market I was reminded of something not so good. New Yorkers pay a premium price to sail on mostly older ships from the area. In other words, cruise lines really stick it to New Yorkers.That’s pretty much industry-wide with all cruise lines. Compared to sailing from a southern port like Florida where all the new ships are, prices are much higher sailing from New York, on mostly older ships.

Norwegian Cruise Line is about to change at least one of those concerns when it sends a newer ship to New York for the winter of 2012-13.

“With the arrival of Norwegian Pearl in New York, we will have two of our newer and larger Freestyle Cruising ships sailing from this very popular homeport,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer and former star of TV’s Undercover Boss.

That’s good, a newer ship is better than an older ship. Norwegian Pearl is a great ship too.

But what about that pricing?

Sailings from New York average much more than from southern ports like those in Florida. Let’s work though that with some actual numbers based on today’s pricing. Not to pick on Norwegian Cruise Line who is bringing the newer ship to the table, let’s look at a different line to see what is going on here.

In the dead heat of the Summer peak season, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas sails from Bayonne on July 7th for a 9 day Eastern Caribbean sailing starting at $2109 per person + tax. That works out to $234 per person, per day.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, a newer, bigger ship sailing from Florida sailing for 7 days on July 10th starts at $1049 per person + tax. That works out to $149 per person per day, about 50% less.

Even shiny new Allure of the Seas, sailing from Florida, sells for less than Explorer of the Seas from New York at a starting price of $1349 per person for 7 days on July 10th. That’s $192 per person for the largest, newest cruise ship in the world.

Not to pick on Royal Caribbean either, all the cruise lines do this. Some more than others but it’s the nature of the game. Supply vs. Demand. There are a LOT of people who want to sail from New York and few ships to serve them.

What drives that price? One really good reason would be the need/desire/fantasy to get out of the city in the heat of the Summer for a cool, relaxing cruise. Another might be the assumed high price of airfare flying to Florida or just the hassle of the flights. Still, prices per person, per day are much higher sailing from New York as you can see.

Is there something you can do about that? You bet there is. Go in October.

Brave it through the Summer and go in the Fall. There, you will find relative bargains in cruise vacations like Carnival Miracle sailing to the Caribbean on October 5th starting at $639 per person for an 8 day cruise. That’s $79 a day on one of their most popular ships.

Giving credit where credit is due, Royal Caribbean has Explorer of the Seas, that same ship that was going for $234 per person, per day in the Summer sails in October starting at $549 +tax per person for a 5-night sailing to Bermuda. That gets them down to less than half the per person, per day Summer price.

Back to Norwegian, they too have Fall bargains offering Norwegian Gem for $499 per person + tax on the October 2nd sailing. On seven days, that works out to $71.28 per person. Way better.

So let’s amend that claim that cruise lines really stick it to New Yorkers.

Cruise lines really stick it to New Yorkers in the Summer, not so much in the Fall.

Yes, much more accurate.

When Norwegian Pearl comes to New York in October 2012 she will be sailing a seven-day itinerary that calls on Orlando & the Beaches (Port Canaveral, Disney World if you hurry, blah blah blah); Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian’s private island paradise) and Nassau in the Bahamas.

Norwegian Pearl will also sail three 12-day Southern Caribbean cruises, on January 6, January 20 and February 3, 2013 that include stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados and St. John’s, Antigua; as well as five relaxing days at sea. If you have the time, those are good ones.

Not sure if Norwegian Cruise Line is for you? Norwegian Pearl will also offer three opportunities to experience Freestyle Cruising on a two-day getaway sailing from New York on January 18, February 1 and February 15, 2013.

Continuing to homeport in New York, the 2,394-passenger Norwegian Gem will sail two newly extended itineraries to Eastern Canada and Quebec and the Eastern Caribbean. Norwegian Gem will begin her four 10-day sailings to Canada and Quebec on September 8, 2012; calling on Halifax, Nova Scotia; an overnight in Quebec City, Quebec; Corner Brook, Newfoundland; and Sydney, Nova Scotia. From October 20, 2012 to April 18, 2013, Norwegian Gem’s nine-day itinerary to the Eastern Caribbean will stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and Samoa, Dominican Republic.

“New Yorkers love Freestyle Cruising because it suits their needs” added Sheehan. “With two of our Jewel-class ships in New York, we are giving guests more choice and the opportunity to sail longer cruises to the Caribbean.”

…you just have to be willing to pay the price.

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Flickr photos by Rodneykeene, Jmazzola ,Jemmingway and Pink Dispatcher