General manager – Northern Europe/Middle East and Africa, Norwegian Cruise Line, Nick Wilkinson

With exciting news about the company’s developments, general manager – Northern Europe/Middle East and Africa, Norwegian Cruise Line, Nick Wilkinson speaks to Panayiotis Markides about trends in the cruise sector and the many innovative experiences to be had by passengers aboard the company’s vessels

TTG: What trends are you witnessing in the global cruise sector? How are you capitalising on these trends?

A general trend that has been on-going for a long time now is to open the cruise product up to wider audiences by offering an ever growing range of different ships and concepts, appealing to different tastes and budgets. Ours is a modern international cruise product characterised by unparalleled freedom and flexibility made possible by offering an enormous choice in all areas, thus appealing to many different target groups. One example is dining where we offer a choice of up to 28 dining options with no fixed dining times or pre-assigned seating, so guests can choose each night where, when and with whom to dine. Another example is accommodation where, besides the standard inside, oceanview, balcony staterooms and mini suites, guests have the choice between studios for solo travellers, flexible family staterooms, spa staterooms with free access to the spa’s thermal suites as well as luxurious The Haven suites with exclusive access to a private complex with swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna and steam room as well as, in the case of four ships, a private restaurant.

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Another important trend is for the ship to become a destination in its own right, which we’re absolutely embracing with our newest ships without leaving behind our existing fleet by using each dry dock to outfit them with popular new elements. Take our newest ship Norwegian Escape as an example – being the largest in our fleet of 14 vessels, Norwegian Escape’s dining options offer guests a mix of complimentary options, signature favourites and new premium speciality outlets. Showcasing all-new upgraded menus across all restaurants, the ship’s 11 complimentary dining offerings and signature speciality restaurants Le Bistro, Cagney’s and La Cucina rival those of luxury lines, with menu highlights including Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb, Fresh Maine Lobsters and Steak au Poivre with cognac sauce. Two new speciality restaurants from James Beard award-winning iron Chef Jose Garces include Bayamo, a Latin seafood speciality restaurant, and Pincho Tapas Bar. Also new on board is the Food Republic, a sophisticated food hall developed by Miami-based The Pubbelly Restaurant Group. The combination of choice and quality in dining options on board and her upmarket design sets Norwegian Escape apart in the contemporary cruise market.

TTG: What destinations are opening up? Where are you headed to in 2016 (and beyond?)

Our 14 modern ships sail the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea, Northern Europe, the Atlantic, Canada and New England, Bermuda, the Baha­mas, the Caribbean, the Pan­ama Canal, South America, the Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii (year-round from/to Honolulu aboard Pride of America), India, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

We are very excited about Norwegian Star’s new itinerar­ies for the 2016/2017 winter season departing from Bar­celona, Civitavecchia (Rome), Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney and Auckland, marking our return to the Asia and Aus­tralia regions for the first time since Norwegian Wind autumn/ winter 2001/2002 and first ever visits to the Gulf and India. We have also expanded our pres­ence in South America where Norwegian Sun will not only sail alternating cruises around Cape Horn between Valparaíso (Santiago de Chile) and Buenos Aires but add in new cruises from Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, visiting various ports in Brazil and Uruguay.

TTG: Is the MENA market important for you? How are you capturing this market?

The MENA market is definitely an interesting market for us with a lot of potential. As mentioned, our product offers guests unparalleled freedom and flexibility, which is why our guests from this region will feel equally at home on board a Norwegian Cruise Line ship as all our other guests, being able to choose from the enormous range of options exactly what represents the ideal cruise holiday for them.

For those not wanting to fly very far, there are a number of cruises from Barcelona, Civitavecchia (Rome), Venice and now Dubai so those are a great opportunity to gain a first impression of our product.

TTG: What exciting features do your vessels and itineraries boast?

As already outlined with the example of Norwegian Escape, there’s an abundant choice of dining options, bars and lounges for every taste, including ice bars on board Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, luxurious spas, some with salt rooms and even a snow room, world-class entertainment with Broadway musicals, dazzling dinner shows and more, a complimentary programme for kids and teens with age-appropriate activities, Aqua Parks with spectacular slides, among them free fall slides, ropes courses with planks extending over the side of the ship, the exclusive ship-within-a-ship suite complex The Haven by Norwegian and more.

In terms of itineraries, our US-flagged ship Pride of America sails unique seven-night Hawaii-cruises from/to Honolulu year-round which offer a maximum of time in port to explore the beautiful Hawaiian archipelago. On her nine-night Baltic cruises from Copen­hagen in the summer, Norwegian Star includes an overnight stay in St. Petersburg, giving guests the opportunity to see all the splen­dour of the imperial capital of Rus­sia in two days and add in a ballet performance or folklore show at night. Glaciers and wildlife in abun­dance can be experienced onboard Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Sun.