Norwegian Cruise Line bullish on India, plans to expand fleet, says Steve Odell

Steve Odell, SVP & Managing Director Asia Pacific at Norwegian Cruise Line, speaking to TourismFirst in an exclusive interview, shared that the company was eyeing a major expansion of its fleet, introducing seven additional ships by 2025. He maintained that growth from India was robust and the outbound was increasingly opting for longer excursions. Excerpts from the interview:

Steve OdellGiven the scale and scope of activities and voyages the Norwegian Cruise provides, what are some of the most taken to destinations by the Indian outbound? How is Southeast Asia panning out in particular? What are some trends?

The Mediterranean in Europe as well as the Baltics always prove to be a popular choice for the Indian market. However, Indians are now open to exploring newer destinations like The Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, among others. Balcony suites are the most popular among the Indian market and in terms of diet, the Indian traveller enjoys variety, but always likes to have Indian food on board, which many of our vessels cater to with an elaborate Indian cuisine on offer.

What is the profile of the outbound like? How much of it is family and group travel?

In the last few years, cruising has grown at a rapid pace amongst Indian travellers. The Indian cruising industry has seen double-digit growth and is expected to grow at a much faster pace than any other comparable sector. There has been a paradigm shift amongst outbound Indian travellers opting for cruise holidays, as against traditional holidays.  Indians love the idea of hassle-free travel to multiple destinations – and cruising is the perfect option! Families are open to cruise holidays as it gives them an option to visit more destinations in a convenient way in one go.

MICE segment is a relatively unexplored territory and yet presents vast untapped opportunities for the cruising segment. What steps do you suggest must be taken to boost the MICE segment traffic on cruises? What is being done on that front?

Cruising is increasingly becoming a prevalent choice among MICE organisers who see the tangible benefits of cruising. For example, organisers no longer need to spend time and money to organize transportation to bus delegates to and from gala dinner venues. We are able to offer organisers the option of not only housing their delegates under one roof, but also providing all the meeting facilities, entertainment and activities in one mega venue.

Norwegian Cruise Line ships are particularly suitable for MICE travelers and incentive groups. We are able to cater to their needs and demands with a tailor-made proposal. Accompanied with large number of dining, entertainment choices and meeting room facilities.

NCLH is a leading global cruise company which operates three award-winning brands – Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas. With a combined fleet of 25 ships with approximately 50,400 berths, these brands offer itineraries to more than 510 destinations worldwide.

We offer a variety of cruise experiences for travellers to choose from across our portfolio.

Norwegian Cruise Line is the innovator in cruise travel with a 50-year history of breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising and offers guests the freedom and flexibility to design their ideal cruise vacation on their schedule. Today, Norwegian Cruise Line invites guests to enjoy a relaxed, resort style cruise vacation on some of the newest and most contemporary ships at sea with a wide variety of accommodation options.

Featuring a fleet of six intimately luxurious ships, Oceania Cruises offers an unrivalled vacation experience renowned for the finest cuisine at sea and destination-rich itineraries spanning the globe. Seasoned world travellers are drawn to Oceania Cruises’ expertly crafted voyages, which call on more than 370 ports across the globe.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the world’s most inclusive luxury cruise line with a four-ship fleet that visits more than 425 destinations around the world. A leader in luxury cruising, the line’s fares include all-suite accommodations, round-trip domestic air and business-class air on intercontinental flights from U.S. and Canada, highly personalized service, exquisite cuisine, fine wines and spirits, unlimited internet access, sightseeing excursions in every port, gratuities, ground transfers and a pre-cruise hotel package for guests staying in concierge-level suites and higher.

The Company is looking forward to introducing seven additional ships by 2025, and has an option to introduce two additional ships for delivery in 2026 and 2027, giving the agents more options to choose from and match the requirement of MICE groups.

A major hindrance to boosting cruise segment in the country has been the underlying perception that it is an expensive and elitist activity. Therefore, despite being affordable and ‘value-for-money’ for tourists, it has largely evaded the attention of Indian travellers. How do you suggest the industry must address this pitfall? 

The cruising sector in India is growing at a steady pace and attracting more Indians to cruise, with consumer preferences shifting from shorter to longer duration itineraries. There has been a significant shift of Indians opting for 7/8-night itineraries as opposed to 4/5-night itineraries. We’ve seen this trend across different age groups.  With the growing demand in the cruise holiday segment, we offer a variety of cruise experiences for travellers to choose from across our portfolio.  Norwegian Cruise Line is an innovator in premium contemporary cruising, delivering enhanced freedom and flexibility. We are known for setting the benchmark for innovative cruising and revolutionizing the industry with our ‘Freestyle Cruising’ model. Oceania Cruises is renowned for The Finest Cuisine at Sea™ and leader in upper-premium cruising and the Regent Seven Seas Cruises has been anointed as the ‘Most Inclusive Luxury Experience™’ in the world.

Realising the potential of the Indian market has cruise liners are constantly upgrading and offering unique experiences to move away from the perception.

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