NCL sees potential to increase footprint

Nick Wilkinson

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) conducted a virtual event for the Middle East late last month to support its current merchandising campaign and to gather the feedback from participating agents on how to support them. The event highlighted the tools available to help drive business. The event also offered an opportunity for agents to see NCL’s virtual platform, which they can utilise in conjunction with NCL for a consumer evening, at no cost to them.

“These virtual evenings are a great way to engage customers during this special time and we are providing them with the platform to do so,” Nick Wilkinson, Regional Vice-President Business Development Middle East & Africa at NCL, tells TTN in an exclusive interview. “We believe there is a lot of potential for NCL in the UAE and across the GCC markets and we are working to increase our footprint in this high-potential region, with a dedicated Business Development Manager for the Middle East driving our sales efforts.

“Our aim is to open the entire Middle East to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and grow our distribution. In order to do so, we will continue to rely on all partners in the marketplace as we believe in giving our agents and their customers the choice of where they wish to book.

“Against the usual booking behaviour that sees the high season in the summer months, we are seeing a growing market for the travel period November to February”
– Nick Wilkinson


“In the course of four weeks, we are visiting over 250 travel professionals in the region, education them on our unique product and providing them with a package that contains the latest they need to know about NCL, including our brand-new brochure 2021-2023, information on our latest sales campaigns as well as on our newly revamped travel agent portal, Norwegian Central, that is offering partners a one-stop-shop to all tools they require to better sell NCL vacations.

“We are receiving great feedback from the community, which is reflected in the fact that over 50 per cent of the agents have requested access to Norwegian Central following our visit.”

To provide our travel partners and their clients with confidence, NCL is providing them with the Peace of Mind booking policy, that offers them the freedom and flexibility to cancel their cruise 15 days prior to departure for all cruises with embarkation date to October 31, 2021. If guests choose to take advantage of Peace of Mind, they receive a Future Cruise Credit, which may be applied to any sailing through December 31, 2022, or a full refund when they cancel upto 120 days before their holiday.

“The booking policy puts agents and their guests into the driving seats and give them the confidence to start planning their vacations now, knowing that they have zero risk,” says Wilkinson.  

The most popular itinerary across the UAE and GCC is the Western Mediterranean on board Norwegian Epic, sailing out of Barcelona or Civitavecchia (Rome); followed by Norwegian Pearl’s Greek Isles Voyages – this is a brand-new itinerary in 2021 offering one-week Greek Isles, one-week Greek Isles including Turkey sailings. Calls of port include Rhodes, Santorin, Istanbul, Kusadasi and more. Next is a Greek Isles itinerary but this time onboard Norwegian Down departing from Venice. Heading down the Croatian coast, the sailing is calling to Piraeus (Athens) and the Greek Isles. The Baltic is another very popular choice: Norwegian Escape is cruising out of Copenhagen and calling to ports such as Tallinn, Helsinki, Stockholm and includes an overnight stay in St. Petersburg.          

Wilkinson adds: “Last but not least, I’d like to highlight a new itinerary for the end of this year: Against the usual booking behaviour that sees the high season in the summer months, we are seeing a growing market for the travel period November to February, which is reflected in the interest for our new Cape Town round trip sailings onboard Norwegian Jade departing in December.” They call to Namibia, offering great opportunities for safari experiences, Port Elizabeth and Durban in South Africa to name a few.

“We have been using this temporary pause of operation to listen to our guests, partners and the communities we sail to and have been working on several innovations, which include the establishment of the Healthy Sail Panel.”

The Healthy Sail Panel consists of 11 globally recognised experts with specialist knowledge in the areas of science, medical practise, medical research, public health, infectious disease, biosecurity and maritime operations. This task force submitted comprehensive recommendations in an over 65-page report including 74 detailed best practices across five areas of focus to improve health and safety for passengers and crew and reduce the risk of infection and spread of Covid-19 on cruise ships. These recommendations will be implemented onto the entire NCL fleet to enhance our already robust health and safety measures.

“We are also looking forward to start sharing first information on our new class of ships, Leonardo, very soon. The class will be delivered as planned from 2022-2027. Our six Leonardo ships will carry around 3,300 passengers and their ground-breaking design will offer our guests a flexible onboard experience along with some further exciting innovations.

“Watch this space,” concludes Wilkinson.