Cruise booking just got a little bit more interesting as Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced enhancements to its 2019 and 2020 itineraries, effectively announcing that it has six ships in Europe from May 2019, when Norwegian Pearl will join the mix, offering new and varied itineraries from Amsterdam, a strategic pre-and-post cruise port where guests will have easy access to the heart of the city as well as Europe’s third largest and fastest growing airport.
The 2,400-passenger Norwegian Pearl will also embark on a variety of Mediterranean sailings popular with the Middle East markets from Rome (Civitavecchia), Barcelona and Venice.
Nick Wilkinson, VP and managing director, UK & I and MEA, has also confirmed on a chat with TTN that two NCL ships will be making stops in the Middle East and embarking from Dubai too. In November/December 2019, the 2,400-pssenger Norwegian Jade will offer embarkation in Dubai before stopping at Abu Dhabi, Khasab, Oman, Fujairah, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia, with a disembarkation in Singapore. This itinerary went on sale on July 31.
Further down the line in March 2020, the Norwegian Spirit will also embark in Dubai before stopping at Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Muscat, Seychelles, Madagascar, Reunion and South Africa, with a disembarkation in Cape Town. Prior to her arrival, Norwegian Spirit will undergo a previously scheduled bow-to-stern revitalisation as the final ship to undergo enhancements under the Norwegian Edge fleet refurbishment programme. This is available to sell from August 6.
Norwegian Cruise Line will extend its buy one, get one half off (BOGOHO) price promotion until the end of August to boost bookings. It has always been a promotion that resonates well in the Middle Eastern market as they book family rooms and multiple rooms, says Wilkinson. (The promotion is not valid on The Haven though.) Guests can pay a deposit in advance and only make the final payment 120 days in advance. What’s more, if they change their minds, they even get their deposits back, as long as they do so 120 days prior to sailing.
The question remains as to whether the Middle East travellers, perceived to be a bit reticent in choosing cruise holidays over land holidays when compared to the rest of the world, will rise to the occasion and fill up the cabins when these beautiful ships will be docked right at their doorstep.
The BOGOHO strategy, combined with the NCL team planning another Middle East roadshow to reach out to potential guests themselves as much as travel agents, and the Middle East cruise-apathy problem may just be solved.
Contrary to general perception about cruising in the region, booking of NCL cruises from the Middle East has been on a meteoric rise, says Wilkinson, though no exact numbers were shared with us. “Distribution in the Middle East is growing with long-tail, double-digit growth and it is more or less equal in all Gulf countries,” confirms Wilkinson. “Traditionally, Middle Eastern guests booked the Norwegian Epic from Barcelona or Civitavecchia or the Breakaway sailing the Baltic, but we are seeing guests now book cruises in Asia or from Miami.”
* Itineraries are subject to change
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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