Bliss Inaugural Called Norwegian’s Biggest Event Ever

Cruise Week

Andy Stuart

The April 19 delivery date for Norwegian Bliss is on schedule, says NCL President/CEO Andy Stuart, who recently visited his new baby in Europe. The ship's float-out took place this week at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany.

"Bliss is a major priority for us this year with the trade,” said Stuart. “This will be our biggest inaugural ever, the biggest thing we've ever done from an event standpoint."

For previous ship launches, Norwegian showcased the new hardware on the East Coast -- Miami and New York.

 "But this is a real opportunity to showcase the brand and our newest ship across the entire country, which we've never done," Stuart says. "We'll have a European inaugural, an inaugural in New York, one in Miami, one in L.A., and the christening inaugural and ceremony in Seattle."

More than 18,000 invites have gone out -- the vast majority to travel agents for two- and three-day events on Bliss. "Every inaugural has at least one [agent] conference wrapped around it," notes Senior VP Sales Camille Olivere.

The inaugurals are a fitting precursor to revenue sailings, which include Alaska this summer, followed by a few Mexican Riviera runs from L.A. before Bliss heads to Miami for a winter Caribbean season.

The racetrack on the top deck of Norwegian Bliss will get lots of headlines, but that’s not expected to be a big driver for repeat business. However, Stuart says service, value, and dining do attract repeaters, and he believes Bliss will raise the bar.

"We're putting lots of energy into the dining experience," he reports, adding, "When you delve into what elements of dining are the most important to driving loyalty and repeat, it's the main dining room experience and the buffet with included dining."

Chief marketing officer/senior VP Meg Lee's team kicked off the research and development project by going to past cruisers of both NCL and other lines and even non-cruisers to ask, "What do you really want in dining?"

The culmination of the research was a new menu cycle implemented on Norwegian Escape in November. "The team who tested it just got back from the ship, measuring guest satisfaction on the new menus," he notes. "And we'll get a read-out of that in the next few weeks, and hopefully our results are that our guests love it."

Stuart says the line is making a major investment in complimentary dining. "It's bigger than anything we've undertaken. It gets away from…'Andy thinks we should have this,' and 'Camille thinks that and Meg thinks this.' It's what guests really want and how do they feel about what we're delivering."

As for alternative restaurants, Stuart notes: "We have a number of favourites our guests would just be irritated with us if we didn't deliver." Cagney's Steak House, Bistro, the French restaurant are just a few examples.

But with each new ship, he says, NCL pushes the envelope by adding new dining elements. With Bliss, the headliner in that vein is the barbecue restaurant.

"The Q Texas Smokehouse is a new experience that hadn't been on ships before, because smoked meat is limited for all sorts of good reasons, like open flames on ships," Stuart explains. "But our team has developed and perfected a new technique to smoke meat."

Stuart says NCL is investing a lot of money in a test kitchen at its MIA HQ. Nothing that goes on a ship now hasn't been thoroughly tested in the test kitchen. "The investments in training, development and testing is significantly ahead of anything we've done historically," he concluded.

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