Last updated: 11:48 AM ET, Thu July 02 2015

Norwegian Outlines Onboard Enhancements

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Norwegian Cruise Line | Theresa Norton | June 09, 2015

Norwegian Outlines Onboard Enhancements

PHOTO: Norwegian Cruise Line President and COO Andy Stuart outlined onboard improvements during a travel agent webinar. (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian Cruise Line is implementing several new onboard features designed to improve the guest experience, including enhanced eateries, a more efficient check-in process, and new entertainment.

The improvements were outlined by President and COO Andy Stuart in a webinar with travel agents last week.

“My first 90 days (as president and COO), we talked a lot about the guest experience, and it really is the heart of everything we do,” Stuart said. “It’s essential that we exceed their expectations.”

He started off by addressing two recent controversial decisions — the room service delivery fee and a ban on take-out food, which was subsequently reversed.

The $7.95 delivery charge was implemented to defray the cost of offering room service and to improve the menu.

“Relatively few of our guests actually take advantage of room service,” Stuart said. “It’s a tiny percentage but it’s a huge undertaking from a human resource standpoint, so we were tying up an awful lot of people in delivering an experience to very, very few guests. And our view was that there were more important things for the majority of our guests that we could be doing. We saw this opportunity if we could enhance the menu, deliver a fantastic experience in room service, maybe deliver it to slightly fewer people, and redeploy some of those people for the 99 percent of our guests who are not experiencing room service. We thought that was a better formula.”

He admits it was a mistake at first to charge to deliver morning coffee and continental breakfast, which now is free through room service. “We heard you loud and clear,” Stuart said. “You gave us great feedback and we changed that immediately.”

It's the same thing with the policy to ban carrying food out of restaurants. Stuart said Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Chairman and CEO Frank Del Rio was onboard and saw empty plates in the corridors and passengers dropping food from the restaurants when carrying it back to their staterooms.

“We both came to the conclusion that ‘we’ll just stop people taking food back to the rooms, this is easy,’ because neither of us take food back to the rooms,” Stuart said. “We should’ve spent more time on this one, quite frankly. It’s clearly important to our guests to be able to take food back to their rooms, and so we changed the policy back pretty quickly and have deployed a larger team of people to make sure the corridors are pristine.”

Stuart also said the Asian eateries on 11 ships are now free since the $15 cover charge was eliminated in April. “This has been incredibly popular and now more than 250 guests a night are dining in our Asian restaurants,” Stuart said.

The line also has created a new sushi menu in partnership with Pubbelly Restaurant Group, which is developing a global small-plates food emporium for the Norwegian Escape. The new sushi menu features a la carte pricing, from $1.95 to $4.95 per item. “It’s getting rave reviews on the ships,” Stuart said.

Norwegian also is in the process of enhancing the casual buffets with tasty new options.

“The buffet is an area that I’ve always felt doesn’t get enough attention,” Stuart said. “It’s an area that every guest on the ship touches at some point. Many guests touch it every day and some guests touch it multiple times a day. So it’s incredibly important. So we as a team really sat down to say we need more focus on the buffet. We’re already implementing new elements in buffets across the fleet andare looking at how we can continue to enhance that.”

New breakfast options are flavored French toast, such as chocolate and apple cinnamon, omelet of the day (such as ham-and-cheese or mushroom-and-spinach), and different styles of eggs Benedict, such as a selection with smoked salmon. Lunch will include chicken salad and cucumber on a biscuit, a tossed salad station with Greek salad and Cajun chicken Caesar, shrimp fried rice, and a pasta station. New dinner options are risotto primavera, gnocchi with Italian sausage, spicy orange beef, and whole roasted prime rib.

The line also has started a new staggered check-in process in hopes of streamlining the process and eliminating long lines. When guests complete the online check-in form in advance, they will be asked what time they plan to arrive for boarding.  

“What this does is allows us to stagger the flow of the guests so that we can start to reduce some of the lines and make the process faster and more efficient,” said Vivian Ewart, vice president of passenger services.

Guests who show up before or after their pre-selected arrival time will have to wait until there is space for check-in. Guests who book Haven accommodations suites do not have to select a check-in time, and neither do those who book air or transfers through Norwegian.

Regarding onboard entertainment, Stuart announced that Norwegian Epic is getting three new shows for its European itinerary. They include “Rebellion in the Ballroom,” a new dance production by the same company that created “Burn the Floor.” Also debuting in October are “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” which won Tony awards on Broadway, and “The Cavern,” featuring the Liverpool landmark made famous when the early Beatles performed there.

The Norwegian Pearl now is showing the Tony-winning musical “SWING! The Musical," while Madonna, Elton John and Tina Turner impersonators are headlining the Legends in Concert shows.


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