Norwegian BreakawayThe response to the Norwegian Breakaway has been good, to put it mildly, and Michael Flesch, senior vice president of hotel operations, pointed to the onboard revenue as “fantastic.”

As the ship went into operation, Flesch said the team was set up for a successful first year by a smooth delivery, giving them more time to invest in crew training.

 The vast majority of the crew on the Breakaway cycled through a two-year program that included the Norwegian Epic, giving them a comfortable base on the ship’s features.

 “We were able to take the ship to 100-percent occupancy almost immediately,” said Flesch, who lived on the ship for the first three months, working 6 am to 1 am days.

“We spent a lot of time looking at the flow of the ship and improving guest dis-satisfiers,” he added. “We looked at how the restaurants were being used and crowds.”

A number of new Breakaway features are set to be rolled back across Norwegian’s fleet in 2014.

First is a guest concern tracking tool, giving maintenance workers mobile devices to track issues.

 “This saves a lot of time and allows us to measure how fast things are getting resolved,” Flesch said. “We get the reports here in the office and we can see the effectiveness. If we can take care of a guest concern it’s a big win for us.”

Digital signage from the Breakaway has proved so key to its operation and guest flow, it will be rolled back to the rest of the fleet.

That digital signage is interactive, meaning passengers can book restaurants, shore excursions and more, and lets Norwegian push up-to-the-minute promotions, events and deals ship-wide.

“We also create events around the ships to pull crowds,” he said. “If we know we have a high demand for the main dining room, we create entertainment to pull people away from that area.”

A heavy investment in Norwegian’s website is paying off, letting passengers “customize” (pre-book) their vacation experience.

Flesch referred to it as the booked guest experience.

With its Freestyle concept, Norwegian has numerous onboard restaurants, but Flesch explained that among his latest challenges was to constantly improve the complimentary dining.

This has two effects: it ensures a fantastic experience for the ticket price, and could drive revenue in alternative restaurants aboard.

 “If it’s such a great experience in the main dining room,” said Flesch, “guests will want to go to the specialty restaurants.”

With excitement surrounding Norwegian’s newbuild program (two more ships are due after the Getaway), Flesch hasn’t forgotten about his core fleet.

Norwegian has put two regional vice presidents in place as well as a surrounding traveling team to support its fleet, made up of food and beverage, onboard revenue and marketing specialists.

 “They visit core fleet on a very frequent basis,” Flesch explained.

Having to hire literally thousands of workers, Norwegian has recently opened two pre-employment training centers in Indonesia and is partnering with Genting and Star Cruises in Manila.

>> Also in this section: A complete operations overview, both hotel and marine, of the global cruise industry. Articles include the latest technologies for fuel savings at Star Cruises to navigating busy U.S. Waterways, environmental initiatives at TUI, onboard revenue drivers for Holland America Line, new food and beverage strategies at AIDA and much more.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2013/2014