Norwegian Escape's trendy District BrewhouseUnder new management and a new strategy at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Wes Cort, director, restaurant and beverage development and operations, immediately pointed to the quality of the raw product the company is buying.

It almost seems like a clandestine operation, especially with all the buzz about the great new alternative restaurants on the Escape, but the company is focusing on the free venues.

“We’ve elevated the quality of the food product,” Cort said. “Bottom line, what it comes down to, is making sure the guests are happy with the quality of the food in the main dining room and buffet. Everyone goes to those locations, and the fact is 70 percent of our total meals still come from those operations.”

In the bigger picture, Norwegian is dedicated to improving menus and making significant quality gains on the food side.

It sets the Escape apart, and the plan is to roll this back to the rest of the fleet. It’s expensive, but we have to invest in the product and have guests want to come back and sail.”

The spending push has mainly come on the protein side, with better meat, and the quality of seafood going up a couple of grades in certain areas.

“Some of the expertise is coming over from the Oceania side to help us with recipes,” added Cort.

Back of house, Norwegian has added another layer to its point-of-sale system.

"We’re able to pull info and analyze it a lot easier,” explained Cort. “It helps us understand consumption and trends when it comes to different itineraries.”  

Another major investment on the Escape, coming from Norwegian’s new regime, is unique flatware, linens and uniforms for each restaurant, making each a distinct experience.

With the majority of the big ships having the same china everywhere, the new strategy does pose some challenges when it comes to re-ordering items.

With the Escape in service, Cort will have a full schedule this year, planning for the 2017 newbuild that is heading to China, as well as closely monitoring the move to all-inclusive drinks on the Norwegian Sky, which could be a view to the future.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2015/2016