Norwegian coastal voyage (NCV) plans to double its North American sales revenue in the next two years, according to newly installed President Hans Rood at the company's New York offices. Currently the line carries about 10,000 Americans a year, he said.
"The majority of our North American business takes place from May through September," Rood said. "There is an enormous opportunity for us in the fall, winter and spring periods. But there is a mindset that we have to change for North Americans who think that there is no such thing as a winter cruise in Norway."
It boils down to marketing and travel-agent relationships, said Rood, who noted that during the 2006-2007 winter season, the company is planning 12 themed cruises to highlight it. NCV also offers soft adventure cruises that include snowmobiling and dogsledding expeditions as well as adventure cruises to the Lofoten Islands and Spitsbergen. And from November through March, the company offers 19-day expedition style cruises to Antarctica from Santiago or Buenos Aires on the Nordkapp and Nordnorge.
NCV is also placing the Midnatsol in Savona for the Winter Olympic Games as a floating hotel, and is currently selling pre- and post-Games cruises onboard the ship.
The pre-games cruise left Oslo on January 25 and is bound for Savona, where she will arrive on February 10. She will stay for the duration of the Olympics and will depart on February 27 for Nice, eventually ending up in Lisbon.
Momka Tillman, manager of marketing in NCV's New York office, said that the pre- and post-Games cruises are essentially a test nm for the Med, and the company could eventually deploy a vessel there.
Keeping Coastal Towns Connected Part transport vessel, part cruise ship, NCV carries mail, provisions and other cargo between Norway's fjord villages - many of which are connected almost exclusively by the ships. Rood said.
"The beauty of it is that as a passenger, you are really a part of Norwegian coastal life," he said. "But it is actually so seamless, that passengers often don't know what's going on." The ships only carry an average of about 600 passengers.
Even so. Rood said the company doesn't want to give Americans the impression that they're on a working ship while onboard. "The cabins on the newer ships have terraces and balconies and the ships are able to host meetings and conventions," Rood said. "We offer anything that you would expect from hardware."
On an 11-day cruise from Bergen, passengers can expect to make some 34 port calls - sometimes with only 30 minutes in port to explore the tiny Norwegian villages. But Rood said a comprehensive program of longer shore excursions has been developed, with passengers able to get off in one place and rejoin the ship in another port several hours later.
While NCV has a mix of older ships in its fleet - one dating back to the mid-1960s - OVDS and TEDS in the early part of the 2000s introduced between them three new ships that form the line's "Millennium" class, and are the largest and most modem in the fleet, though the 2002-built Finnmarken is modeled after a more traditional coastal-voyage vessel.
By and large, the ships. Rood said - even the older, more classic vessels - appeal to a sophisticated North American passenger who is definitely not new to cruising. "So for us, an issue is to enhance the product even further," he said. While Rood also noted that per diems are high (though he would not give a specific number), service could still be improved based on the clientele the line is after.
"Realizing that, we have to cater to that mindset of people who expect the finer things in life," he said. "We also would like the cruise experience to cater a bit more to multi-generational travelers and be more family friendly. The inclusion of theme cruises we think will help attract families,"