Outside each of the cabins on Emerald Princess is a nameplate. Not only does it have the name of the guest staying in that room on it but it also is color-coded to show the level the occupant has attained in Princess Cruises' Captain's Circle loyalty program. What struck me about this display was the high proportion of nameplates that indicated the guests were in the top tiers of the Captain's Circle program. Generally speaking, these people are the most experienced cruisers and often the most demanding customers. The presence of a large number of them indicated to me that Emerald Princess must be doing something right.
When I spoke with Captain Tony Draper and Hotel General Manager Peter Hollinson, they confirmed that many of the guests on Emerald Princess were in the top tiers of Princess' loyalty program. “We are at 40 percent elite and platinum.” Mr. Hollinson reported.
“It is not just the one time returner.” Captain Draper observed.
Both officers agreed that the ship's itinerary had a lot to do with this phenomenon. Captain Draper pointed to the fact that the ship does ten day cruises during her winter Caribbean season. “I think the ten day cycle is quite attractive to the repeat passengers. We have a lot of elite and platinum on the ship and they want the slightly longer cruise. A lot of them are doing back-to-backs as well.”
Mr. Hollinson commented: “These itineraries are superb, it is a beautiful West Indian itinerary.”
Similarly, Emerald's summer schedule of longer Baltic cruises is also attractive to repeat passengers. “We do get a high Captain's Circle count but not quite as much.”
Still, even the most attractive itinerary is not going to attract experienced guests if the onboard experience is not up to their standards. The fact that these people have cruised often with Princess in the past shows that they like Princess' approach to cruising but what assures them that Emerald Princess can deliver that approach?
“Consistency is one of our core values [at Princess],” Mr. Hollinson said. “I think they know that they will get consistency here.”
“We want people to come back to Princess,” Captain Draper elaborated. Therefore, the line strives to provide a consistent cruise experience across all the ships in the fleet. So if a guest enjoys a cruise on one Princess ship but wants to cruise to a different set of ports next time, he or she knows that the cruise experience on the Princess ship that does go to the destination they want will be as enjoyable as their previous Princess cruise experience.
To achieve this end, the larger Princess ships are very similar physically. Indeed, Emerald is virtually identical to sister ships Crown Princess and Ruby Princess. Activities, entertainment and dining are similar throughout the fleet. All are geared to providing an atmosphere of relaxed luxury.
“We have very broad market appeal. We are the consummate host onboard,” Captain Draper explained, “with that higher class of service that people would like and expect.”
Consequently, if one is looking to distinguish one Princess ship from another one must look for subtle differences. One factor that impressed me about Emerald Princess was the attitude of her crew. While I have found the service on Princess ships in general to be quite good, I kept finding crew on Emerald Princess who were anxious to go beyond the bounds of their job descriptions in order to enhance the cruise experience.
For example, one of Emerald's musicians was an expert on survival craft and volunteered to give a lecture series on that topic, which was very popular with the guests. Along the same lines, the assistant cruise director was from France and was able to weave French lessons into the entertainment program. These and other actions by the crew served to embellish the Princess experience.
“We talk about the bells and whistles but I hear frequently that people like to come back here because they like the crew.” Mr. Hollinson said. “People really do like the feel. They feel when they come here as if they are coming home. They love the attention that they get; the first name terms that they are on with people. They say that that is a real point of difference with other brands that they have sailed on. Your experience with people is rich, rewarding and memorable.”
Emerald Princess has been for the last five years, the state-of-the-art version of the Princess product. However, in the summer of 2013, a new Royal Princess will join the fleet with a variety of new and innovative features. How will this affect the popularity of existing ships such as Emerald Princess?
Captain Draper, who will take command of Royal Princess when she enters service, is confident that there will be no adverse impact. “We try and make sure that anything that we fit into the prototype ship can be rolled out to the rest of the fleet. Royal Princess is going to be new and innovative but the whole thing about innovation is that we can roll that out elsewhere. So anything on the Royal that is new, once we have proved that it is popular, over time, it will be rolled out [so] that we can keep our older ships up to date.”
Cruise ship interview - - Princess Cruises - - Emerald Princess - - Captain Tony Draper and
Hotel General Manager Peter Hollinson
Hotel General Manager Peter Hollinson