Norwegian Escape became Norwegian Cruise Line's primary New York-based ship in April 2018, replacing Norwegian Breakaway, which had been the New York ship for five years.
“The positioning of our various ships is very critical,” explains Deepak Punia, Hotel Director of the Escape. .”The New York market is one of the most important markets for all of us and that is why we wanted to give the best product to the New York market. And it is important to move the ships around to give variety to our guests. Everyone looks for variety.”
Breakaway was a very popular ship when she was in New York. “We had to fill in some tough shoes but the Escape has been very well-received by the New York market.”
How Escape was able to achieve this was the result of two factors. First, there was the hardware, Escape is a Breakaway-plus class ship. “She is longer and wider, which gives more space to our guests” In addition, Escape has a number of features that Breakaway does not have. “The Taste extension, the Food Republic, the Brewhouse, the Wine Cellar, the Mojito Bar, the Deck 19 forward area open to all guests, the Haven restaurant a little wide, - - small tweakings [of the Breakaway design] but small things make a big difference.”
Still, the most important factor in Escape's success has been her motivated-to-serve crew. “Hospitality from the heart is something that we try and deliver to all our guests. That is the key – making sure that the most important person on the premises is the guest. That's the culture that we develop at Norwegian One common goal at Norwegian and the mission is to make sure the guest experience is the top. That is how we make it happen- hospitality from the heart and serving to the best of our abilities.”
“To make that happen, you have to make sure that your team is well-motivated.” A key motivator is creating a family atmosphere aboard ship. “Because we are away from our families, we try to create that bonding within us, a family bonding. Everyone should feel comfortable and the working environment has to be very conducive to that. The family environment is doing things like making sure that we praise [the crew members] in public because they work hard. It is not an easy task, six months, eights months away from the families, so if you give them that environment it transfers out to a positive workforce.”
Guest recognition is also very important. Norwegian has several programs to enable guests to tell management about crew performance. “We have: the Vacation Hero cards; once you go home the guest receives an online survey; and [the senior officers] share our contact details so the guests can give word to us on how great the experience was. We then we share that information with the team members. When they see their names, nothing is as motivating as that. That shows some appreciation and shows that they are doing something right. All that information is shared with the crew members.”
In addition to being good for the ego, such recognition has practical benefits. “That's how they get promoted to the next level. The guest recommendations, the number of times they are mentioned and the number of Vacation Hero cards they receive, the recommendations of their head of department, and their day-to-day dealings - - that is how we evaluate them and that is how they grow.. The crew sees that. On this ship, I have been blessed with the maximum promotions.”
Communication is also key. “We all work for one common goal which is trying to make sure the guests are happy. In the end, everybody must understand that we are here for you [the guest]. If the team understands that, everyone strives together to achieve that one goal.”
Therefore, “on the embarkation days, I address the entire crew on the PA system. I let them know exactly what is the guest profile and they are fully informed.
Communication is two ways, I inform them and through the open door policy, they can come and get in touch with me anytime. Each one of the leaders plays a very cruical role so that it is all like one team.”
“This culture transfers to the guest experience as well. We strongly believe happy crew, happy guests.”
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Cruise interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Escape - Hotel Director Deepak Punia