By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY
“It’s pretty dramatic,” Andy Stuart, the line’s executive vice president for global sales and passenger services, tells USA TODAY. “I’ve been in the business 20 years, and I have never seen business pick up immediately after an inaugural in the way it has after Norwegian Epic.”
The 4,100-passenger, 153,000-ton vessel –by far the largest ever at the line — was christened earlier this month in New York by Reba McEntire, and before and after the event thousands of travel agents visited the ship during a series of two-night preview voyages that Stuart says led to an almost instantaneous and unprecedented jump in bookings.
“It was immediate,” Stuart says of the surge. “After each inaugural (event with travel agents) we got this bounce.”
As we reported earlier this week, Norwegian says booking volumes for the ship soared more than 50% during the week just ended on July 17 as compared to the previous two weeks (which, in turn, had seen new records for bookings on the ship). The 50% jump came right after thousands of travel agents got off the ship in Miami after a two-night preview voyage, Stuart notes.
“Travel partners went away excited,” Stuart says, and they quickly began booking their customers on the vessel.
While the line has been running several promotions during the month, Stuart says the offers weren’t major and are not what is driving the booking surge, as some travel agents have suggested in emails to the Cruise Log. He says the notion that low prices are what is driving Epic sales simply is incorrect.
In short, nearly everyone who has seen the ship loves it, and that’s driving demand, says Stuart, adding that feedback from paying customers on the vessel’s first few cruises has been overwhelming positive.
Stuart notes he has participated in nine ship launches at Norwegian Cruise Line since 2000, and the response to Epic “is extreme compared to anything I’ve seen before.”
Have you considered booking a voyage on Epic?