Princess Cruises, one of the most popular cruise lines in Asia, is making a bold move to phase out shorter cruisers. While most cruise companies in the region offer three to five day itineraries visiting Malaysia and Thailand from Singapore, Princess have said their demographic are interested in seven to 10 day journeys.
In an exclusive interview on board Sapphire Princess, Princess’ Director of Southeast Asia Farriek Tawfik talks 2020 goals, new LNG ships and why the brand is trying to make longer cruises more appealing for the Asian market.
And he revealed the move into longer cruises.
How does Princess hope to sustain and grow cruising in 2020?
The current trend is that ships are getting bigger and prices are more affordable compared to past years, because the general cruising age is getting lower. We will continue focusing on product awareness, highlighting the benefits of cruising as compared to a land holiday. For example, the fact that cruises are fully paid and all-inclusive. Cruising really only blossomed in the past 10 years – it has still got a long way to go in Southeast Asia.
You mentioned that Princess will no longer be having 3-night cruises in Asia. Why is this so, and are you afraid of losing Asian cruises who prefer shorter voyages?
All cruise brands have their own strengths and attract specific markets. We are very confident of our services on board, and our ships can definitely keep you occupied for more than three days. I always feel that the real cruisers will go on minimum five or seven-days cruises. You’re on a beautiful ship that’s got so many things like restaurants and spa facilities. Three days is not enough to experience what we have to offer. Just when you get comfortable with the ship, the cruise ends. Longer cruisers cater to our demographic, which really loves cruising and relaxing.
What affects demand for cruising in Southeast Asia?
Unforeseen circumstances like war and political instability. If there’s a major outbreak in one particular area, then people will not want to visit. But the beauty of cruising is that we can always divert our ships. Safety and comfort for our guests is our utmost priority. We do not want to endanger your life, so we’ll go somewhere else.
Sustainability issues such as pollution and fuel emission have been a rising concern for all cruise lines. What has Princess been doing to ensure the environmental impact is reduced?
We need the ocean to sustain our business, so we have to take care it. We don’t throw garbage into the seas. Garbage is processed, and when we reach a port, the processed garbage will be taken off by garbage companies to be incinerated. We’re also coming up with two new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) -powered ships. There is a significant reduction in fuel emission when these ships run. These vessels are expensive but they are an investment on our part. The yet-to-be-named ships will be delivered in 2023 and 2025.
Are they only available in a few years because of budget concerns?
Some ships under Carnival Cruise Line (AIDAnova and Costa Smeralda) are already LNG-powered. In order to build a ship, you have to plan and there’s only so many shipyards in the world you can choose. The backlog of ships amounts to almost 10 years. Even if you have the money and decide to order a new ship now, it will come in 10 years. We wish we could have an LNG-powered ship every year, but it’s a long process.
Your marketing strategy is “come back new”, focusing not so much on tech and adventure, but relaxation. What can we expect this year?
Our theme has always been relaxation. You do not need another holiday to recover from your latest one. Cruisers are free to do what they want − they choose when to wake up and whether or not to disembark at a certain port.
Speaking of fly-cruising, Sapphire Princess attracts lots of Australian fly-cruisers. Why do they love the ship?
When Southeast Asians fly to Europe, we seldom just go to London and want to see other European cities like Paris, Belgium and Germany. The same goes for Aussies. If they have not been to Southeast Asia, they fly to Singapore, take our ship and want to cover the rest of these countries. Australians also love to cruise from Perth and visit Bali and Sulawesi.
Are there any new itineraries, and where would you like to see new ports open up?
None we can announce at the moment. Itineraries are usually planned two years in advance, but I would love to see new ports opening up on the east coast of Malaysia. For example, Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang. There’s culture, great food and nice islands, so a lot of untapped potential.
What about Indonesian islands like the Spice Islands, which are fast becoming popular?
Smaller ships are able to go there, but it’s challenging for bigger ships. The islands are small and just imagine 3000 people on the island! The attractions might not have enough capacity as well.
Are there plans to attract younger cruisers?
I don’t think we only attract an older crowd. Based on our records, the cruising age has fallen and averages around 41. The younger cruisers are bringing their children too, so we have lots of activities for kids and teens. The only thing you won’t see is children running around, because we keep them occupied . Younger cruisers (in their 20s and 30s) don’t have a lot of leave, so I think that’s why we don’t see them as much. But for them, cruising is a bucket list item. Many also come with groups of friends.
Princess’ passengers are very loyal, especially the Captain’s Circle members. Why do they keep coming back?
They have lots of confidence in our services and brand. They know that if they go on different Princess ships, for example, the Sapphire, Royal, then Pacific Princess, the standard of service remains the same. You don’t feel like you’re on a big ship, which they love.
Regal Princess heads to Australia in November. What can cruisers there expect?
She’s a Royal-Class, Medallion-fitted ship. The Australians will like her − they are quite a mature market and know what they want. As for itineraries, cruises out of Brisbane and Melbourne will cover the South Pacific, Tasmania and New Zealand. There’s even an increase in Southeast Asians travellers who fly all the way to Brisbane and Melbourne to join the ships. This way, they can see islands like Fiji without having to fly long distances. New Zealand and Australia have always been popular destinations for Southeast Asians. People usually do self-drives, but cruising allows them to see these places in a very different way.