Hawaii summer ad campaign to be NCL's largest

NCL Corp. will launch its largest destination campaign to date this summer, when it encourages honeymooners, golfers and travelers in general to head for Hawaii.

Andy Stuart, NCL's executive vice president of marketing and sales, said that a new print ad campaign would launch in mid-June. The campaign will be about cruising in Hawaii but also about golfing there and the romance of the islands.

"The campaign is designed to let people know that there's a great way to see all of Hawaii on one vacation and unpack just once," said Stuart. "And then it's talking about Hawaii and different reasons to go there."

NCL's current TV ads will also be tagged with a message about sailing in Hawaii, and there will be an outdoor Hawaii ad campaign, mostly on the West Coast but also in New York and Chicago. 

Stuart said that the campaign would specifically focus on golf and romance. The ads use lines like, "Mommy, where do babies come from? From Hawaii, Dear" and "How's your short game? Your long game? Your 'round-the-volcano game?"

He said the Hawaii Business and Convention Bureau was also trying to get Hawaii back to "its No. 1 position" when it comes to romance. -- J.J.

Robert Kritzman, NCL Corp.'s executive vice president and managing director of its Hawaii operations, will leave the company after 17 years, the company announced on May 24.

NCL appointed Hawaiian local Alan Yamamoto vice president for Hawaii operations.

Yamamoto, who joined NCL the week of May 21, was formerly director of community and government relations with Hawaiian Electric Industries, the state's main power supply company.

Kritzman will stay on through the "transition period," NCL said. No official date has been set for his departure.

Neither Kritzman nor Yamamoto returned requests for an interview.

Kritzman's departure, which NCL said was for personal reasons, is the second major change to NCL's American-flagged Hawaii program in the last few months. In April, the company said the newest of its three US-flagged ships, the Pride of Hawaii, would be reflagged and sent to Europe in 2008.

Kritzman helped launch NCL's tumultuous Hawaii program in 2004, which immediately was lambasted by guests for poor service from its American crew, a situation that was aggravated by the high staff turnover that also cost NCL more than it had anticipated.

As of January, Yamamoto was listed with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission as a lobbyist for Hawaiian Electric Industries.

As a Hawaiian, his hiring speaks to NCL's direction with its program there. The company is involved with several programs involving Hawaiian communities, including a partnership with Maui's public schools to teach students about careers on NCL ships.

"We encouraged them to consider someone from Hawaii to take the company to the next level," said Jennifer Sabas, chief of staff in Sen. Daniel Inouye's Honolulu office.

"The next chapter is to work with the local communities and neighboring islands to really embed this cruise line as Hawaii's cruise line."

Sabas said her office made the suggestion to hire a Hawaiian once it learned of Kritzman's departure. Inouye had sponsored the legislation that enabled NCL to cruise in Hawaii.

Sabas said that a Hawaiian could help NCL attract and retain Hawaiian employees.

She commended Kritzman for doing an excellent job, especially given his "enormous task."

That task has been well documented by NCL's earnings reports, in which it has blamed its Hawaii operations for several straight quarters of large losses. 

NCL lost $130.9 million on revenue of $2 billion in 2006, compared with a 2005 profit of $16.2 million on revenue of $1.6 billion. The company attributed the drop to pricing pressure in Hawaii due mostly to increased foreign-flagged competition and its own capacity increases.

During its last earnings call, the cruise line blamed low fares in Hawaii for its $60.8 million first-quarter deficit.

Despite the challenges, NCL CEO Colin Veitch said during the last earnings call, when it blamed low fares in Hawaii for its $60.8 million first quarter deficit, "We remain committed to the Hawaiian market."

Members of the travel community were not surprised by Kritzman's departure.

"The division has not done a good job, and there has to be a scapegoat," said Bob Ensten, owner of American Made Travel Adventures in Windsor, Calif.

"Somebody had to be replaced. Whether it will make a change, I doubt it. Changing one person isn't going to turn it around overnight. I think they should change their whole philosophy of doing business and not have U.S.-flagged ships in that market."

Ensten said that his clients had not had good experiences on NCL America ships, and that he has been making sure they understand that the other NCL ships are far better.

NCL said Kritzman planned to return to Florida with his family, where he lived when he was senior vice president and general counsel for NCL, a position in which he oversaw the company's human resources department, legal department, risk management department and its corporate affairs program.   

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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