Norwegian Cruise Line's chief sales officer Katina Athanasiou has left the company, effective today, and will consult for the organization through November.
Athanasiou said the separation was amicable and that it was due to her decision to delay getting a Covid-19 vaccination, which is a condition of employment for all U.S.-based Norwegian Cruise Line employees in customer or vendor-facing roles.
"I have the utmost respect and appreciation for NCL, but regrettably, there wasn't a path forward after I made the personal health decision and choice to delay getting vaccinated," Athanasiou said in an interview. "And while this is a personal choice for me, it's so important to know that I fully support the company and I believe in the vaccines."
She added that everybody else in her household who was eligible to be vaccinated, including her 14-year-old son, has been, and that she supports Norwegian's determination that "the best way to restart includes 100% vaccination for both guest and crew aboard our ships," a policy that extends to shoreside employees, including the sales team, which is gearing up to work in person with travel advisors and attend conferences.
"I believe that," she said. "That's probably one of the hardest things I had to come to reconcile. I had to separate what I believe is right for the organization and ultimately what is right for me from a health perspective today."
Athanasiou joined Norwegian seven years ago, after the company acquired Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises; she had been with Oceania and Regent since 2011. She has been in her present role at Norwegian for two years.
Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Harry Sommer said in a message to travel advisors, "I have incredible respect for the great work she has done and the stellar team she has built during her tenure with our company. Please join me in thanking her for her many contributions and wishing her well through this transition and in her future endeavors."
Todd Hamilton, the line's vice president of international business, has been promoted to senior vice president of sales and will assume Athanasiou's duties. He will report to Sommer and lead the global sales organization. A 14-year veteran of Norwegian Cruise Line, Sommer said that Hamilton "has been a tremendous asset to our business" with both "multidimensional experience" within Norwegian and at parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, where he worked as vice president of commercial and business planning.
Athanasiou said that she and Hamilton have already had several meetings and that she has confidence in both him and the sales leadership team to "help our travel partners and the organization succeed. They are primed and ready. We have been working for 15 months to get to this point; I know they will succeed."
She added that while leaving Norwegian was "one of the hardest things I've ever gone through in my entire career, I continue to have tremendous respect and admiration for what they built. I will always have a piece of me that is on the sidelines cheering for this team."
She anticipates eventually finding a new role in travel, because she is so passionate about the industry.
"We are embarking on an incredible time for the travel industry, and I am confident that there is a magic opportunity out there that will cross my path and that aligns with my value proposition," Athanasiou said. "I am very open to what's right, when it's right."