NCL aims to go global

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MIAMI--If one word can describe the marketing philosophy of Art Sbarsky, executive vice president of Norwegian Cruise Line, it is "globalization."

The Crown's pools It's a philosophy he's carried from Crystal Cruises, to Celebrity Cruises and now to NCL, where Sbarsky arrived this March. At NCL, he's responsible for domestic and international sales, marketing and business development. He said the move was made to order for him because NCL is committed to expanding its services internationally and, even before his arrival, had implemented widespread moves to achieve that.

"This is at the heart of my marketing philosophy," he said. "I believe that the world's destinations, including the more exotic ones, are not just for the wealthy. In today's world they are for the vast number of people in the mid-market."

NCL has scheduled its 10 ships on more than 75 different cruise routings to more than 160 destinations in the Caribbean, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska, Europe, Hawaii, New England and Central and South America. Sbarsky said this destination outreach is an unusual development for a company that started life as Norwegian Caribbean Lines, and was until a decade ago, confined to one region.

Indeed, since 1995 alone, NCL increased its passenger capacity days in markets outside the Caribbean from 39% to 60%. Sbarsky said he wants NCL's operating orbit to extend around the globe. "NCL already sails to all of the major cruise destinations in the world," he said. "We've taken steps to expand our horizons and we'll continue to look for ways to do that. We've embarked on a steady course of controlled growth around the world."

He said the company's move toward globalization will come not only from its own fleet but in strategic alliances with other companies, easing the way into new markets. For example, in December, NCL will begin cruising in Australia, sub-chartering the Norwegian Star to its joint-venture partner down under, Norwegian Capricorn Line.

In the U.K., the company has signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture with Thomas Cook Group Ltd., in order to operate cruises starting in 1999 or 2000 to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, marketed primarily to a U.K. audience. Sbarsky said NCL's globalization goes hand in hand with its plans for fleet growth, which call for the line to add one new 2,000-passenger Norwegian Sky-class vessel every year between 1999 and 2003.

In addition, the line's globalization fits nicely with NCL's traditional variety of cruise options, from three- and four-night cruises for families to 14-day cruises geared toward older couples.

NCL began reaching out of the Caribbean market by setting sail to New England and Canada, Scandinavia, the Med-iterranean and other destinations within Europe. In May of 1997, it launched a seven-day Texaribbean cruise to Mexico and the Caribbean from the Port of Houston. On Jan. 3 of this year, NCL entered South America with the Norwegian Crown, sailing from Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The vessel returned to North America in early spring in order to launch NCL's new program of cruises between Port Canaveral, Fla., and Bermuda, and on April 5, the company put the Norwegian Dynasty in the Hawaii market for a series of 10- and 14-day cruises.

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