Travel agency executives said Thursday that news of
Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Andy Stuart's departure left them feeling sad but
happy for him personally.
"I don't recall being as sad seeing an announcement as
I was seeing the announcement about Andy," said Nexion Travel Group
president Jackie Friedman, "because he has been able to successfully balance
his role leading the cruise line but never forgetting the trade, never wavering
on his support of the trade."
"I'm devastated," said Cruise Planners chief
operating officer Vicky Garcia. "He's truly one of the heartbeats of the
Stuart, 54, has spent virtually his whole career at
Norwegian. He has been a steady and constant presence at a company that has had
its share of changes at the top.
Through it all, Stuart made friends and generated goodwill
for Norwegian Cruise Line in his increasingly prominent roles.
"I've been able to spend quite a bit of time with him
over the years," said Ross Spalding, president of Crown Cruise Vacations. "You
feel like he's just one of the guys, you know, that he really makes you feel
comfortable, and important, and that your opinion matters. I think that's what's
going to be missed the most."
For much of his 31-year tenure at Norwegian, Stuart was in a
sales and marketing role, speaking to agents, attending conferences and
fighting for the importance of agents within the company.
Friedman said she recalled a trade show five years ago where
Nexion announced that its next conference would be held on a Norwegian ship. "And
he stood down at their trade show booth for the full two hours of the trade
show and took the time to have conversations with every advisor that was there,
helped them build their business, giving them tips. He loved it. He loves
"Not a lot of folks in his position would take the time
to do that, and it was a real indicator of who he is," Friedman said. "I
know that I'm going to really miss him."
Signature Travel Network president Alex Sharpe said Stuart's
departure is a blow not only to Norwegian, but to the industry generally.
"He's an incredible ambassador for the cruise industry.
He's an incredible asset to the travel advisor trade. He's just an incredible
man. A good friend, a loyal guy. From that perspective, any time we lose
someone of that caliber from the industry, it hurts," Sharpe said.
Stuart hasn't announced plans, other than that he will stay
at Norwegian as a senior advisor through March 31, 2020, to help with the
transition to new leadership.
"From a personal perspective, I'm happy for him,"
Sharpe said. "He's an empty-nester now and he and [his wife] Alison can
travel and do the things that he loves."
Added Garcia: "I'm really happy for Andy, because he's
worked really hard for these 30-plus years ... and it's just that time to enjoy
the fruits of his efforts."