rincess Cruises' new Tahiti sailings
on two former Renaissance ships have generated a lot of interest.
Cruise editor Rebecca Tobin asked Princess' president Phil Kleweno
where the line is headed.
Travel Weekly:How does the new Tahiti
product fit into the Princess fleet in terms of itineraries and
Kleweno: The two smaller ships [688 passengers
each] are a perfect addition to the Princess fleet because they'll
enable us to offer more destination opportunities for our
passengers, which is one of the cornerstones of the Princess
experience. We've designed the industry's only 10-day [Tahiti]
The ships also will fit well with the rest of our fleet's
"Personal Choice" theme, albeit on a smaller scale. Plus, we know
many of our past passengers like the small-ship cruise
TW:Why was the decision to send one of
those Renaissance ships to Alaska?
Kleweno: We've [seen] a very strong interest in
[Alaska] cruises from San Francisco. It was driven by trying to
build that market in San Francisco.
TW:Princess ships will not be sailing in
the Caribbean during summer 2003. Why not?
Kleweno: Because of the high demand for our
Grand Princess Mediterranean cruises, we made the decision to
additionally deploy its sister ship, Golden Princess, there next
summer. That leaves us without a presence in the Caribbean.
But we'll be back in the summer Caribbean market when the new
ships we're building are delivered.
TW:You've doubled your Med capacity for
2003, but at least one of your competitors has said that Europe may
not "bounce back" as quickly as predicted. Your thoughts?
Kleweno: We are optimistic about having a very
strong Mediterranean season. We did have a strong Mediterranean
season this year, which this time last year people would have not
TW:What else is new for 2003?
Kleweno: We're trying to focus on being a
destination-oriented line. In 2003, we will have 70 unique
itineraries, and we're adding Antarctica.
We have maiden calls in four cities. We're introducing Hawaii
roundtrip out of Los Angeles. We're going back through the Suez
Canal this year.
Specifically, in terms of our exotics, we're up 20% in 2003, and
in the Mediterranean, we've doubled our capacity.
TW:Princess is known, as you said, as a
"destination-oriented" company. That said, are you concerned that
cruise itineraries could be seriously disrupted by a U.S.-Iraq
Kleweno: We deployed our ships earlier this
year in a way that we felt met the demands of our passengers. We
have no plans to change our current deployment.
That's not to say we wouldn't reevaluate that decision based on
world events. We certainly are watching the situation.
TW:How late can you reposition a
Kleweno: Ideally, you wouldn't want it to be
later than 18 months. We've done things as short as three and four
months, which is certainly not ideal.
But we did redeploy the Sea Princess last September for new
sailings in Mexico in January. We just announced the Tahitian
Princess with a first sailing on Dec. 24.
TW:Why did you choose to send a ship to
Kleweno: As we were looking at developing the
fleet and looking at discovery, it seemed like it was time to add
the seventh continent.
[The cruise] is quite exotic, going from the southern tip of
Africa, and it stops at some of the south Atlantic Ocean
TW:How is a deployment decision like that
Kleweno: [We get] travel agent input or
passenger input, or we look at competitors. Then we have a market
planning group that creates the different deployments.
It is a strategic and core part of our business that gets lots
of attention. We start planning several years in advance. It's not
as though we say, oh, the brochure's due next month.
TW:Do you often send new ships to newer
destinations, or do you tend to use them on time-tested routes to
spice things up?
Kleweno: Both. The last three ships we
introduced have been Grand class, and those cannot traverse the
The first one that can, the Coral Princess, will be deployed
there. We put the [new] Star Princess in Mexico, which is a return
to our roots.
But then we're taking the Star the next winter to the South
Pacific and Australia and New Zealand.