Ahead of Princess Cruises' first Connect With Princess virtual conference, held in early May, John Chernesky, senior vice president of North America sales and trade marketing, spoke to Travel Weekly news editor Johanna Jainchill about the Princess experience when the line returns to service.
Q: What should travelers and advisors expect now that all Princess ships are Medallion enabled?
A: We're super excited that our entire fleet will be Medallion Class, because that's consistency across the brand. We don't have to say, this ship has it and this ship doesn't. I like to say that Medallion Class is amazing technology that is way beyond my comprehension. It impresses me every time I think about it, but that's not what it's about. The technology is there to support delivering an enhanced experience that is personalized to the guest. I love to say that it's about giving you back more time to enjoy your vacation. Because that's really what it's about: Making life easier onboard. We're starting from a great place and making it even better because it's so much more efficient, and not having to wait in line, not having to get up out of that chair to get something, that's what it's all about.
People who don't even have a smartphone or don't want to use theirs on vacation -- they want to lock it in the safe -- say that what's great about Medallion is it's not dependent on an app. It is usable through your stateroom TV, public screen portals throughout the ship, your smartphone if you want. I think having that flexibility to cover people who love engaging the apps and those who don't is what sets it apart from everything else out there.
Q: A lot of that functionality seems more important coming out of the pandemic.
A: We never intended it to be built and used for this purpose, and it's a nice-to-have because you have all the functionality which supports spacing, physical distancing and is truly touchless, from embarkation to every transaction onboard. You're not signing slips. Everything is just automated, and it allows you to really enjoy that vacation with Princess and not have to worry about certain things. You can look up an event and see how popular it is, and for people who want to know, they can decide how to safely manage that within their family unit.
Q: How are bookings, and which destinations are people most excited about?
A: There is very strong future interest. When you look at the fact that our 2023 world cruise was put on sale and had our biggest sales day ever for a world cruise, it shows interest in a very lengthy and complicated trip. People have faith in cruising, that it will return; they can't wait to see the world. That's not a seven-day, quick trip: That's an investment of time and money. And the fact that it is selling as well as it is is the ultimate indicator of how well our future is looking.
And 2022 in particular is very strong. Whether it be Alaska, Europe, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, all of our main trades are doing very well. None really stands out more than another. But when you think of Princess, you probably think of Alaska first. We're seeing a great demand there, not just for regular cruising, but cruise tours are doing extremely well. And I would encourage people to book your cruise tour now before you miss the chance for 2022.
Q: You introduced Princess Plus in March 2020, and since then several other premium lines have added inclusive packages. Why?
A: Well, it's been very successful for us. It covers the majority of items that people spend money on. That's why those three items were chosen: gratuities, unlimited WiFi, premium drinks package. If you bought that stuff independently, it's almost a 60% savings with Princess Plus.
When we created it originally, we spent quite a bit of time talking to a number of our top travel agency partners about it before we introduced it. The feedback they provided was extremely valuable in terms of their expertise and how to communicate it to their team and how to make it as easy to understand and marketable as possible.