Princess Cruises: For the Experienced Cruiser

In North America, Princess is an international product, Buckelew said, fitting comfortable in the Carnival Corporation family between Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line.Princess Cruises is always improving and at the same time consistent and predictable, according to Alan Buckelew, president and CEO. “We are always working to evolve and improve our product and our relationship with travel agents,” Buckelew told Cruise Industry News. “We believe in continuous improvement and apply this both onboard and in the marketplace. There are a lot of little things taking place all the time that add up,” he said.

This November, Princess will introduce its newest ship, the 113,000-ton, 3,100-passenger Ruby Princess. Built by Fincantieri, the Ruby will spend her first season sailing in the Caribbean, before returning to Europe for next year’s summer season.

In other developments, Princess is revitalizing its Grand-class of ships, starting with the Grand Princess, which was built in 1998. “We are adding the same amenities on these ships that we have on the Crown class,” Buckelew said.

Princess has much higher brand awareness than the size of the company would suggest, according to Buckelew, who said: “Our name recognition is very strong and the brand preference we enjoy is very powerful.”

In North America, Princess is an international product, Buckelew said, fitting comfortable in the Carnival Corporation family between Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line.

In England, Princess is an American-oriented product compared to P&O Cruises, targeting a smaller segment of the market.

In Australia, Princess is positioned above P&O Cruises, appealing to Australians who want to take an American-style cruise.

“It all seems to work very well,” Buckelew said, “and allows Carnival brands to touch a wider range of markets.

“From a price point, the products are not so different, but yet appeal very much to different people,” he added.

Princess pioneered worldwide cruises long before its competition and has built up a strong following for its worldwide itineraries, reaching more than 300 different ports a year, according to Buckelew.

The focus is on experienced cruisers, he said. “They want to see the world. We tailor our product to their tastes and preferences. Hence, our service and dining must be impeccable. Our objective is to make Princess their first choice for a cruise vacation and this also drives our deployment strategy.”

New cruises and tours are developed every year.

“We are known for our annual (ship) shuffles,” Buckelew said. “None of our ships have permanent homeports. Every ship moves around, and we make changes every year.”

Still, Princess claims its deployment mix has not changed dramatically over the years. The ships have maintained their deployment in Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe and the exotic programs, according to Buckelew – or may have a little more capacity on exotic sailings, now with two ships in Australia.

“We will have eight ships in Alaska next summer, eight in Europe and one in the Caribbean,” he said.

“Today, we are operating at full capacity,” Buckelew continued. “We cannot grow much more without building more ships, but with the euro being as strong as it is, it does not make sense to order ships for the U.S. market. The dollar has strengthened, however, and if it continues to strengthen, the circumstances may very well change.”

Without any distractions (Princess also ran Cunard Line and looked after P&O Australia for the past few years) and no newbuildings at least for the next couple of years, Buckelew said: “We are looking forward to concentrating 100 percent on Princess – to make us better and stronger both ashore and on the ships.”

Excerpted from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2008

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