AAAs Q&A: Gary Anslow, Norwegian Cruise Line’s regional vice-president and head of UK and Ireland

We’re less than one week away from Travel Weekly’s Agent Achievement Awards 2024 and glad rags are being readied. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Gary Anslow is polishing his dancing shoes. Andrew McQuarrie reports.

Q. Why have you decided to sponsor this year’s AAAs?
Travel partners are at the heart of our success, and we want to pay tribute to their outstanding work and support. NCL is honoured and proud to be a part of this key event in the travel industry calendar.

Q. Which products are you focusing on at the moment?
With a fleet of 20 ships on sale (and another three to come in the next three years), we have the luxury of being able to offer a wide variety of destinations, itineraries, offshore excursions, entertainment and much more. We visit some 400 places across the globe, giving our guests the opportunity to reach some of the world’s most desirable destinations. A particular key focus for us is Europe, where we offer more than 100 immersive itineraries from 13 home ports across nine ships, including the first two of our ground-breaking Prima Class – Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva.

This will include our launch of the first-ever summer season of sailings between New York City and Reykjavik, starting in July. During this summer travel season, guests embarking on NCL cruises in Europe will have the opportunity to choose from 63 sailings, calling at 140 captivating ports across northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Greek islands and the Atlantic coast. Winter-sun lovers can look forward to our Caribbean sailings, many of which include stops at NCL’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, and our Asia offering that includes new destinations in the region. Guests may wish to take an 11-day cruise exploring Asia through Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, or they may prefer to take a longer trip by booking a 14-day transatlantic cruise visiting the Bahamas, Spain and Antigua to escape the winter blues.

Q. How are you supporting your travel agent partners?
At NCL, we remain committed to being a solid and seamless partner to work with, and as part of our longstanding Partners First philosophy, we are thrilled to put our agents front and centre of our planning. This year we will host another 1,000 travel agents on ship visits around the UK, and we have recently expanded the trade sales team, including the new role of trade partner training manager. Laura Croft is dedicated to working with partners on developing NCL knowledge and confidence. Our Freestyle Rewards programme rewards agents for every booking and our Southampton-based contact centre is there to support agent partners with bookings and queries. Our average answer time for trade partners calling us is less than 10 seconds.

Q. How has 2024 been so far?
It’s been great. Sales have been exceptionally strong for summer 2024 across our European, Alaskan and Caribbean itineraries, plus we’ve seen really good demand – and conversion – for 2025, including our Asia and Caribbean sailings in the early part of the year and our 2025 Europe programme. Getting these forward bookings early is good news for us and our partners because they typically come with higher revenues and earnings when compared with selling in the late market.

Q. Do you have any advice for first-time guests at the AAAs?
Enjoy one of the year’s biggest events, see what a great industry we work in, enjoy the company of colleagues and partners, raise a glass for the winners and have a dance at the end…

Q. Favourite destination?
The US – I love it! Skiing in the Rockies, theme parks in Florida and, after London, some of the greatest cities in the world.

Q. The last holiday you went on?
Norway and Iceland on Norwegian Prima with family and friends.

Q. Dream trip?
This year I’ll be on Norwegian Joy out of Miami round the Caribbean and on to Bermuda.

Q. One word to sum up the AAAs?

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