Early next year, the first Sphere-class ship from Princess Cruises will set sail. Nick Hughes, the line’s sales director for UK and Europe, chats to Gary Peters about this and much more.
Back in March, Princess Cruises held the float out ceremony for its next-generation ship, Sun Princess, at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.
The 4,300-guest vessel – which launches in early 2024 – has been “designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions”, according to the cruise line.
It will be the first Princess ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and will feature new dining, entertainment and activity offerings, as well as the Dome, a transformational entertainment venue inspired by the terraces of Santorini.
The arrival of not just a new ship but an entire new class “shows how we are evolving as a brand while also staying true to our heritage”, says Nick Hughes, who joined Princess as sales director for UK and Europe in October last year.
“This is actually the third Sun Princess in our history,” he continues. “We’re very proud the ship will reflect our past by offering the outstanding service and dining Princess is synonymous with, while propelling us into the future thanks to being our first LNG ship and featuring many Princess firsts.”
Princess Cruises ‘building on history’
Hughes says that Sun Princess will “set the scene” for the second Sphere ship, Star Princess, which is scheduled to launch in August 2025.
“We’re incredibly excited to be welcoming two ground-breaking ships to the fleet and opening up even more opportunities for the trade and our guests to sail with Princess,” he adds.
These new vessels also come at a time when Princess has revamped its messaging, with a ‘come feel the love’ concept to run through everything it aims to achieve. So, what does this mean in practice?
“The concept is a nod to our heritage with The Love Boat and we want it to highlight to the trade what makes Princess so popular,” Hughes explains.
“Everything we offer is geared around making it easier for our guests to fall in love with the Princess experience time and time again, and with our refreshed brand positioning we will be highlighting exactly how Princess does this to our trade partners through toolkits, training courses and our ship visit programme.”
As for that agent engagement, the line now has a team of 15 across sales and operations, leading to “even more support for our strategic partners, thanks to the addition of two senior executives as well as a new sales operations position”.
Hughes adds. “An absolute priority is for as many agents as possible to experience the Princess difference – in fact this year alone we have more than 1,000 places for ship visits across the UK with 22 dates to choose from.”
Princess reports ‘strong growth’
The push to boost trade engagement can also be seen in “renewed” interest in Princess’ UK & Ireland Facebook groups, says Hughes, with a focus on “pushing the benefits of selling Princess in an eye-catching way”.
He continues: “We have experienced strong growth compared to 2019 and 2022. From a trade perspective, ex-UK, British Isles and fly-Europe are performing particularly well.
“Long-haul, Australia, Japan and Alaska are all proving to be in demand from a bucket-list perspective.”
Back in February, the line reported an 18 per cent increase in the number of all-inclusive packages booked, with the UK having one of the highest all-inclusive uptake rates per guest, compared to any other country.
“Our all-inclusive Plus and Premier packages have proved a real hit and I’m pleased to say their popularity has continued,” Hughes tells Cruise Trade News.
Come 2025, Princess will also offer its longest voyage ever, with the 116-night world cruise, on Island Princess, traversing more than 33,500 nautical miles and visiting 51 destinations in 26 countries.
The itinerary will feature Princess’ first visit to Bar, Montenegro, and Taranto, Italy, along with inaugural world cruise calls to the Greek Island of Patmos and to Volos for the Monasteries of Meteora.
Take this, the new ships and brand messaging into account, and it all points to an exciting time for agents and guests.
Hughes says: “The cruise sector still has an incredible opportunity to raise its profile, so the more we can support agents and help them understand the advantages of Princess, the more we will all benefit.”