End of Nickelodeon Partnership Won’t Affect Norwegian’s Family Business, Agents Sayby Charlie Duerr /
As Norwegian Cruise Line prepares to end its affiliation with Nickelodeon, the children’s network it has partnered with for the past six years, cruise specialists predict minimal impact to the line’s multigenerational business.
Even though kids will no longer have the opportunity to set sail next year with popular Nickelodeon characters like SpongeBob Square Pants and Dora, they said there is more than enough incentive for families to stick with the line over competitors like Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, all of which offer some kind of children’s character interaction.
“I believe they will lose some market share to Disney and Royal Caribbean due to the lack of characters,” said Jesse Taylor, manager of sales and concierge at Going Places Travel, a Virtuoso agency in Fort Lauderdale.
“However, I believe the impact will be minimal,” Taylor said. “Clients are attracted to the Disney ships because of the Disney characters, and to Royal Caribbean due to DreamWorks. I do not believe the Nickelodeon brand is as powerful as Disney and DreamWorks with the demographics they are targeting.”
“I have maybe heard once, over the years of this Nickelodeon and Norwegian Cruise Line partnership, that someone wants to go on Norwegian because their kids love SpongeBob,” he added.
“It’s usually an afterthought like, ‘oh, that’s nice.’ I do not think this move will affect my business, or Norwegian’s, in the short term or long term.”
Still a strong commitment
Effective in January, Norwegian cruises will no longer feature Nickelodeon characters, Andy Stuart, the line’s president and COO, told travel agents in a recent conference call.
Instead, the Kings Foundation, a U.K. charity Norwegian has been working with since 2012, will run all of the line’s children’s programs.
The decision to part ways with Nickelodeon in no way signals less of a focus by the line on multigenerational cruising or a weakening of the family cruise segment in general, according to agents.
“While Norwegian’s partnership with Nickelodeon has been a fun option for families, I know that Norwegian remains committed to serving multigenerational family vacationers,” said Jason Armstrong, a CruiseOne franchise owner in Spokane, Wash.
“Their excellent programming for children and youth goes far beyond the Nickelodeon characters.”
Andrea Joyce, an independent vacation specialist at Cruises Inc. in Somers, N.Y. said that not only is the family cruise market not weakening, it’s a growing part of her business.
Agents also said Norwegian is too successful of a company to have made the decision to cut ties with Nickelodeon without measuring the potential impact of such a decision.
“I’m sure Norwegian did their homework and made this decision based on feedback from their clients as well as monitoring the people who went to the Nickelodeon-themed events,” said Joyce.
“I know they wouldn’t have made this decision if they didn’t feel that they could fill the gap with other entertainment for the children.”
Filling the gap
The partnership between Norwegian and Nickelodeon began in early 2010 and included, among other offerings, an array of character appearances, arts and crafts programs and poolside shows on Norwegian’s Jewel, Epic, Gem, Getaway and Breakaway ships.
Customers will begin seeing changes in October of this year on the Norwegian Epic, with the remainder of Nickelodeon-branded programs scheduled to phase out in early 2016.
The Norwegian Escape, the line’s highly anticipated new ship set to debut in October, will not feature any of the previously offered Nickelodeon programs.
The King’s Foundation, which will now run all of Norwegian’s kids programs, is known for developing family programs for U.S. military bases across the globe. Since 2012 it has helped Norwegian develop youth and teen programs across its fleet.
Its impact has been substantial, according to Stuart.
He has said that among Norwegian’s family customers, guest satisfaction has seen a 20% increase since the charity came on board.