Sandi Weir, Vice President, Destination Development & Government Relations, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
Please describe your position and role in the cruise industry.
My position is Vice President, Destination Development and Government Relations for all three of our cruise brands, Norwegian, Regent and Oceania. This is a new position within the Development Group which will focus on strategic initiatives of the three brand’s destination development, managing relationships with governments and communities where our ships call as well as representing the company in the various trade organizations in which we are active.
How long have you been in the cruise industry and what other roles/positions have you held?
I have been in the cruise industry for 11 years. My career at Norwegian began in their Hawaii office while we were deploying three US flagged cruise ships into the market, each one year apart. My first position was Business Development as Norwegian had just purchased a motor coach company that provided shore excursion for the ship. During my tenure in business development we looked at many opportunities but the one we carried forward to completion was creation of a Hawaiian Luau (dinner show) on the island of Kauai. Shortly after we opened the Luau two ships left the Hawaii market and I moved into an Operations role and ultimately became President for the two land-based companies.
Please describe a contribution you or your company has made to the cruise industry that you are proud of.
Norwegian has been a great innovator in the evolution of the cruise experience. Last year Norwegian celebrated 50 years and many of those “firsts” where published. Reading through the list makes me very proud to be a part of this team. While I cannot name all the contributions in this short article let me just name a few …. Freestyle Cruising, first private island, first cruise line to call PortMiami home in the early 70’s, first to homeport a ship in Seattle for Alaskan itineraries, first to introduce the concept of a ship – within – a ship, “The Haven”. There were also many firsts in onboard experiences over the years such as a bowling alley, an Ice Bar, specialty dining options, Kid’s Crew programs, the Internet Café, and a two-level race track that can be experienced on the newest ships, Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss.
Name a “highlight” in your career.
The highlight in my career was building the Luau experience on the island of Kauai. It began with a thought that if we were going to build another luau it must be different, unique and authentic – a true Hawaiian experience. We selected the site, an old sugar plantation, and then set off to develop a story line, the rest of the elements would fill in around the story. Key people came together to share in the vision, those became partners who we share the success with today. Originally created only for a cruise line audience, with only one ship in the market, it now sells out (800 guests) two other nights a week, year round. Each time I attended I felt the same excitement as the first time. Greeting our guests after the show and hear them tell us what a great evening and how it touched them – is a highlight each night!
What is the biggest challenge in the cruise industry as it relates to your sector and how would you address it?
I believe that the biggest challenge in my area is developing new destinations for the multitude of ships that are on the ship builder’s order books and ones being delivered each year. We have to find new and exciting ports, then market to create a demand for the cruisers so they seek out itineraries with these new ports of call. Once we find these destinations we need to create harbors in locations to efficiently, quickly and effective move passengers from the ship to the shore.