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Solo Travelers Find a Berth with Norwegian Cruise Line

How Norwegian Cruise Line Created a New, Award-Winning Stateroom Category Targeting a Valuable Niche

In exploring several successful new businesses from Nielsen’s Breakthrough Innovation Report, one best practice theme that emerges is redefining a category or inventing an entirely new category, often by meeting the needs of a specific target consumer for a specific situation or need state.  Norwegian Cruise Line illustrates this innovation best practice with the launch of “Studio Staterooms” on board the line’s largest ship, Norwegian Epic. The Studios are a 128-cabin complex or ‘ship within a ship.’

The Studios Stateroom

The Studios staterooms are designed specifically and priced for solo travelers, and the Studios also boast a “Living Room” area where guests can get their morning coffee, meet up with friends, and plan their day.  Though the rooms are small, they are stylish, and in 2011, they won a design award from Travel & Leisure.

Is offering a room catering to a solo traveler a new idea?  Actually, it is, as the cruise industry focuses primarily on double occupancy cabins, making booking challenging for travelers who are prefer to go ‘solo.’ There is typically a stiff penalty- the single supplement- for solo travelers who book a stateroom designed for double occupancy.

Solo travelers represent both a target consumer segment and a situation.  While solo travelers might be expected to skew towards the approximately 12 million single adults ages 30-59 with incomes between $35,000 and $74,999, there can also be occasions where married/partnered adults prefer a solo experience, e.g., family reunions, girlfriend cruises, etc.  It’s estimated that the total market for solo vacationers is 11 million strong, though demand in the cruise business has been restricted due to industry pricing practices.

“The Studios continue Norwegian Cruise Line’s tradition of innovation that was first seen with the introduction of Freestyle Cruising®,” saysMaria Miller, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Norwegian Cruise Line. “We recognized that solo travelers are a valuable market segment that has typically been overlooked in our industry and therefore, we developed the Studios to meet their needs.  This innovation has both product elements, including the unique stateroom design, and access to the private lounge called the Living Room, as well as and service and experience components. I’m pleased to say that the Studios have received favorable reviews from the press, travel agents, and especially from solo travelers themselves.”

The Studios Living Room

Looking at recent reviews by several solo travelers, we can see that the experience elements, such as the solo traveler coordinator, nightly get-togethers and other special perks (meeting a member of Blue Man Group) are valuable, along with the product itself (the cabin, the lounge with breakfast, lunch and snack offerings). Everything adds up to a unique experience, tailored to the needs of this target.

“Loved the Studio cabin I had on the Epic. The things I really enjoyed: Nightly “get-together” for those sailing in the Studios. As a solo traveler, I thought it was nice to meet other passengers and make some plans for dinner or events. They had a two-for-one happy hour, again a great way to meet other solo travelers. We had a representative from the Entertainment staff that came to our nightly meetings that helped arrange some special events for the Studio group. We also had one of the Blue Man Group (sans makeup) that came in to talk about how he got in the BMG, etc.”

“I loved my Studio cabin—plenty of room for one—and the Studio Lounge. There was a variety of cereals and danish in the Lounge every morning, and salads, sandwiches and cookies later in the day. Met lots of friendly people of all ages at the 5:30 PM gathering.”

“I just sailed in one for two weeks, and would do it again in an instant. I am not a big breakfast person, but the one day I did need something, it was great to go to the living room for coffee and a pastry, rather than battling the buffet before all of the excursions left. I loved the cabin, the location and highly recommend it.”

The Studios win by ‘make cruising more comfortable for the solo traveler’ and delivering against a specific target audience for a specific situation.