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Taking the Helm: Jan Swartz Talks About Princess Cruises and What's AheadNovember 7, 2013 By: Susan Young
Jan Swartz on the Royal Princess SeaWalk // Photo by Susan J. Young
The newest Princess Cruises “Captain,” Jan Swartz, will take the helm as president of the premium line on December 1. She succeeds Alan Buckelew, the line's current president and CEO, who is moving to a new position as chief operations officer at Carnival Corporation.
Swartz will report to Stein Kruse, currently president and CEO of Holland America Line, who'll become CEO of the Holland America Group, a new umbrella organization that includes Holland America Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and the Holland America/Princess tour operation in Alaska.
Swartz, currently Princess' executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service, talked with Travel Agent about what's ahead. Here's a summary of that conversation.
Will there be an announcement soon about your replacement in the sales and marketing post?
It’s one of the first things on my agenda - thinking about what the organizational structure should look like from December 1 onward. The changes are effective December 1 so that’s what we’re currently considering.
What’s your “take” on Princess as a brand, particularly in the aftermath of the Royal Princess launch?
Princess is the largest global premium brand in the industry. It has enormous global potential. Obviously, we have a very strong history and legacy, starting with the early days of “The Love Boat” and throughout the years with an illustrious set of “namers” [godmothers for new ships).
Because of those things, we have high awareness in many countries around the world. We believe there is great future growth potential for Princess Cruises…with great support from travel agents all over the world.
Royal Princess Grand Piazza
Princess is adding new China cruises this year, but where else will you expand? What about the North American market?
Our 17 ships sail everywhere in the world – South America, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, Asia and elsewhere- and we sell in over 70 countries around the world. So we’re a truly global enterprise.
We also have new product offerings for the North American market with the introduction of our short cruises that we’re doing on the West Coast and the East Coast. These are intended to bring “new-to-Princess” passengers by convincing them to take a short cruise trip rather than go to Las Vegas or a long weekend in New York or a variety of other vacation options.
We believe that we offer North American travel agents a fantastic proposition because they can get passengers introduced to Princess and then there’s really nowhere in the world we can’t take them together.
What’s the current opportunity that agents have with the brand and how are you supporting your travel agency partners?
We believe that there’s great momentum with the brand...with the introduction of the Royal Princess and the Regal Princess [launching] next year.
We also just had a fabulous Sales Executive Forum in Florida with our top accounts - travel agent accounts – and I think the partnership is getting stronger. We did a few days on land in a hotel, where we did the executive forum.
We had all of our most senior people here at Princess. So we had Alan [Buckelew], myself, Rai Caluori, ...everybody shipboard and shoreside, all of our officers (the primary ones) and then we had all of our top accounts.
Out of 120 travel agent partners, 110 came. And then we invited all of them plus several thousand other travel agents to sail on the Royal Princess. It was just a great event.
Obviously, we did some speaking but we also had break-out groups and then Brian O’Connor and I did many one-on-one sessions with top partners – hearing their feedback and learning how we can be better partners.
And then the culmination of everyone being able to sail on the Royal Princess and see the product speak for itself was just a fabulous ending to that event.
Royal Princess // Photo by Susan J. Young
Holland America and Princess compete with each other in the marketplace, particularly in Alaska. With you reporting to Stein Kruse, who heads up Holland America, how will this work? Will the brands become more closely aligned?
We see an opportunity to collaborate more so we can further clarify the two very distinct brand propositions. The intention is that we actually put more space between the brands in terms of messaging and tone and product offerings.
Stein [Kruse] can better speak to how he intends to run the group but what I can say is that we believe it’s a great opportunity to further clarify the brand positioning vis-à-vis our competition as well as with Holland America.
The intent is absolutely not to make them more similar – quite the opposite. Both brands have strong histories, legacies and very loyal past passengers. And we want to make sure and build on that for both brands.
What about Bob Dickinson’s involvement as an advisor for Carnival Corporation. He was tasked with identifying ways the brands can more effectively work with the trade. Has he been involved with Princess to date?
I‘ve had very few interactions with Bob. He sends me a note here or there on occasion, but I don’t think his focus is on Princess at the moment.
Princess' brand messaging is “Escape Completely,” yet you continue to use Gavin MacLeod, aka Captain Stubing of “The Love Boat,” to help promote Princess from time to time. Do you see that relationship continuing under your leadership?
Yeah. Gavin has been a strong Princess supporter for what now must be 30 years. We have a great partnership with him. We use him in a number of ways around the world and we’ll continue to do that. It’s part of our history.
What top priorities do you have? What can we expect to see - in terms of your first actions as president?
There are two things I'd like to build on at Princess. Number one is the globalization of our company. Our team is continuing to push and design itineraries in the world that others haven’t done.
Secondly, I would say unleashing more creativity from within our organization. We have so many talented people with fabulous ideas. It’s using the larger team, having the larger team to source more ideas – whether it’s marketing or innovation or whatever.
I consider the future of Princess Cruises to be very bright. We believe that by harnessing all this discipline and creativity and diversity of the Princess team, we can drive great performance - great results.
Did you always have a love of travel and exploring the world? Where did the passion come from?
My grandfather was actually a naval architect. He worked at a shipyard in Maine, the Bath Iron Works. I don’t know if the sea got in the blood or what? He passed away before I started working with Princess Cruises, but I always think that he would be amused.
I have always loved to travel even when I was a young child, every dollar I could scrap together, I spent on trip. Out of graduate school, I took my signing bonus and bought a deeply discounted, around-the-world ticket that started in London and went to Africa.
It was so low a discount that I put up an unstable pup tent on the plains of Kenya. I now look back and think ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I did that.’ I went from there to Bali, to Turkey and made my way to Thailand, slept on top of chicken coops and so on.
So I’ve always had a huge passion for learning and for travel as a means of enriching my life and others’ lives. This truly is an amazing business.