Olympic Stars: Silver Cloud and Norwegian Getaway Showcase Cruising

Norwegian Getaway is being chartered for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. // Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games now under way in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, many Americans will be glued to their phones, tablets and TVs for updates on the competitive sports action. For the cruise industry, it’s a chance to shine – showcasing the pampered service and inclusive amenities guests receive on a cruise ship.

Silversea Cruises’ 296-passenger Silver Cloud sailed into Rio de Janeiro late last week. Docked at the city’s new port, the luxury ship will serve as the floating hotel for the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams throughout the games.

In addition, Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway – chartered from August 4 to 22 -- is also front and center at Rio’s port. It will provide supplemental housing for Olympic corporate sponsors and members of the International Olympic Federation and national organizing committees.

Travel Agent secured a brief video clip from Rio de Janeiro Tourism of Norwegian Getaway ship arriving in port. Check that out here: 

Cruising to Glory

Benefit to the industry? “It is great to see Norwegian Getaway and Silversea's Silver Cloud host athletes and organizers at the Rio Olympics,” says Lorri Christou, senior vice president, strategic communications and marketing, Cruise Lines International Association. (CLIA). “Any time the cruise industry is put in a positive spotlight, it generates a platform for travel agents to showcase and educate travelers about the benefit of cruise travel and grow their business.”

Silver Cloud // Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

During the two weeks of Olympic coverage, which happens every four years, Americans are watching and cheering Team USA, emphasizes Michelle Fee, CEO, Cruise Planners, who enthusiastically asks: "How cool is it that our industry is also on display? This is great coverage for the cruise industry. I believe that any and all good news that surrounds cruising, is good for all of us." 

The two vessels are the only two expected to house Olympic officials or participating athletes, although other lines may be calling at the port, as normal, with cruise guests onboard.

That said, these two ships are not in the same spot as the normal cruise traffic. They're docked in Praca Maua, a new port area that's essentially still a construction zone with cranes and construction workers still quite visible.

Plans and Preparations

Jerry Colangelo, chairman of USA Basketball, previously told ESPN that Team USA would use the Silver Cloud to help assure maximum security. Reportedly, the pier's security precautions include a pier fence made of bulletproof material, the presence of 250-plus Federal Police officers and two boats to provide channel security and prevent any navigation of other vessels near the ships.

Joyce Landry, CEO, Landry & Kling, has been involved with the massive charter project on Norwegian Getaway – the largest in her company’s history -- since 2007. Rio’s bid committee had asked Landry & Kling to help obtain cruise lines’ letters of support for the charter concept.

So Landry & Kling developed a detailed request for proposal to source the ship, worked to keep the contract negotiations moving along and served as the liaison with Norwegian Cruise Line throughout the planning process.

“We’re excited to finally implement our plans aboard ship in Rio, during this historic event,” Landry says. Agents can read Joyce Landry’s blog during the charter here: http://landrykling.com/rio-olympic-charter-joyce-landry/ 

Landry & Kling's team onboard the Norwegian Getaway. // Photo by Landry & Kling

Late last week, she said on her blog: “Everywhere we went today, we saw teams in their uniforms – from Haiti, Canada, U.S.A. There is bustle and beauty in the final preparations and the city is humming with activity. You can feel the spirit and it’s the anticipation of knowing that something great is about to happen.”

This is not the first time Olympic athletes and families have stayed aboard a cruise ship. For security and privacy reasons, USA basketball stopped using the Olympic Village back in 1992 -- the games of the so-called "Dream Team" of NBA professionals -- and, thus, have stayed elsewhere during that and subsequent games.

That meant staying at hotels in Beijing and London. In addition, the athletes also stayed on Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens.

During this year's stay onboard Silver Cloud, there won't be a need for such NBA superstars as Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving to double up with a roommate, the case for most athletes staying in the Olympic Village.

Clearly, cruise ship accommodations beat those some Olympic Village goers have; Andrew Bogut of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, who is competing in the games for Team Australia, posted an image of himself on social media. It showed him putting together a shower curtain (that was lacking) for his room in the Olympic Village.

The NBA has a “hospitality house" in the port area, which is fairly remote – an hour’s ride at least -- from the places of basketball play – the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca and, for some of the women’s games, at Deodoro.

New Olympic lanes are designed to accommodate Olympic-only traffic should -- hopefully -- help ease the flow of traffic so athletes can leave the port and arrive on time for their competitions. 

As for the lines themselves, Norwegian Cruise Line said it's bound by contract not to discuss details of the charter.

Front-Line Perspective

So will the two ships being at the Olympics give agents a talking point with cients, a way to either bring up cruising as possible vacation choice with potential new cruisers or, alternatively, to interest existing clients in booking their next cruise? Here's one agency owner's perspective. 

“When MSC pulled the MSC Divina and sent her to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014, it had no effect on U.S. cruise sales to my knowledge," says Christy Scannell, franchise owner and vacation specialist, Dream Vacations, San Diego, CA During those sporting events, she didn't have clients mention the situation nor did she see coverage of the ship.

"However, more Americans will most likely be watching the Olympics than the World Cup," she tells Travel Agent. Yet, Scannell says that unless Norwegian or Silversea is able to get significant prime-time coverage of the ships -- beyond showing them in the water from a distance during cut-aways -- potential clients are not likely to see them.

It can be done. When Norwegian put Norwegian Getaway in NYC for the 2014 Super Bowl, Scannel says they effectively launched the "ship as floating hotel" concept: "Not only national but regional and local media were in New York City to cover the game all week and that provided lots of opportunities for stories. My clients mentioned seeing the ship on TV and asked me for more information."

Since the Olympic Games are covered in similar ways by national and local media, she says having two ships there provides an opportunity for coverage. "I hope they can get interviews with those staying on the ships to discuss their experiences," says Scannell, "because as we know, first-hand accounts are always the best marketing tools."

Certainly, the two ships' amenities and service will far surpass most anything a land hotel can offer visitors. "I don't know of a Rio hotel that has a water park on its roof or 30 restaurants or Broadway shows like the Norwegian Getaway offers, for example," Scannell stresses. 

She hopes the two lines will accompany this coverage with advertising that emphasizes calling a travel agent and that they encourage these guests and their referrals to use a travel agent for booking.

Setting the Stage for Sales

Scott Koepf, senior vice president of sales, Avoya Travel, says the ships used during the Olympics will definitely get great exposure for the cruise industry overall and specifically for those brands. "In a celebrity-driven world, the social media impact alone of sports stars enjoying the comforts of cruising will benefit all of us in the industry," he believes. 

So with the games now under way, agents can hope "the Olympic conversation" pans out as a good hook for talking to clients about their next or even their first cruise.   

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