By Richard Bruce Turen – Managing Editor Traveltruth.com

Last week, I was able to snag an exclusive interview with one of the most innovative cruise line CEO’s in the business. I sat down with Dave Weidenaar of the new Titanic Cruise Lines at his headquarters in Burlington, Vermont for a rather extensive and illuminating “no-holds barred” chat. Here is a partial transcript of our conversation. Odd Cruise Ship Photo

RT – Well Dave, thanks for meeting with me, I don’t get very many one-one-one interviews with cruise line presidents.

DW – I’ve read some of your stuff Richard and I can understand why. But what the hey, fire away.

RT – OK, I suppose Dave I’ve got to start with the name of your new cruise line. Is “Titanic” a really positive image for the cruise industry?

DW – I think I get where you’re going with that Richard. I will tell you that our marketing team tossed this around for a few minutes. We didn’t just jump in. But when you think about it, what is a Seabourn or a Hapag-Lloyd, what is an NCL? Those names lack the oomph of a Titanic. We’re coming out of the box with name recognition. My marketing team won’t have to worry that no one has ever heard of us.

RT – Well actually Dave, NCL stands for something. The company is called Norwegian Cruise Line.

DW – I didn’t know that. I guess it’s sort of like the CLIA. Who knows what it really means.

RT – I was wondering why your corporate headquarters is in Vermont. Most of the other cruise lines are based in Florida, New York, or California.

DW – That would explain why I never run into cruise people in downtown Burlington. These cruise execs seem to operate on the assumption that they need to be near their ships where they home port. I guess they’ve never heard of the internet. Our management team is in touch with our three ships via e-mail.

RT – Well now let me get this straight. Your three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, are, according to the fact sheet your PR people sent me, registered in Mogadishu. That would be Somalia?

DW – That’s right Richard. And I will take full credit for that one. These other cruise ships are registered in weird places like the Bahamas or Grand Cayman. But here’s why we went with the Mogadishu registry. No Somali pirates are ever going to try to highjack one of our ships. Because if they did, they would then have to negotiate with themselves to free the passengers. I think flying the Somali flag is brilliant and our Titanic guests will appreciate the gesture.

RT – Well let’s move on and talk about your fleet. Each of your ships is a different size. The Pinta carries 203 passengers, the Nina carries 1200, and the Santa Maria carries 4,890. How can you, from a business perspective, justify, such a diverse fleet?

DW – When you buy used you take what you can get.

RT – I understand that your deployment plans for the ships are somewhat unique?

DW – Well I would say our itineraries are bombastic, unpredictable, and somewhat myopic. I think we have these other lines on the ropes. The Nina will sail out of Hoboken on a seven-night itinerary that includes three nights in Ocho Rios and three nights in Nassau. No one has ever done that before. We know that Carnival is watching every move we make and they must be really jealous that we thought of this itinerary before they did.

RT – Well let me interrupt for a moment Dave. I can see where an itinerary like that will save you fuel costs, as well as food costs, but will it sell?

DW – Our market research says it will. I mean it’s not like we’re just gonna keep the ship docked in Hoboken for seven nights. Trust me, these other cruise lines move their ships around too much. People want to get off, smell the smoke, play with the locals. Look how successfully people have reacted to Azamara’s overnight stays. We pay attention to what the other guys are doing, It’s not like we don’t get newspapers in Burlington. We’ve just taken Azamara’s “extra nights in port” concept and extended it out a little bit.

RT – What about your other two ships?

DW – Well the Nina is going to be doing some really exciting itineraries and once again we’re going to be leaders rather than followers. I mean Crystal and Silverseas do a nice job but we’re not doing their Europe. We will be doing an itinerary that we call “Appreciative Europe”. We are only going to be sailing to those European countries that actually appreciate what we in the United States have done for them. We want our passengers to feel appreciated when they get off the ship.

RT – OK, so what ports will the Nina be visiting in Europe?

DW – So far, we’ve found one town in Ireland. But unfortunately it’s inland. The nearest port is 170 miles away. . Come back to me on that one Richard.

RT – And the Santa Maria.

DW – She’s our flagship.. We call her “Big Fatty”. She will be based in the Virgin Islands.

RT – Anything you care to tell us about her facilities? I hear that you have some unusual approaches to entertainment and dining?

DW – Well Richard, I hope this is not going to turn into another one of your snippy interviews. I don’t think our approach is unusual, I think some of the expensive attractions you see on the other lines like rock climbing walls, parks, indoor skating rinks, wave runners, waterfalls, and those things will never work? Is Royal Caribbean still in business?

RT – Actually, yes, and they are very successful as are their newest ships with the facilities you are describing.

DW – Hmmmm, I didn’t know that. I will start reading the Wall Street Journal. But look, no one has what we have on the Santa Maria. The ocean’s largest Food Automat. Little glass windows with small plates of food. Guests use tokens to get their food. The higher your cabin category the more tokens you get and the more you get to eat. It is going to be like one big game of Survivor. And it will save us from staffing all those typical cruise buffet stations. You want something to eat, put a few tokens in the slot.

RT – So all of your food will be self service?

DW – Misquote. I didn’t say that. We will have an onboard Applebee’s for those seeking fine dining, But our team has come up with a solution to a major problem. Dine anytime versus fixed seating. All of Titanic’s competitors have dealt with this issue and they’ve all got it wrong.

We will have anytime dining. But every guest will be given a police whistle. If you do not care for your anytime table mates or waiter, you blow your whistle and your assigned waiter comes running to your rescue. Now that’s personal service.

RT – Dave, what is this I hear about your innovative approach to entertainment?           

DW – Our entertainment director has come up with a real winner on the Santa Maria. Our ships will follow the big names into their Caribbean ports. We’ll pull alongside and our passengers will don pirate gear, climb ropes, swing onto the deck of the ship next to us, while launching a coordinated assault using rubber swords. I think that’s a little more exciting then sitting in a show lounge watching the musical “Chicago”. We call it “getting involved” instead of “being entertained”.

RT – Dave, I want to thank you for this exclusive. I see it’s snowing outside so I’ll wish you success and head back to Secaucus.

DW – Thanks Richard. Watch out for the ice.