When you’re the world leader in Freestyle Cruising and offer more than 250 itineraries and accommodations to suit everyone’s taste and budget, you’ve got to run a tight ship. For Norwegian Cruise Line, the innovator in cruise travel, this means ensuring the resiliency of its systems and technology and providing exceptional service to guests from the time they make their reservations to when they board the ship and during the cruise.
Norwegian Cruise Line Chief Information Officer Vincent Cirel understands the critical role that resilient information and data systems play in securing just that. This explains why he believes you should never allow a single point of failure in any critical system. Hurricanes, natural disasters, or even a simple power failure can damage customers’ experiences and spark a loss of reputation (as well as future revenue). Disaster resiliency helps protect the business and its personnel. Norwegian sought to ensure that disasters – from natural to technical problems, security issues and other operational snafus – wouldn’t disrupt its complex environment: the core reservation system for its fleet of cruise ships.
As Norwegian’s reservation system became more complex due to growth and expanding demands on the system, company officials began looking for a provider they could trust with the expertise needed to run their mission-critical operations. That assignment included managing the NCL.com website, where:
- Prospective guests survey cruises and trips, purchase their vacations, and when booked, reserve shore excursions
- Travel agents, including Expedia, Travelocity and the other independent agencies, are served
- Cruise ship officials manage some guest systems onboard a cruise, including online check-in, on-ship travel changes and the guest manifest.
Partnering for business results
Norwegian partnered with Sungard Availability Services to operate, monitor, and protect its systems in order to ensure high performance and responsiveness.
Such support can spell a shift in thinking: “With all the technology advances of the last ten years, the ‘R’ in ‘DR’ really stands for disaster resiliency, not recovery,” says Cirel.
Simply imagine: If someone seeking to book a cruise through NCL.com can’t access the website, that person may choose another cruise line — and that loss would represent lost revenue for Norwegian. Multiply this by thousands of inquiries a day, and a storm of an entirely different type is created.
The same holds true for Norwegian’s partners – travel agents and services from Travelocity to Expedia. If they can’t reach Norwegian, they may begin looking to other cruise lines. Norwegian Cruise Line rests easier with Sungard AS:
“Sungard AS has shown to be a flexible, responsive and agile partner that understands on a very detailed level exactly what we need — they understand our business,” says Norwegian Cruise Line Vice President of IT Infrastructure and Operations Jeff McVay. “Sungard AS stood up and said, ‘We can handle that.’”
The key differentiator with Sungard AS is flexibility, as well as its rapid response to ever-changing Norwegian requirements.
For example, in the fall of 2012, Norwegian confronted the “wave” season – the high booking period of November through March. Sungard AS helped Norwegian build in extra resilience to handle the busy reservation time, even providing “boost-able” internet services to address Norwegian’s seasonal needs.
“Sungard AS is responsive in a very flexible way, and it’s a big benefit to us. It makes them a better business partner, and frees us up to innovate in other ways,” Cirel says.
Cirel cites Sungard AS’ quick response recently when Norwegian decided to make a change immediately and over the weekend in its infrastructure resource requirements. Sungard AS had little time to coordinate and schedule its resources to meet the assignment’s demands, but rose to the challenge and helped Norwegian make the change efficiently and effectively with no impact to critical customerfacing systems.
The Sungard AS service approach is built around Norwegian’s requirements, so service levels align with Norwegian business objectives. With more than a year of managing Norwegian systems, the Sungard AS team has developed a deep understanding of their systems and enterprise application architecture. As a result, Sungard AS is a partner, not simply a supplier.
“They understand when we’re running promotions and how busy and important that time of year is for us,” says Cirel. “They know the critical things to do, like making changes with our website and ensuring the necessary infrastructure is available. It’s been a great transformation and a nice progression.”
McVay says Sungard AS’ contribution can be easily measured because its practices represent real value. The time needed to resolve issues and the number of issues “are showing a very positive trend,” he explains.
Case in point
For instance, Norwegian may experience 20-25 smaller IT issues a month that don’t involve customers and, with Sungard AS as its IT partner, pre-warning systems mitigate 95-98 percent of the issues with no customer impact.
He adds that Sungard AS possesses skilled personnel and a robust infrastructure, as well as the generators, UPS systems, and separate connected power grids to ensure infrastructure availability
“I’m proud of the high availability and robust architecture we’ve built with Sungard AS’ help,” McVay adds. “I would put us upagainst anyone else in the business world.”
Norwegian Cruise Line continues to look to Sungard AS as a solution-driven partner. It has moved its new phone system to Sungard AS to host, and expects to have Sungard AS take on a more active role in hosting and managing other applications such as a hybrid Cloud application through Sungard AS Enterprise Cloud Services.
Norwegian officials make it clear that with Sungard AS at the helm of their most critical IT operations, they can focus their own resources on managing the changing tides of the cruise business.