Steve Odell, Senior Vice President & Managing Director for Asia Pacific for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, discusses the cruising experience with Norwegian Cruise Line on Oceania and Regent Seven Seas.
HOW DID YOU FALL IN LOVEWITH TRAVELING?
Steve Odell: I grew up right in the south of United Kingdom, in the Isle of Wight, which was right in the doorstep of Southampton, the home of all the big cruise ships and ocean liners.
So even as a kid, I remember seeing cruise ships passing by my window. Combine that with my family’s own hotel, I’ve always had a fascination with travel right from the start.
When I went to the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, I took a business management course, and when I was 18, I was an intern for P&O Cruises, which is a big UK cruise business. I did two internships with them where I experienced the whole cruise business – from reservations to sales to short excursions. By the time I was 21, I was attached to the cruise industry.
WHAT KIND OF TRAVELER ARE YOU?
Steve Odell: I’m lucky that I experience the ships and the life on board in my working life, so I’m connected with cruising all the time. But when it comes to my own holiday, I like to move away from that. I’m a big snow skier, and I love trekking.
I’m a big fan of treks and walking trips so I really like New Zealand. There are some incredible two-day and three-day treks where you put on your backpack, walk, and stay in a lodge overnight. It’s an incredible way to see unusual landscapes.
WHAT’S YOUR TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY?
Steve Odell: Live life for today, and see and do as much as you can. Don’t leave it too late to start doing it. A lot of people always say that, “When I retire I’m going to do this.” My philosophy has always been do it now, while you’re fit and healthy. Because you see a lot of people waiting and end up not doing it at all.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TRAVEL ESSENTIALS?
Steve Odell: I can’t travel without my music, my headset, and my passport, of course. My laptop–that never goes away.
My other half always says to leave work at home, but I can’t. It’s impossible. When I go on a holiday, I try not to take a suit, because I travel with a suit all the time.
WHERE WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE TRIP?
Steve Odell: It was in Bhutan, where we stayed for 10 days. I would say it was more luxury-oriented. We stayed in Amankora, which has five lodges across Bhutan, and you can stay in one lodge a couple of nights before moving to the next one. What you do in between moving to each lodge is entirely your choice.
One day we went trekking, so high up since we were 12,000 feet aboveground. At the end of the day we had the luxury of Amankora, with a nice glass of red wine and good food and a beautiful bath to soak in. It was quite incredible. Bhutan was really such a natural environment, and it’s true that Bhutan measures their gross domestic happiness.
DEFINE WHAT A TRUE “LUXURY CRUISE” IS LIKE.
We always use an analogy of hotels. If you go to any city, you’ll find different kinds of hotel experiences. The cruise industry is like that. If you look at the pyramid of experiences, right at the pinnacle, is the luxury business, which is quite small. It is normally defined as small boutique star ships, with mostly only suites where the rooms have private verandas. It’s almost like a private yacht.
When you step onboard you really have a carefree environment. You don’t have to sign bills because everything is included – from all the tipping to the bottle of champagne in your mini-bar.
With Regent, which is our luxury brand, even the short excursions are included. So when you go on tour, you don’t pay. I think it’s about giving people a carefree luxury experience where you don’t have to worry about dinner reservations.
When there is no exchange of money or signing of bills, people engage more. It creates a relaxed atmosphere because no one is worrying about the next bill.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE CRUISE?
Steve Odell: My most memorable cruise was an arctic expedition. I went on a cruise from Svalbard, in the very north of Norway and we went into the Arctic Circle. We went polar bear searching and walking on glaciers. It was quite an amazing 10 days with just a hundred of us.
We didn’t see another ship or other people. We pushed right up to about 82 degrees north into the Arctic Circle, where we watched polar bears walking around on the ice.
Expeditions are quite an experience as they take you to really different places.
But I still like going to the Mediterranean. There is something about being in Europe during the summer that makes it very special. And in the Mediterranean, you can go somewhere different every day. You can be in France on Monday, Spain on Tuesday, or Portugal on Wednesday, for example, because they’re all so close.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF A CRUISE-STYLE TRAVEL?
Steve Odell: It’s value for money. When you go to a hotel or resort, you pay for your room but you end up paying for everything else that you do. Whereas in a cruise, you’re buying the room, the entertainment, and the food and beverages.
Another advantage is that you only unpack your bag once, but get to see a lot of destinations. You’re not moving to different hotels with the stress of unpacking, repacking, and moving to the next destination.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A TRIP?
Steve Odell: I’m a seasoned traveler; I travel so much for my job that I’m pretty organized. But I tend to be more impromptu, and I don’t like to be too locked into things.
I read quite a lot of travel article and if I see a really good article about a place, I save it. And I have a deck of European places that I’ve saved from travel articles. I don’t want to waste time on thinking about what we’re going to do tonight, and be disappointed by not being able to do something. So having dinner reservations is a good start; it’s a must for me.
I keep the days fairly open and I like to be free-spirited and independent. It’s always good to go to off-the-beaten track places. If you go to the hotel concierge they’ll tell you the best restaurants to try, but they don’t necessarily tell you what the locals like.