Hans Lagerweij, former portfolio managing director, Adventure Travel Division for TUI Group and president and CEO of Quark Expeditions, is responsible for the day-to-day operation, while Victory founding president and CEO Bruce Nierenberg moved up to chairman and is focusing on company growth and product development. Examples are the recently announced all-inclusive cruise-land Yucatán program and Victory's strong growth plans in the Great Lakes and Cuba.
Miami-based concessionaire Cruise Management International handles deck and engine/marine operations, and CMI Leisure manages hotel operations, so the main job of the president is to create the revenue necessary to run the company, Nierenberg said.
Lagerweij, he added, brings 'lots of small ship/expedition ship experience and is a high-energy type. He has a solid sales and marketing background in travel and consumer products, which makes him a good fit for Victory.'
For his part, Lagerweij saw Victory as an opportunity to join an 'excellent start-up in cruising,' adding: 'I like to develop companies, especially from a marketing and sales angle. With Victory Cruise Lines also being in private hands, this means I spend all of my time building, meeting with clients and working with the team, instead of spending long days with PowerPoints in corporate boardrooms.'
What sealed the deal was seeing Victory's enthusiastic customer reviews. 'Great customer satisfaction and a unique niche in the Great Lakes that we can lead should give an excellent base to further build the company,' he said.
Lagerweij's first priority is to expand distribution, starting with raising awareness of Victory within the travel agent channel. His main focus is North America, but he'll be following up some international interest as well. Among his goals is having Victory join at least one consortium in the next year.
Part of raising Victory's profile with agents involves the active use of social media. One example is a recently launched Facebook (closed) group, Victory Cruise Lines Visionaries, for travel advisers.
'Just two weeks after launching, and without any promotion, we already have 53 members,' Lagerweij said.
Another priority is to support the launch of Victory II, whose first cruise is July 27, from Montréal to Detroit, and the Yucatán product. According to Lagerweij, those who know the line are familiar with its Great Lakes program, so he needs to get the word out about Victory's one-of-a-kind Mexico itinerary and Cuba distinctions like two days and an overnight in every port. Victory's inaugural Cuba cruise, and its only one this season, is scheduled to depart Miami on April 20.
Nierenberg called this an exciting time for Victory as the company is in the midst of doubling capacity on the Great Lakes within a very short period of time.
'We are committed to taking advantage of the unprecedented demand for our type of cruising and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence in particular,' he said. 'We are indeed fortunate to have Hans and his extensive experience and success to help lead Victory to growth and continued success.'