There’s more to Andy Stuart, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, than meets the eye, so we decided to ask him those comical, personal and telling questions to reveal the man behind the suit. Andy had an early start to his international travel experience—taking his first trip before his first steps—but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. As a high school senior he was stranded far from home and without any cash after having had his wallet stolen. Andy explains how he got out of that sticky situation and more in this edition of the Coffee Time With Industry Vets Q&A series.
Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?
I experienced my first vacation at a very young age—when I was six months old my family traveled to Italy. So I guess you could say I have been enjoying traveling since before I could even walk. The first vacation I can remember would be camping in France. We drove there from our home in England with a roof rack on top of our car filled with all of our luggage and camping supplies. Of course, as it often does in the spring and summer months it rained while we were en route and soaked everything we had brought with us, making red [dye] run through all of our clothes.
What is your most vivid travel memory?
I’d have to say my most vivid travel memory would be when my wallet was stolen on my high school senior trip. I had no money so I couldn’t take the train, suddenly I found myself stranded and having to hitch hike my way through France and Spain all alone. Thinking back on that trip, it’s very comforting to know that my kids now have Uber and cell phones.
What was the “Aha” moment that led you into the travel industry?
It wasn’t so much “aha” as an accident. I borrowed a sweater from Geraldine Noon, who worked for Norwegian in the UK at the time, during a softball game when I was working at the London Marriott Hotel. A year later, she called to return the sweater and also asked me if I would be interested in a position at Norwegian Cruise Line.
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
When my wife and I got married, we were living in England. So for our honeymoon, we wanted to go somewhere exciting and someplace warm! First, we went to New York City and then flew to the Caribbean to Virgin Gorda. We got to experience the fun and excitement of the ultimate big city as well as relaxation and sunshine—it was the absolute perfect trip.
What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?
I’m very active and I love the outdoors so skiing is always one of my favorite vacations. Earlier this year we had the opportunity to spend time in Thailand and China. It was our 25th wedding anniversary and my son’s high school graduation year—so multiple special occasions. It was the longest trip the four of us had taken and the diversity of the experiences from the many temples of Thailand, to experiences with the local people in Chang Mai, to an elephant sanctuary and bucket list visits to spectacular historic sites such as The Forbidden City—this will be a trip that holds many memories of us as a family!
Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?
I’m spoiled for choice, as I’ve had the benefit of being able to travel to some pretty incredible places for my job. This year my family and I traveled to China for the launch of Norwegian Joy. It was amazing to be able to enjoy such a different culture and the fast-paced excitement of city life in Shanghai. One thing I haven’t been able to do yet would be go on an African adventure safari. My family and I enjoy the outdoors so I think that would be pretty special for us.
Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?
I travel so often that it’s pretty rare for me to find myself in a souvenir shop but if I want to pick up a small memento from a place it would be a hat.
You can tell us—do you collect magnets from the destinations you’ve visited?
I can’t say that I have ever collected magnets from any of the places I’ve visited.
What do you do to pass the time on the plane ride to your destination?
I’m on the road pretty often so when there isn’t WiFi, I like to spend my time catching up on television shows on my iPad. “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” are my favorites.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
We’re a pretty tight family unit so my wife Allison and my children Alex and Alicia are most definitely my favorite travel companions.
If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?
I certainly wouldn’t mind living the rest of my life in a villa in the South of France.
If you were a destination, which would it be and why?
If I were a destination I guess I would have to be France—it’s one of my favorite places in the world because it has everything I love to enjoy—great food, terrific wine, skiing in the winter, sunshine in the summer, beaches and fantastic ocean views, and, of course, incredible cultural experiences.
What is the best food you’ve had on a trip? The strangest?
I believe trying new foods while abroad is part of the adventure. I’ve had some pretty amazing dim sum in Hong Kong. The strangest food I’ve ever tasted while traveling is frog saliva soup in Xiamen in China.
What can’t you travel without?
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?
The people I really love to meet are the crew on the ships. We have so many different nationalities, personalities, cultures and they are such a pleasure for me to meet when I am traveling on the many ships in our fleet. Every one of them has a fascinating story and we have so many who have been with Norwegian for 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years. I find that inspiring, and I always bring that back to our shore side team members to remind them that this is a people business. We have to build beautiful ships and have great technology, but the heart of the business rests in the people; that is where we have the opportunity to truly differentiate and to stand apart from our competitors.
Tropical beach or snowy mountain?
Don’t make me choose!
City or countryside?
The city is fun, but I love the serenity of the countryside.