Catching up with Ken Muskat
Ken Muskat is the new CEO of SkySea, a cruise line focused on the emerging Chinese cruise market. I had a chance to catch up with Ken to find out what all the buzz was about. BKeep reading to discover what Ken has to say about his new role and life in Asia.
What has it been like to transition to the Asian cruise market?
The transition from working my entire career in the North American cruise market to now working in the Asian cruise market has been more of an educational experience than expected. Cruising is still in its infancy here, so the opportunity is tremendous and exciting. At the same time, the way cruises are marketed, bought and sold in this market is far different than North America. The booking window is much closer in which takes some getting used to and the distribution requires a significant amount of education on cruising in general, let alone on the different brands and their value propositions. But there is a passion for this industry’s success like I have never seen which will be very rewarding.
What is your role?
My role is CEO of SkySea Cruise Line which means I have responsibility for all things Commercial, Marketing, Operations, Finance, Revenue, and Marine. Fortunately for me, the team has been operating for nearly two years now and have taken this start-up to quickly becoming an incredible option for cruisers in this market. I just finished sailing on my first cruise on SkySea Golden Era and I can’t even begin to tell you how incredible the product is. My focus now is to establish the brand in this market with a clear brand positioning, ensure continued consistent delivery onboard, work to engage the distribution in different ways, target new customer segments and ultimately grow the brand.
What are the top three surprises you have had so far living in Shanghai and working in China?
Number one surprise is how good the food is. I came here thinking I was going to lose weight, and now after two weeks, I am in need of a good gym. The culinary options are unlimited. There is something for everyone’s tastes. Secondly, not so much a surprise rather an observation, the people who live and work here are beyond hospitable in nature. They are incredibly caring and passionate. When you communicate the goals, there is nothing but a can-do attitude. Finally, I kept hearing people mention “China speed”. I quickly learned what this meant. Things get done here very quickly.
“You can barely mention an idea in the boardroom, and within hours or days a prototype is ready or newly requested data is provided,” Ken Muscat
What can we learn about the global cruise market in Asia?
I think the most interesting (and exciting) thing is how truly global the cruise industry has become and how different each market is in maturity and business practices. In the end, no matter where the ships are, our goal is to fill them and be profitable. But I have quickly learned that each market is at a different stage of understanding cruising as a vacation experience, and each market will attract a different type of customer based in part on their cultural practices. The industry must not only adapt to the market but at the same time must slowly adapt the market to the best practices of the cruise industry. It requires a delicate balance for sure.
Can North Americans book cruises on Asian ships? Why or why not?
North Americans can book cruises on ships in Asia, and many do so today. It is important to note that certain cruise brands cater to both North Americans as well as the local market while other brands are predominately focused on the local market. Therefore, the onboard experience may vary from slight Asian influences to a heavy Asia-specific program. Consumers need to do their homework and need to work with their travel agent to ensure they are clear on what documentation is needed when sailing in Asia.