Cruising is cooler than it used to be. Gone are the days of fixed meal times, strict seating arrangements, and stuffy dress codes. Today, it’s all about freestyling: eat when you want, with whom you want, wearing what you’re comfortable in.

norwegian cruise line logoSounds fun, right? Norwegian Cruise Line certainly thinks so. After all, it was the first cruise company to introduce “Feel Free Cruising,” which is now the industry standard. Operating since 1966, the Miami-based company currently runs a combined fleet of 23 ships, offering approximately 45,800 berths with itineraries to more than 510 destinations worldwide.

Norwegian was also the first cruise line to launch its own website. But, having taken a somewhat freestyle approach to building and maintaining it in the early days, the company soon found the site presenting problems—problems New Relic ultimately helped solve.

Low visibility on the high seas

Early iterations of the Norwegian Cruise Line website were hampered by the travel industry’s notoriously slow backend reservations system. But the real issues emerged later, after a series of outside development teams had amended and appended the site.

According to Fidel Perez, Norwegian’s director of enterprise architecture and performance, the result was a bunch of “alien” code bases—five, to be specific, spread across five separate technology stacks. Inevitably, site performance suffered.

“Whether you’re a guest or a travel agent, booking a cruise is an intensive process that involves numerous choices,” says Fidel. “When the website crashes 15 minutes into that process, it’s enormously frustrating.”

Worse, Norwegian had no practical way to simplify the troubleshooting process when something went wrong. “It was like driving a car with the windshield blacked out.”

Steadying the ship

With a 30% error rate dogging the site, big change was needed. It came in two forms: The first was a brand new, in-house team of developers; the second was New Relic APM.

norwegian cruise line shipWithin six months the site had been stabilized, error rates reduced, and the environment streamlined to just two stacks.

“New Relic was absolutely the driving force in regaining control of the website,” says Fidel. “By looking at the error rate, we were able to sort problems by their frequency and assign people to fix them. In that way, everything was prioritized and handled in logical fashion until at last we had the stability, standardization, and reliability we had been looking for.”

Around the world, around the clock

One major area of improvement was in deployment—once intermittent and problematic, but now frequent and seamless. “We’ve gone from releasing code monthly, with downtimes at midnight, to releasing code weekly in the middle of the day with no downtime at all.” This is huge for a global company that needs to be able take bookings 24/7, from every time zone on the planet.

Witnessing New Relic’s role in reviving Norwegian’s website inspired colleagues from way beyond Fidel’s team to get on board with performance monitoring. “We now have everyone from our quality assurance folks to our executive team accessing New Relic,” he says.

Back on an even keel

It’s been smoother sailing for Norwegian Cruise Line ever since the company invited New Relic aboard. “At this point,” says Fidel, “trying to run our website without New Relic would be like attempting to run a data center without electricity.”

To learn more about how New Relic helped these sailors get back on an even keel, be sure to read the full Norwegian Cruise Line customer case study.


Ship photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

B.J. Hinshaw is a freelance writer based in Northern California. View posts by .

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