Luxury cruises were an alien concept to Bronx-born Harry Sommer (’88). “They just weren’t a big deal in New York City,” he recalls, “especially in the late eighties.”
Today that has all changed, for the industry and for the alumnus. Mr. Sommer was recently appointed president international at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, a position in which he runs sales, marketing, and public relations for Norwegian, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises in markets outside the U.S. and Canada.
“When I started in this industry back in 1992, it was very much a niche enterprise,” he explains. “It’s now grown to become a worldwide product, with some 30 million people across the globe taking a cruise each year.”
The alumnus never expected his career to take this path. After he graduated from Baruch with a BBA in accounting, he and his wife decided to pack up and travel “as far down I-95 as you can go before the highway ends” in search of warmer weather and exciting new opportunities. They settled in Miami and, despite having never taken a cruise in his life, he accepted an analyst role at Renaissance Cruises.
Sommer’s career has been quite the journey; all told, he’s visited about 25 countries on six continents (“I’ve been everywhere but Antarctica,” he laughs, “so I’ll have to put that next on the list”). In his current role, he travels about 15 weeks each year. He credits Baruch’s diversity as a major factor in his career success. “I went to school with people from all over the world and hailing from all types of cultural backgrounds,” he explains. “That is a huge benefit for anyone who goes into business—and especially me, managing cruise lines in international markets.”
Sommer, who enrolled in the College as a 16-year-old and pursued an accounting degree on the recommendation of his father, says he also continues to draw on the classroom education he gained at Baruch. “I’d argue that accounting is actually an underrated major,” he says. “It teaches you the fundamentals of business and prepares students to know a company from the bottom up. You can do anything once you’ve studied accounting.”