By Michelle Baran
One day after announcing that Norwegian Cruise Line will sail to destinations in Asia and Australia for the first time since 2002, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. revealed it is looking into opportunities for deployment in both China and Cuba.
“We believe that once Cuba opens up totally, it’s going to be a real windfall for the industry,” Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call on Tuesday.
Del Rio said that the company has already applied for a license to operate Cuba cruises with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and an export license with the Commerce Department. “And we have engaged the Cuban government,” said Del Rio.
He said that a possible Cuba deployment is still a work in progress, but that the company is hopeful it will receive the applicable permissions from both governments before the year is over. “And then we’ll have an interesting dilemma on our hands of what vessels to deploy to Cuba and from where,” said Del Rio.
He said that of the company’s brands, the first vessel to sail to Cuba would most likely come from the Oceania fleet.
As for speculation about whether the company’s Asia expansion would include deploying a vessel in China, Del Rio said that China plans aren’t finalized but that the market is desirable.
“You hear the other lines say how their most profitable ships are based in China, and so we want in on that action,” said Del Rio. “It’s now no longer a startup market if you will. … And given that the Norwegian fleet will have grown to 17 vessels, its’ time to deploy some tonnage there.”
He added that if the company decides to go to China, a ship will not arrive there before 2017.
In February, Del Rio told investors that China was being studied as a deployment option for one of its ships on order for 2018.