Norwegian Strategic on Alaska

Norwegian Bliss

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) President and CEO Frank Del Rio underscored his enthusiasm for Alaska on the company’s third-quarter earnings call.

He said the company will continue to make investments and cultivate partnerships in the region, noting the new pier NCLH has agreed to build in Ketchikan, its $20 million purchase of 2.9 acres of waterfront property in Juneau, and the construction of a second pier at Icy Point Strait.

“We are investing in port facilities and guest experiences,” he said. “Alaska is destination-centric and you much have the land capabilities in place. We have almost doubled our capacity in Alaska over the past three years and will be even stronger as we finalize our investments.”

NCLH’s Q3 Alaska capacity was up 17 per cent over the same period last year.

In Ketchikan, NCLH has entered into a 30-year preferential berthing agreement with Ward Cove Dock Group, which allows for the construction of a new double ship pier in Ward Cove.

Meanwhile, current zoning laws are said to prevent a pier from being built on the property in Juneau.

The pier will be built to simultaneously accommodate two of Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,200-passenger Breakaway-Plus class ships and is expected to be ready for the summer 2020 season.

NCLH partnered with the Port of Seattle in 2015 on the renovation and expansion of the Bell Street Terminal at Pier 66 which was ready for the 2018 season and the 4,000-berth Norwegian Bliss.

NCLH and the port entered into a 15-year lease agreement providing its ships priority berth space in Seattle for the full term of the lease in return for passenger volume guarantees. NCLH manages the cruise operations at Pier 66, while the port operates the facilities outside the cruise season.

Next year, the Norwegian brand will have three ships in Alaska, with the Norwegian Bliss, Joy and Sun will be from Seattle. In 2021, the new Encore will take over for the Joy. Oceania and Regent will each have one ship in the Alaska market, with the Regatta and the Seven Seas Mariner from Seattle, Vancouver and Seward.

Del Rio cited what he called “incredibly strong ticket pricing and onboard spend” in the Alaska market and also noted the lengthening of the season, which now runs all the way from April to October.

“In the coming years, we will further bolster our presence and commitment to the region,” Del Rio noted.

Norwegian Joy’s Onboard Revenue More Than Doubles in Alaska

Norwegian Joy’s Onboard Revenue More Than Doubles in Alaska

Norwegian Joy in Seattle

The decision to move the Norwegian Joy from China to the North American market has been successful for Norwegian Cruise Line.

“The redeployment of Norwegian Joy to Alaska resulted to a profound improvement to her profitability, especially in the top line driven by more than doubling of her onboard revenue generation,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, on the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ second-quarter earnings call.

The decision to pull the ship from China came in 2018, as part of the company’s strategic itinerary optimization initiative which also included its entry into new European homeports.

The North American launch of Norwegian Joy generated over $2.5 billion media impressions and further elevated Norwegian Cruise Line’s already the preeminent position in the all-important growing and high-yielding Alaska market, Del Rio said.

“We are extremely pleased to not only see her garnering the high pricing she rightfully deserves but also to see her deliver a customer experience that ranks her first in guest satisfaction for the Norwegian brand, driven by the high-tech and industry-first innovation onboard.”

Next year is shaping up to be even stronger for Joy in North America.

“And I may add that we won’t have the challenges of selling Joy, a very large ship, in a very abbreviated eight-, or nine-month booking cycle like we did this year when we announced her departure from China,” Del Rio explained.”We have a regular (18- to 24-month) booking cycle in front of us.”

According to Andy Stuart, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, Joy is ahead in the pricing of the vessel she replaced in the Alaska market.

Bullish on Alaska, the growth will grow with the Norwegian Sun joining the market in 2020, sailing seven- to 15-day cruises from Seattle.

“We believe the Norwegian Sun Alaska deployment will generate yield that will approach, if not be equal to what she was commanding in her Cuba deployment led by strong onboard spending,” Del Rio said.

Norwegian Ends Open Bar on Sun and Sky

Norwegian Sky

Starting in September, Norwegian Cruise Line will no longer offer its open bar on all Sky and Sun sailings, which was said to be a key selling point in a competitive short cruise market.

The Sky and Sun both sailed to Cuba recently with an open bar offering. The Sky went to the open-bar program in 2016, with the Sun following as she was positioned into the short cruise market

Guests were able to enjoy, for free, a variety of unlimited premium spirits, mixed cocktails, wines by the glass and bottled or draft beer up to $11.

The ships will now operate under Norwegian’s popular “Free at Sea” marketing program, letting guests choose various perks, including free WiFi, shore excursions, or an open bar, for example.

Existing reservations on cruises departing on either ship after Sept. 7 will be honoured for the open bar program.