Norwegian CEO Del Rio enthused about return to Turkey

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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio said the company’s decision to return to the Eastern Mediterranean in 2019 is working out so far.

After pulling out of the region in 2016 because of terrorism fears and political instability in Turkey, NCLH has scheduled 12 sailings this year and has an additional 20 on the calendar for 2020.

“All 12 sailings in 2019 are better loaded and at higher pricing than the surrounding sailings that do not include Turkey,” Del Rio said.

He told investors on a conference call to discuss fourth quarter and 2018 earnings that Turkey is the key to the itinerary.

“The fact that the North American consumer, who is the one booking most of these Eastern Mediterranean cruises, seem to want to come back to the eastern Med and is willing to pay a premium price bodes very well for 2020,” Del Rio said.

The risk is that itineraries must be developed and sold 18 to 24 months in advance of sailing, he continued.

“So you test the waters, you see what happens, and it takes you a while to really ramp up. So at this point, assuming there are no other disruptions — reasons to not go to the Eastern Med — I expect that we along with the rest of the industry will probably increase the number of deployments to the Eastern Med beginning in 2020 and even more in 2021.”

Del Rio, who has a hand in all itinerary planning at NCLH, said that when the eastern Med is good, “it’s as good as any, if not the best, of all itineraries.”

On the call, Del Rio said NCLH enters 2019 in the best-booked position in its history, giving yield managers more leeway to raise prices.

“We’re pushing prices higher wherever we can,” Del Rio said. “While we still have a lot of cabins to fill, the emphasis will be on raising prices — on all three brands.”

In addition to Norwegian Cruise Line, NCLH operates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

The company had net income of $954.8 million in 2018, up 25.6% from the $759.9 million recorded a year earlier. Revenue rose 13% to $6.1 billion.

Last year, NCLH decided to redeploy the Norwegian Joy from China to Alaska, where it will cruise starting in April alongside sister ship Norwegian Bliss. That will increase NCLH’s presence in Alaska to 9% of total capacity, up from 7% last year.

Capacity in the Asia Pacific region will drop to 6% from 12% last year. NCLH will have six ships in Europe this summer and capacity there increases to 23% from 20% last year, while year-round capacity in the Caribbean is pegged at 36%.

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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings confirms two more Leonardo-class ships

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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has confirmed options to build fifth and sixth Project Leonardo-class ships for Norwegian Cruise Line with Fincantieri.

Frank del Rio, NCLH’s president and chief executive officer, said the decision to build two more 3,300 passenger-capacity ships, due for delivery in 2026 and 2027, showed “strong growth trajectory”.

He said: “Our six-ship Leonardo Class fleet will allow us to broaden our deployment into strong performing and mature unserved and underserved markets and offer new experiences to our guests.”

In a statement, the company said the focus of the new ships’ design was energy efficiency and building a size of vessel that would encourage broad deployment opportunities.

Andy Stuart, NCL’s president and chief executive officer, said: “The highly-anticipated Leonardo Class will fuel future growth with exciting and innovative offerings that will meaningfully drive demand from new and loyal returning guests alike.”

With Thursday’s announcement, NCLH has seven ships on order for Norwegian Cruise Line and one for Regent Seven Seas Cruises for delivery through 2027.

The company will take delivery of its newest ship, Norwegian Encore, in autumn 2019.

Norwegian’s Del Rio sees room for expansion

Norwegian Cruise Line entered the Chinese market last year with the Norwegian Joy.Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio told analysts that his ships were “in the right place at the right time” in 2017 but admitted that there were plenty of spots on the map he’d like to cover with new ships.

“We have so many markets that are unserved by us or grossly underpenetrated by us,” Del Rio said in a question-and-answer session with analysts to discuss fourth quarter and 2017 earnings in February.

“We don’t have a presence in the Mid-Atlantic states,” he said. “We’re not in Baltimore. We’re not in Charleston. We don’t have a presence at all in the world’s second-largest port, which is Fort Lauderdale.”

And the list kept growing.

“We don’t have a presence in the Gulf states of Texas or Alabama,” he said. “We don’t have a year-round presence in Tampa or New Orleans or Los Angeles. We only have three ships in Alaska, which is a very high-yielding market. Some of our competitors have up to eight vessels.”

Del Rio said that given the fleet size and the company’s intention to build only one new ship a year for its Norwegian Cruise Line brand, it could be a couple of years before he would consider adding a second ship in China, because, although profitable, it was not a banner year in China in 2017.

“I don’t think China is hitting on all cylinders as it can,” he said, referencing the continued tensions with South Korea and the resulting uniformity of short cruise itineraries, which only visit Japan.

Del Rio said that the Wave season for 2018 started strong and the company’s outlook is bullish, driven by a strong economy and consumer demand.

“Our overall booked position during the first seven weeks of 2018 further improved compared to the same time last year,” he said.

In addition to Norwegian Cruise Line, NCLH owns Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The three lines operate a combined fleet of 25 ships with some 50,400 berths, offering itineraries to more than 450 destinations.

On average, guests of NCLH brands are booking five weeks earlier than they did at the end of 2016, Del Rio said.

NCLH net income rose 23% last year, to $780 million, as European pricing and bookings recovered faster than expected and the booking curve extended to a near-optimal length.

Revenue rose 10.7%, to $5.4 billion.