The boss of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has expressed his relief over the company’s decision to build a smaller class of ships and suggested the company may order more vessels this year.
During a video interview with Travel Weekly’s editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley – played at the Clia Conference today (May 20) – president and chief executive Frank Del Rio said cruise industry figures “used to scratch their heads” when details about the incoming Prima-class were announced by NCLH brand Norwegian Cruise Line.
The first Prima-class ship, Prima, comes into service from August and will carry 3,215 passengers, compared with 3,998 passengers on the final Breakaway-plus-class vessel Norwegian Encore.
Royal Caribbean International’s Wonder of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, capable of carrying almost 7,000 passengers, launched in March this year.
Del Rio said: “One of the norms in the cruise industry is that ships just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
“When we ordered Prima, we went the other way. We went smaller than our previous Breakaway-plus [class] and people used to scratch their heads. And why did we do that? Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”
He added that in his experience “people don’t want to go on the biggest”.
Del Rio explained that “smaller luxury vessels” across the industry were doing well. “We were very pleased that we were lucky enough to build these smaller vessels,” he added.
“For now, I’m very happy that we didn’t build the world’s biggest ship. We built human-sized vessels that are still affordable but have the intimacy, those luxury touches that Norwegian Prima has.”
The Prima-class vessels, Del Rio claimed, have the biggest standard balcony cabin in the industry and a new theatre that resembles “something you see in Las Vegas”.
“It’s not your typical theatre seating, although we have that, but they move out of the way and it turns out into a three-storey cube,” he explained. “You’re going to have some great parties there.”
Del Rio predicted “sometime in the future” there would be a gap in the cruise sector’s orderbook once every vessel currently being built had been delivered.
“In our case we have vessels coming online through 2027,” he said. “But no cruise company has placed any significant order in over two years, so the pipeline is still full. But sometime in the future, there’s going to be a gap.”
He highlighted how there was a gap in the ship orderbook in 2003 and 2004 after 9/11 and again in 2010 and 2011 as the global economy recovered after the recession.
Del Rio suggested new vessels would soon be announced. “I’ve got to start thinking about 2028 and 2029, which seems like a millennium from now but it’s around the corner,” he said.
“If you think from the moment you start thinking about a new vessel or new concept you probably have four to five years, so it’s 2022 plus five years is 2027.”