NCLH boss confident of filling new ships in fleet

The boss of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) is confident of filling the extra capacity being added to the company’s three cruise lines this year, thanks to demand and trade support.

Harry Sommer, president and chief executive of NCLH, told a Travel Weekly webcast the firm can “absolutely, positively” fill its existing vessels and three new ships being added to the fleet in 2023.

He was speaking in Barcelona on Norwegian Viva, Norwegian Cruise Line’s second Prima class ship, which launched earlier this month.

Sister brand Oceania launched Vista in May, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises will start sailing with Grandeur in November.

“There are so many unserved and underserved markets that we can go to…as we get new ships in our fleet,” he said.

“We’re able to open up new itineraries around the world and they just sell fantastically well.

“I remember when people talked about overcapacity 10 years ago, when 20 million people a year were cruising, and now we’re at 30 million.

“The constraint we have in the industry is not demand, it’s supply.

“There are only maybe five or six shipyards around the world that build relatively large ships. They’re all full…they’re all building.”

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He pointed to a “remarkable increase in price discipline” in the wake of the pandemic, adding: “It was something we always espouse and believe in ‘market to fill’ not ‘discount to fill’.

“We think we have room for meaningful price increases over time.

“Book early to get the best price, to get the best itinerary, the best ship, the best cabin.

“That’s the way I plan my vacations.”

He said NCLH likes ships to be between 60-65% full for the next 12 months of cruises: “We think that’s the ideal booking curve…so by December 31, we will be two-thirds full for 2024.”

It means that the cruise brands have departures on sale as far ahead as October 2025.

Norwegian Viva, the second in the Prima class, embarked on its maiden voyage from Venice earlier this month.

The 3,099-passenger ship will sail Greek Isles and Mediterranean voyages until November, before homeporting in Puerto Rico in December for a season in the Caribbean.

Sommer said NCL has limited the occupancy of the first two cruises, to give crew time to “acclimate to the kitchens and the service and the whole nine yards”, adding: “We sold to those limits and then the third cruise forward we are at 100%.”

Four more Prima class ships will come into service, in 2025, 2026, 2027 and 2028.

The third and fourth ships will be slightly bigger than the first two, with the fifth and sixth ones being 20% bigger.

Sommer said the name of the third ship and some of its innovations will be announced in a few months’ time.

He also hailed the role of UK travel agents in helping to sell the brands’ cruises, commenting: “From the bottom of my heart, we are 100% committed to the trade…we win together and we will do everything in our power to make you success because you make us a success.”

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