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Caribbean's 'come back roaring,' Europe a 'good news story'

Storms curtailed Caribbean bookings for six weeks but the business is bouncing back. Pictured: Antigua Storms curtailed Caribbean bookings for six weeks but the business is bouncing back. Pictured: Antigua (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is chalking up a strong year despite the hurricanes, with all the major destination and customer source markets performing well, president and CEO Frank Del Rio said Thursday.

The storms curtailed Caribbean bookings for a six-week stretch, but other destinations weren't impacted, he said, and now the Caribbean has 'come back roaring.'

NCLH rolled out some promotional activity after those quiet six weeks when Caribbean ports began announcing their readiness to receive visitors, but the offers will end by Thanksgiving when the lost business is expected to be recouped.

Cuba, Del Rio added, continues to be the 'star of the show.'

And Europe is 'very, very strong both in load and pricing, especially pricing.' It's a 'good news story.'

This year NCLH increased capacity there by redeploying Norwegian Getaway from the Caribbean to the Baltic, and that's paid off.

Booking volumes for Europe have been up in the teens this year, whether customers originated from the Continent or Minnesota.

Price points for 2018 Europe cruises started higher and 'continue to move up,' according to Del Rio. Yields are expected to pass 2017's.

Negative events in London and Barcelona this year didn't have an impact so perhaps consumers are now taking these things in stride, he said. Even if further geopolitical issues emerge, the company is now better positioned, having successfully bundled its product to appeal to Europeans.

Alaska continues to do well over a string of years, and Norwegian Bliss is coming into that market next spring as the 'best-booked newbuild in load and pricing in the Norwegian brand's history.'

All major cruise regions are performing 'really well,' Del Rio said, along with all source markets, led by North America, but the eurozone is coming back, too.

'All three brands [Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises] are firing on all cylinders. We expect a record-breaking [2018],' he told analysts during the company's third quarter earnings call.

Yields in the first half will be lower than the back half, though, as NCLH laps the introductions of Oceania's Sirena and Regent's Seven Seas Explorer, and Norwegian Joy goes through the low season in China. Meanwhile, drydocks will double as NCL completes its 'Norwegian Edge' upgrades and refurbishments to the Regent fleet.

Posted 09 November 2017

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Anne Kalosh

US editor of Seatrade Cruise Review and Seatrade Cruise News

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