Eastern Med shows signs of life, Del Rio says

'Those sailings that have Turkey are selling more and at higher prices,' Frank Del Rio said 'Those sailings that have Turkey are selling more and at higher prices,' Frank Del Rio said PHOTO: Anne Kalosh

When it comes to China, Frank Del Rio thinks 'the bloom is off that rose,' however the Eastern Mediterranean's recovery could have a profoundly positive impact on the cruise business. As for Cuba, there's enough demand for five or six ships a day in Havana, if adequate infrastructure were available.

'Imagine how much more capacity could go to the Eastern Mediterranean,' Del Rio said, when that market comes back—as it's showing signs of doing after terrorist incidents drove ships away three years ago.

Greek Islands, Black Sea, Israel

If Del Rio had his wish, 'We'd start itinerary planning with Istanbul,' and he reeled off half a dozen cruise options, including into the Black Sea, to Israel and to neighboring Greece. And 'when the Greek Islands are good, they're the best,' he added. In the Eastern Mediterranean, a long season is possible, too.

During 2019, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises are 'putting a little toe in the water,' visiting Istanbul and Kusadasi on transit calls only.

Cruises with Turkey are selling at higher prices

'What's happened so far is those sailings that have Turkey are selling more and at higher prices than those before or after without Turkey,' Del Rio told reporters Friday, following his bullish keynote address at the Signature Travel Network Owners' Meeting in Amelia Island, Florida.

Turnarounds in Istanbul will resume in 2021 'for sure,' Del Rio said, and Oceania or Regent may test some already in 2020.

Cuba premium

Del Rio has always championed Cuba, and his three cruise brands do very well there.

'The premium in pricing for cruises including Havana is a lot, and even the on-board spending is a lot,' fueled in large part by shore excursions because US travelers have to visit the island on sanctioned people-to-people programs, not just hit the beach as tourists.

As a ship magnet, Havana could be another Nassau or Cozumel

'There is enough demand today that there could be five or six ships a day in Havana,' Del Rio said. 'Think of it as another Nassau, another Cozumel,' he added, referring to two of cruising's busiest destinations.

But it's going to be years, the NCLH predicted, before the infrastructure could accommodate that. The Cuban government has 'tremendous' plans, and he's hopeful about Global Ports Holdings' deal to help realize those yet will take considerable time.

Alaska is 'red hot'

'China I don't think will grow like we once thought, but it will grow,' Del Rio said. There's demand—with the fleet's highest load factors on Norwegian Joy—but Norwegian Cruise Line can get better yields elsewhere, like Alaska, which the NCLH chief called 'red hot.'

That's why the ship is going to redeploy to the US West Coast year-round, starting in 2019.

Posted 07 September 2018

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review