Skift Take

No doubt the relaxation of Covid restrictions made the jobs of cruise industry executives easier.

Outgoing Norwegian Cruise Line CEO and President Frank Del Rio took first place among the highest paid cruise CEOs, with $8.7 million in compensation in 2022. Cruise executives were evaluated largely based on how well they led their companies as their industry recovered after a rough two years of Covid with little-to-zero demand.

In the first half of the year, the Centers for Disease Control dropped its Covid-19 cruise travel warning and stopped tracking Covid outbreaks. In the second half, all the cruise companies followed suit, opening up their ships to millions of more guests.

“I think our calculation in the American market, the addressable market expanded by 35 million almost overnight and we saw that coming through our bookings,” Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said during a conference call in November.

Cruise companies saw improvements in their booking volumes, load factor and revenue that led them back their pre-pandemic performance. Spending by guests was a bright spot, as passengers splurged on onboard activities.

One major change for this year’s reporting was greater clarity in what executives were paid. The Securities Exchange Commission required companies to disclose what the value of their pay was for the year of reporting.

CEOCompany2022 Pay (all in)Compensation Actually Paid
Frank Del RioNorwegian Cruise Line$21,202,333$8,676,811
Arnold W. DonaldCarnival Corp$11,100,000N/A
Jason LibertyRoyal Caribbean$10,764,258$3,846,340
Dolf BerleLindblad Expeditions$1,635,303-$3,740,733

Outgoing CEO Frank Del Rio’s Blows Other Executives Out of the Water 

Del Rio was awarded over $8.7 million in compensation for his last full year at the company, according to Norwegian Cruise’s proxy statement. Del Rio has been president and CEO since 2015. His departure was announced in March.

The compensation committee used performance metrics that prioritized the company’s recovery. Metrics included net cruise cost per month, gross margin in the second half of 2022, emission targets and load factor for the second half. The emissions target was a new metric.

Carnival’s Donald Left Top Job With a Solid Check

Because Carnival’s fiscal year ends November 30, the company wasn’t required to include the new disclosure in the proxy filed in 2023, according to a spokesperson.

While his term as CEO, President and Chief Climate Officer ended in August, Arnold W. Donald exited the job with $11.1 million for the 2022 fiscal year, according to Carnival’s proxy statement. That’s higher than his successor, Josh Weinstein, who got $8 million. 

Performance bonus pay metrics included average occupancy rate, greenhouse gas intensity reduction, food waste reduction and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Royal Caribbean Goes Back to Pre-Pandemic Evaluations

Royal Caribbean Group went back to its pre-pandemic framework for determining executive bonuses in 2022. Jason Liberty started as president and CEO in January that year. His payout was determined by earnings per share as well as financial, operational and environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators, according to Royal Caribbean’s proxy statement

The company added an ESG metric to advance its goals of reducing fuel consumption, and making progress on initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Lindblad CEO Got a Smaller Bonus

Outgoing Lindblad Expeditions CEO Dolf Berle received $1.6 million in nominal compensation, of which $442,894 was a cash-based incentive bonus, up from $302,892. His pay was below his $6.9 payout in 2021.

When looking at what he was actually paid, he appears to be in the negative by $3.7 million. A part of that was due to the significant drop in his stock and option value. His base salary was $575,000.

Lindblad’s compensation committee determined his pay based on adjusted EBITDA, net yield per available guest night and guest satisfaction, according to the company’s proxy statement.


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Tags: carnival corp., cruise industry, cruises, lindblad expeditions, norwegian cruise line, royal caribbean cruises

Photo credit: Photo Credit: Peter Hansen on Unsplash Peter Hansen / Unsplash

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