Lindblad Expeditions founder and Co-chair of Board of Directors Sven-Olof Lindblad will become CEO, effective June 30, the cruise company announced Wednesday. He will be replacing Dolf Berle, the current CEO, who is pursuing a non-competitive opportunity in Dallas.
Lindblad founded the company in 1979 and served as CEO until 2021. He then became a co-chair of the company’s board of directors. He will continue to hold that position.
Berle oversaw the company’s ships and tour operations return to service. Lindblad also welcomed three new ships to its fleet and acquired luxury tour company Classic Journeys under his leadship.
Frank J. Del Rio will step down as president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, effective June 30, the cruise company announced Monday. Harry J. Sommer, president and CEO of the company’s Norwegian Cruise Line brand, will officially succeed him on July 31. The transition process starts on April 1.
Del Rio has been president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings since 2015. He led the company through the Covid pandemic, which devastated it and the global cruise industry, and its ongoing recovery. He’ll be heading into retirement and serve as a senior advisor to the board of directors through 2025. Del Rio has been in the cruise industry for over 30 years.
Sommer, Del Rio’s successor, has more than 30 years of experience in the industry and rose through the ranks of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings over eight years. His prior roles include president international, executive vice president of president international business development and chief integration officer. Sommer will be succeeded by David J. Herrera, who currently serves a chief consumer sales and marketing officer of Norwegian Cruise Line.
Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano on Tuesday toured the Evirma, the first sailing vessel in The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Capuano said in an interview that yacht-style cruises on the 623-foot Evrima — which hosts fewer than 300 people at a time — represent an important pillar of growth for the world’s largest hotel operator by pulling the levers of loyalty and luxury.
More than 70 percent of the bookings since the first October sailing has come from members of Marriott’s Bonvoy loyalty program, and the company sees the yachts as a way to fill in the matrix of interest in its program members.
“Luxury is a big part of the appeal of the Bonvoy program and a big driver of engagement with Bonvoy,” Capuano said.
Fares on the Evrima start at a minimum of $5,000 per person for a week and can rise beyond $25,000 per person.
About 70 percent of Evirma passengers have never been on the cruise before. So the offering is a way to leverage the Ritz Carlton brand name for additional spending from an existing customer base.
“It is core to our strategy to continue to look for ways to connect ourselves with our loyal customers throughout their travel journeys, whether you and I were talking about Marriott Homes and Villas or the launch of a mid-scale like City Express or the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection — they are all touchpoints that allow us to meet the needs of our consumers without ever looking outside the ecosystem,” Capuano said.
Yacht-style itineraries enable a more leisurely pace with more overnights in port than the typical large luxury cruise offers, plus the ability to access and explore smaller ports, such as Saint-Tropez, Ibiza, and St. Barts.
But playing in the luxury space has its perils. The more complex the product and the more high-touch the service, the more room there is for cost overruns. Spanish media have reported on financial filings from a shipyard claiming that the Evirma was budgeted at $300 million but cost twice as much.
Capuano said that the last few years brought a laundry list of “unusual challenges to owner economics,” with a mix of problems affecting supply chains. However, he said his company has long experience in executing luxury products well.
Marriott is the first of its hotel and resort peer companies to test the waters on yacht-style cruising, but three other companies in recent months — Four Seasons, Aman, and Orient Express — announced plans to offer luxurious yacht-style cruise lines.
More broadly, luxury is a key segment in Capuano’s vision for company growth.
“I continue to drive focus within the organization on luxury,” Capuano said. “Luxury represents about 10 percent of our global room inventory but about 20 percent of revenues through related fees. So from a purely economic perspective, the luxury portfolio and footprint are critically important.”
Marriott runs nearly 500 luxury hotels and resorts, with plans to open about 35 more luxury hotels this year out of a pipeline of roughly 200 properties.
“You can continue to see us make investments movements of dedicated capital to ensure that we maintain our significant lead in the luxury tier,” Capuano said. “We have a singularly unique portfolio in that we have a really compelling blend of classic luxury brands like Ritz Carlton and Saint Regis and emerging lifestyle luxury brands like Edition and W Hotels.”
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd will no longer require vaccinated travelers to take a Covid test before sailing on its cruises, effective September 3. Unvaccinated travelers will have to provide proof of a negative Antigen or PCR test no more than 72 hours prior to boarding.
“The relaxation of protocols coupled with continued easing of travel restrictions and the reopening to cruise in more ports around the globe are meaningfully positive for our business as it reduces friction, expands the addressable cruise market, brings variety to itineraries and provides additional catalysts on the road to recovery,” said Norwegian Cruise Lines President and CEO Frank Del Rio in the announcement.
Norwegian will become the latest major cruise line to drop the Covid testing requirement. Royal Caribbean and Carnival dropped theirs in August. The requirement removals follow the CDC’s announcement last month to stop tracking Covid outbreaks on cruise ships.
Both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony were acquired at an auction with the former ship going for $25 million while the latter was sold for $103 million. A&K said the two ships will resume service next year after undergoing extensive refurbishment and will operate under the Crystal Cruises brand. Crystal Cruises had ceased operations in January this year following the collapse of parent company Genting.
However, the result is an improvement on the same quarter in 2021, when it racked up losses of $1.4 billion. Revenue also increased to $521.9 million, compared to $3.1 million in 2021, as cruise voyages restarted.
Total cruise operating expense increased 266.1 percent in the 2022 first quarter, compared to 2021, due to the resumption of sailings but also higher payroll, fuel, and “direct variable costs of fully operating ships.” Inflation also affected food, fuel and logistics costs.
While as of May 7 its entire fleet was back up and running, it was operating at just 48 percent capacity in the first three months of 2022.
“Last week we reached the biggest milestone yet in our Great Cruise Comeback as Norwegian Spirit, the last ship in our fleet to resume sailing, welcomed guests on board in Papeete, Tahiti,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO. “The herculean effort to restart our fleet would not have been possible without the incredible fortitude of the entire Norwegian team and the unwavering support of our key partners and stakeholders around the world.”
Looking ahead, its advance ticket sales balance increased $418 million in the quarter to $2.2 billion as of March 31, 2022. This includes $0.6 billion of future cruise credits, or 27 percent of the total deposit balance.
Gross advance ticket sales were $1.1 billion during the quarter, the highest level since the start of the pandemic.
The cruise line has removed all calls to ports in Russia from its itineraries in 2023.