Sommer, Del Rio Jr flag surprise of cruise bounce back

NCLH and Oceania Cruises' bosses flag strong booking pace for 2023/24

Top-level executives at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH) and Oceania Cruises have spoken of their bewilderment at the rate of rebound in cruise bookings following the pandemic.

On Sunday, speaking aboard Oceania Cruises’ brand new ship Vista, Harry Sommer, CEO-Elect of NCLH which owns Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, said he was surprised by “how quickly things returned back to normal”.

Sommer admitted he had been initially perplexed about the state of the cruise industry’s recovery, saying “There were times in the early part of last year that I wasn’t sure. But I’m sure now.”

Nikki F Upshaw, SVP Sales, Oceania Cruises; Harry Sommer, CEO-Elect, NCLH; and Frank A Del Rio, President, Oceania Cruises.

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“Starting in August, sort of a switch turned that people were getting excited about travel in the future and then we saw that accelerate further in October, November and this ‘wave’ period started earlier than ever,” he said of the rebound in demand.

“Wave started for us around November 1 across all three of our award-winning brands, and it really hasn’t died off.”

“We continue to see outstanding booking pace across all the brands.”

“Yes, we still have a few pockets in Q3 and Q4 – that’s natural for this time of year – but when I look across ’24, our books are so far ahead of where we would be even a normal booking cycle,” Sommer added.

“It’s very very encouraging to see the consumer is back.”

Oceania Cruises’ Frank A. Del Rio also spoke of his amazement of the recovery having only returned to the brand he helped launch 25-odd years ago in March last year, and rapidly ascended to the most senior role of President, effective 1 January 2023.

“I’ll be quite honest, I didn’t come back with the thought that business was going to bounce back as fast as it has and as healthy as it has.”

“We’re having a great time at Oceana right now celebrating our 20-year anniversary. We have this amazing new ship to be excited about, our team is re-energised.”

Del Rio Jr said that with the arrival of the first of two Allure class ships, Vista, there is an air of energy with the brand that is reminiscent of Oceania Cruises’ early days when there was a “go get ’em attitude, [and] failure is not an option.”

Frank A Del Rio, President, Oceania Cruises

“Coming back to the industry after having a timeout and understanding what we all went through during that period, to see the resurgence of the business, especially on the luxury side… yes, things are different,” Del Rio Jr said.

He told travel partners he had witnessed how their businesses have been morphed by the pandemic, including the uptick in working remotely. “That element was a big change for us,” he noted.

Del Rio Jr concluded saying that Oceania Cruises’ 2023/24 season is also building at a great pace, with two quarters of the calendar year still to come.

“But all in all, very positive.”

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