Norwegian Cruise Line has no immediate plans to homeport in Dubai, but the Arabian Gulf is a region that holds huge potential in the coming five years, says Andy Stuart, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line.
“We have a relatively small fleet, of just 16 ships, so we can be very flexible within the select markets that we feel have the greatest earning potential, but it makes it difficult for us to commit to a new, untested market,” he told Cruise Arabia & Africa during the inaugural sailing of Norwegian Bliss.
“For the next few years we’ll be staying within the cruise markets where global demand is greatest for homeporting,” he added. “We do see the Dubai cruise market as one with huge potential though, it will present us with great opportunities for expanding our destination portfolio in the coming years.”
According to Stuart, this will be due to the growth of Dubai as a cruise destination with global appeal, with the ability to command the higher price points of the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
“There’s nothing infrastructure wise in the Middle East that needs to change,” he says. “It’s more a case of our fleet needs to grow further, and we need to see more demand for cruises within the Arabian Gulf compared to other regions that command a higher price.”
During a follow-up interview with Nick Wilkinson, Vice President and Managing Director, UK, Ireland and MEA for Norwegian Cruise Line, he said that the cruise line was investing a lot of its “time and energy” into growing its Middle East source market.
“The reason we’re doing that is because we have a product that naturally lends itself to the freestyle floating resort style cruise that the Middle East passenger looks for,” he said. “They don’t want formality, they don’t want set dining times, and this is why we’re seeing that stark double-digit growth across the market over the last four years.”
During the inaugural sailing of Norwegian Bliss, further details about the cruise line’s new Leonardo class cruise ships were revealed. These 3,300-guest cruise ships take the Breakaway-class waterfront to a new level and feature MSC Seaside-esque Miami-style condos aft.
The first of NCL’s new Leonardo class ships is due for delivery in 2022.
According to Wilkinson, the launch of these ships from 2022 will give Norwegian Cruise Line more options in terms of cruising roundtrip from Dubai.
“With the Leonardo and the new Breakaway Plus ships, it does give us more flexibility in terms of choosing the destinations we homeport in,” he said. “Although none of the new ships have definitely put us in a position to consider the Middle East, I would stress that you must never say never, it’s a question of time.”
The first of four new Leonardo class cruise ships will be launched in 2022, with a further three due to be launched by 2025.