Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings will resume service with much fewer ships at sea, according to details of the cruise company’s plans shared on its first quarter earnings call.
Frank Del Rio, chairman & CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), said that these plans were contingent on the CDC lifting its no sail order, and on cruise destinations allowing cruise ship arrivals.
He added that NCLH is working with experts to develop health protocols that will be robust to gain CDC approval and generate confidence among the public.
“I will do everything humanly possible to be able to look my own family in the eyes and say they will be safe on our cruise ships,” he said.
The cruise company plans to add five additional cruise ships each month. With a total of 28 ships in its fleet across three cruise lines, that means it will take roughly six months to bring the whole fleet back into service.
Del Rio added that while the demand for cruises is still there, he doesn’t know whether the pandemic situation will enable the ship’s to sail responsibly at 100% capacity.
“There is pent up demand; people want to cruise again,” he added, noting that world cruise segments for the Regent and Oceania brands were sold out, with customers flying to embarkation points in Japan and Dubai.
According to Mark Kempa, CFO and executive vice president, it will take until around the end of 2022 for the company to recover from the global suspension of operations during 2020.
He that he sees 2021 as a transition year and that NCLH may be able to rebuild in earnest in 2022. It is anticipated that NCLH will have to delay its newbuild deliveries for the next 12 to 18 months.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings plans are similar to those of Carnival Cruise Line, which earlier this month said that it would return to service with just eight cruise ships, sailing from its most popular cruise ports in Florida.
The greatest challenge for cruise lines returning to service will be finding destinations willing to allow cruise ships to dock.
Already the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean has banned all cruise ships until 2022, while the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman has closed its borders to all travelers until September, with officials speculating that cruise ships may not be allowed to dock until the end of the year.