Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line

By Johanna Jainchill
Kevin SheehanLast week, Norwegian Cruise Line announced it had placed an order with German shipyard Meyer Werft to build two 4,000-passenger, 143,000-ton vessels; then the company reported net income of $93 million for the third quarter; finally, NCL announced that it had taken the first step in taking the company public, filing an S-1 document with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Cruise Editor Johanna Jainchill talked with NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan about the ship order, but Sheehan was not able to comment on the company's decision to take the company public.

Q: How will these ships be different from the Epic?
We are not saying much right now, but they will have "wow" factors.

They will have all the best attributes of the Epic, with the different dining options and the entertainment. Those features will move to the new ship.

Q: Will they have the Wave cabins with the bathroom components separated like on the Epic?

We have some learnings from the Epic. It is a fantastic ship, but we have some learnings and will build on that knowledge. ... That falls into the learnings category.

We will also have the solo cabins. That's a strategy that makes sense. [Singles are] an underserved group of people, and our brand meets that need. We care about that group of travelers.

Q: Why did you choose to build with Meyer Werft, the yard that built NCL's Jewel-class ships, and not go back to STX France, the yard that built the Epic?
We talked to all the yards extensively for a long period of time. We shook hands with Bernard Meyer [of Germany's Meyer Werft shipyard] in June and continued to work together to make sure we were building a best-in-class vessel while also taking as much opportunity in the environment we are in for best-in-class pricing.

We were very comfortable with the idea of working with Meyer Werft, at the yard where we built so many ships.

It is the most comfortable place for us; they have a work culture consistent with what we want. Bernard Meyer is the head of the family that has run and built the business for 230 years. He gave me immense confidence.

Q: You contracted for what seems like a very attractive price.
From our understanding, it's the best-in-class price for years. It's due to the fact that we have a great management team that negotiated a good deal and also the environment we are operating in. The shipyards employ a lot of people, and it has been a tough go. They are all good, but Meyer Werft is doing very well.

Q: How will this order complement your fleet and your brand positioning?

When we got in, we had the [Norwegian] Wind, the [Norwegian] Dream, the [Norwegian] Majesty, the Marco Polo, and those ships did not fit with our proposition of offering a consistent product across the fleet with Freestyle Cruising.

We are not growing for the sake of growth. We are positioning ourselves to have the best-in-class ships.

We had a strong quarter again. We are starting to feel like now we have the business in hand, and it's time to carefully and smartly grow and get back to our rightful position in the marketplace, to where we should have been all along.

Q: What position is that?

We have the youngest fleet in the industry, we position ourselves differently than everyone else and everyone is trying to copy us, so I know we are on the right track.
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