NCLH’s Del Rio on coronavirus: ‘We’ve gone through worse’

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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio at the Seven Seas Splendor christening.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio at the Seven Seas Splendor christening.

ONBOARD SEVEN SEAS SPLENDOR -- The topic of the coronavirus outbreak could not be avoided on Regent Seven Seas Splendor’s celebratory inaugural cruise to the Bahamas. 

The 750-passenger Splendor was christened in Miami last Friday. 

Frank Del Rio, CEO of Regent’s parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), addressed the outbreak during a town hall with travel advisors on the ship. 

“We’ll get through this,” he said. “We’ve gone through worse before.” 

Del Rio said the industry “is in better shape than it’s ever been” from a balance-sheet perspective, its global sourcing mix and diversity of itineraries. 

“Cruise lines are stronger than ever. We’re not as dependent in one area as we were in the past,” he said. 

NCLH has canceled or modified 40 sailings across its three brands -- Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises -- at a cost of about $150 million, Del Rio said.  

He assured advisors that their commissions are protected, an announcement that brought applause from the crowd at the Constellation Theater aboard the Splendor. Passengers, he said, would get refunds for canceled cruises and credits towards future sailings. 

Del Rio said that bookings started dropping at the end of January through Feb. 14. But as of Feb. 21, bookings had picked up. 

“We’re still down from where we typically are, down from where we need to fill our ships, but as least the precipitous drop has stopped,” he said. “There’s always a leveling off or a healing period before you see things pick up.”

Del Rio said customers are still booking Asia sailings for the fourth quarter and that many of those who had cruises canceled this year are booking similar itineraries for 2021. 

He said the company is cutting back on marketing for the time being.

“Right now, you’re wasting your money. It’s falling on deaf ears,” he said. 

But he’s optimistic for the future. “There will be a time, hopefully not in the too distant future, that things will get back to normal,” he said.

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