Vaccine News Spikes Bookings and Other NCLH News: CEO Del Rio

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

Frank Del Rio

News of Pfizer’s promising COVID-19 vaccine gave some consumers the comfort and confidence they needed to book cruises, driving higher-than-usual bookings at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), CEO Frank Del Rio said during the company's Q3 earnings call Tuesday. NCLH is the parent company of Norwegian, Regent and Oceania.

“Bookings, the last 24 hours, yesterday, were pretty good, better than the previous four or five Mondays. And that, I think, is attributable to the vaccine news,” he said. “We did not have any particular promotion or did any outsized marketing.”

According to CNBC, Del Rio touted the Pfizer news as “a significant milestone" in the cruise sector's recovery. The vaccine, as well as advances in Covid-19 testing and antibody treatments, all play important roles in helping cruise travel resume, NCLH execs said on the call.

The vaccine was the latest piece of good news for the industry, as cruise companies continue to evaluate the CDC's “Conditional Sailing Order,” which lays out a phased approach to resuming cruises in U.S. waters.

With the replacement of the no-sail order and the advances in Covid-19 vaccines, testing and therapeutics, Del Rio said “the excitement level hasn’t been this high in a long, long time.”

Test Sailing Dates 

Norwegian has pegged early JAN to begin their test sailings, required under the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order, TravelWeekly reports. Del Rio said that while other lines might launch those sailings in DEC, NCLH will wait.

"This is not a race for us," he said. "We want to get this 100% right. We're stressing flawless execution. There's still a lot to learn about the order and the nuances of how to execute the order and how to implement the 74 recommendations [of the Healthy Sail Panel] seamlessly, along with the framework that the CDC laid out. And those are complex issues." 

Del Rio said he hopes the company’s full fleet can resume operations in six to nine months, though he added there are many uncertainties.

Focus on Private Islands

When the company's three brands return to service, guests can expect more itineraries to the cruise line's two private island destinations in the Caribbean, said Del Rio. 

NCLH owns Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas and Harvest Caye in Belize. Harvest Caye "will be more utilized than it has been in the past as we position vessels around the southern part of the country that can reach Belize and come back in seven days," Del Rio said.

When asked if the company will invest in more private destinations, Del Rio emphasized the pandemic will not last forever and the industry will, eventually, bounce back, according to TW.            

"I don't want to make long-term investments in order to fix a short-term problem," he said. "We've seen that our customers like the destinations and I'm glad I've got two of them. But I do think the pandemic won't last forever. We will return to normalcy, and people do like variety on itineraries and port-intensive itineraries, and our plan is to continue to offer that."

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.

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