Frank Del Rio

Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2017 newbuild destined for the Chinese market will be purposely built for Chinese passengers, be upscale and the most authentic Chinese product yet, said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, speaking at the tenth edition of the China Cruise Shipping conference and trade show being held in Shanghai.

He also said he expects the new ship to perform better financially than it would in Europe or the Caribbean.

“There are lots of products in the market today and many of them are interpretations of what the Chinese market wants,” Del Rio said. “This ship is being built specifically for the Chinese market.”

Details on the ship’s name, itineraries and features are set to follow before the vessel debuts in China in summer 2017.

“It will be a high-quality, high-end product, authentically Chinese,” Del Rio added, but he would not give it a four- or five-star rating. “There will be other ships, if you want to have an American experience you can go on them, our ship will not be that.”

Market research is being done with focus groups.

“It’s our goal when we bring this new ship here, it will be the perfect ship for the Chinese market,” said Del Rio.

Norwegian will help define itself in China via cuisine and entertainment.

“There will be no question of who will have the best cuisine and it will be Norwegian,” Del Rio continued. “I think you will see a comprehensive entertainment program that captures the essence of Chinese culture.”

The company is holding its cards close, not announcing much in the way of features, but promising to appeal to a very well informed, sophisticated Chinese consumer.

“There will be dramatic public areas and incredible artwork,” Del Rio told Cruise Industry News.

“There are a lot of improvements to be made in delivery of the product,” said Del Rio of cruise lines currently operating in China. “I don’t think the Chinese consumer is 100 percent enamored with the product being offered here today and we plan on fixing that.”

Rolling out the brand in China, Norwegian will spend on advertising including TV, billboards and print.

“We have to help our travel agent partners sell the product,” Del Rio added.

William Harber, senior vice president and managing director Asia, is on the ground for the company leading the charge in the east and said the demographic in China of emerging wealth is trending slightly younger, making it a good fit to Norwegian’s Freestyle cruising concept.