Frank del Rio

Forecasting record earnings for 2017, with adjusted earnings per share expected to be in the range of $3.93 to $4.03, Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), said on today’s earnings call that both load and pricing were up for 2018, but cautioned against expecting another year-over-year earnings increase comparable to this year.

2017 is also benefitting from the full-year operation of Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer and Oceania’s Sirena, in addition to the mid-year introduction of the Norwegian Joy. 2018 will have the full-year operation of the Joy plus the introduction of the Bliss in the Alaska market.

Driving record Q2 earnings were deployment and fleet revitalization, according to Del Rio. He noted the redeployment of the Norwegian Getaway from a summer season in the Caribbean to the Baltic, and onboard improvements across the fleet encouraging more spending.

Norwegian Joy

Del Rio also pointed out that both ticket prices and onboard spending were up for passengers sourced in Europe, narrowing the gap to the American consumer.

With all three brands sailing to Cuba, he described the Cuba programs as a “home run,” generating premium ticket pricing which seems to be holding going forward. For 2018, NCLH’s Cuba capacity will be 4 percent of the total fleet capacity, up from 2 percent this year.

Commenting on China, Del Rio said that the Norwegian Cruise Line brand has spent a year building up the brand from scratch in the Chinese market. With the first revenue cruise on June 28, he also said that after concerns with the issues between China and South Korea, cruise pricing appears to have stabilized.

Under the circumstances, he said that it was surprising that the Joy has performed as well as she has. Also, as she is about to enter the shoulder season, he does not expect any near-term price increases. Instead, he said the company is cautious about its expectations for the Joy.

Meanwhile, Norwegian is also waiting for the appropriate licenses to be able to sell its cruises directly to the Chinese consumer.

However, Del Rio said it was too early to talk about 2019 (and deploying a second ship in China). “We are committed to being in this market,” he said. “There have been some bumps and like in any market there will be some ups and downs.”

In the big picture, Del Rio described NCLH as a revenue growth story and “more importantly as an earnings growth story.”