FORT LAUDERDALE — Now that the drama of the U.S. presidential election is in the rearview mirror, the cruise industry could see some additional openings to Cuba, Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said.
“I believe the presidential election had something to do with perhaps a deferment of making some decisions,” Del Rio said. “I am hopeful that the defrosting of relations will continue. If it does, I’m confident that soon enough we will see more vacation opportunities to visit Cuba both by land and sea.”
Del Rio spoke before an audience in Fort Lauderdale at CruiseWorld, a Travel Weekly event for travel agents and suppliers.
Although president-elect Donald Trump has criticized President Obama’s openings to Cuba, Del Rio said he doesn’t think Trump is categorically opposed to renewed relations.
“He has said he would like to see a more balanced dialog between the Americans and Cubans,” Del Rio said. “He’s not opposed to opening up more relations with Cuba but he wants to make sure there’s something good in it for America as well.”
Del Rio, who founded Oceania Cruises in 2003, said the addition of new cruise players such as Virgin Voyages and Viking Ocean Cruises, is a sign of a healthy industry. “Competition is good. Once upon a time there were just ships. Over time there were larger ships, smaller ships, medium ships. Niches were created.
“We’ve got an alive industry. This is not an industry that sits on its laurels.”
Del Rio also said that after a 25-day drydock in February, it would not be far-fetched for Norwegian Cruise Line’s Hawaii ship Pride of America to be transferred to the Oceania or Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet.
But he said Norwegian president Andy Stuart “would kill me.” The Pride of America is the highest yielding ship in Norwegian’s fleet, he said.
Asked to offer three tips for selling cruises to non-cruisers, Del Rio suggested activities, destinations and value.
“You’ve got to let them know cruise ships are large, there’s lots of things to do: dining, shopping, spas, casinos, everything you can think of on the pool deck.”
On destination, he said emphasize that in a land resort the client is stuck in one place. “Even on a short 7-day itinerary they’re going to visit at least four places. If they want to see the world, a cruise ship is the way to see it,” Del Rio said. On value, Del Rio said sit with the client. “Do the math. Show them. Take the time to itemize it. Compare apples to apples. Every single time you’re going to have a winner with the cruise option.”
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