Royal Caribbean and Norwegian: Differing Strategies on Caribbean Cruises

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Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line are taking different business approaches when it comes to Caribbean deployment.

Caribbean itineraries will make up roughly 65 percent of Royal Caribbean’s deployment this year, compared to approximately 33 percent for Norwegian Cruise Line, according to the 2023 Cruise Industry News Annual Report.

Next year those numbers should climb for Royal Caribbean, which will put the Icon of the Seas in the year-round Caribbean market, sailing week-long cruises from Miami in January. That will be followed by the Utopia of the Seas, which will sail short voyages year-round from Port Canaveral, with the Miami-based cruise line betting big on the Caribbean cruise market, including the short cruise business.

“Utopia will be the first Oasis-class ship that will be entirely focused on short cruises in the Caribbean, supporting our strategy of competing with land-based vacation alternatives and driving new-to-cruise customers into our vacation ecosystem as we seek to close the value gap,” said Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, on the company’s second quarter earnings call in July.

Norwegian Cruise Line has taken the opposite approach.

Norwegian’s short cruise portfolio, which account for 25 percent of its deployment in 2019, will make up just seven percent of cruises in 2023, according to the company’s second quarter earnings presentation.

It also means Caribbean deployment is down some nine percent this year when compared to 2023.

“We strategically shifted our deployment to longer, more immersive itineraries at the Norwegian Cruise Line brand and increased our concentration of premium destinations while reducing our Caribbean deployment,” said Harry Sommer, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, speaking on the company’s second quarter earnings call.

“This was designed to attract a higher quality guest and maximize our competitive position.”

CFO Mark Kempa noted: “This is really about yield and EBITDA where we believe being in more premium itineraries that are booked further in advance, giving us a much longer booking curve and a more stable and predictable demand profile, which allows us to manage demand, manage our marketing a little bit more effectively and not rely so much on close-in, unstable and unpredictable demand is really a key to our success.”

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