Frank Del Rio joined Norwegian in September when the cruise line operator acquired Prestige Cruises International, owners of the upscale Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, for a cool $3.02 billion. Del Rio, who founded Oceania Cruises in 2002, was originally slated to lead the acquired brands but wound up becoming president and CEO of Norwegian in January, replacing long-time chief Kevin Sheehan.
Norwegian's new CEO has wasted no time in implementing changes. Gone are useless meetings that stifled the entrepreneurial spirit essential to driving differentiation in a competitive hospitality industry. In is the questioning of industry norms, like the use of fierce discounting to lure in vacationers and an obsession by execs with ordering new ships every few years.
So far, so good. On Feb. 18, the company announced the all-important "wave season," the winter period in which people book vacations for the spring and summer seasons, has seen an acceleration in booking volume. The Norwegian Escape, which will begin sailings in November, is in a better booked position than her predecessor ships the Breakaway and Getaway.
The upbeat commentary on near-term trends offset slightly worse-than-expected adjusted earnings per share in the fourth quarter, due in large part to competitive pricing in a Caribbean market flush with capacity.
Shares of Norwegian Cruise Line have gained 4.4% in the past month, outperforming rivals Royal Caribbean (RCL) and Carnival Corporation (CCL) .
TheStreet sat down with Del Rio in New York City to discuss his vision for the Norwegian brand, why a cruise may get a little pricier this year, and why the cruise industry is licking its chops at the chance to dock in Cuba.
Must Read: UPS CFO Explains Why the Shipping Giant has to Raise Rates