An upbeat assessment of the prospects for cruise in 2019 and beyond following a “breakout” year has come from the world’s third largest company operating in the sector.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings described booking levels as being at an “all-time high” entering the year and at higher pricing, helped by a strong peak wave sales period.

The holding company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises reported a rise in adjusted net income last year to $1.1 billion against $907.7 million in 2017, with revenue up 12.2% to $6.1 billion.

The improved performance came as capacity rose by 8.5% with the introduction of the ships Norwegian Bliss – designed for Alaska sailing – in April 2018 and sister ship Norwegian Joy a year earlier, combined with “strong organic pricing growth” across all core markets.

Norwegian Joy, originally built for the Chinese market, is to join Norwegian Bliss in Alaska from the spring while 4,000-passenger Norwegian Encore, the fourth and final ship in the Breakaway Plus class, is due to enter service from Miami in November sailing seven-night eastern Caribbean itineraries.

Company president and chief executive Frank Del Rio said: “The team at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings delivered a breakout year in 2018, once again generating industry-leading record financial performance.

“Strong global demand for our portfolio of brands, the successful, record-breaking introduction of Norwegian Bliss and the flawless execution of our demand creation strategies drove our fifth consecutive year of double-digit earnings per share growth.

“Building on this momentum, we entered 2019 in the best booked position in our company’s history, with pricing above prior year’s record levels.

“The strong start to this year’s wave season, coupled with our moderate in-year capacity growth and our solid booked position across our three brands, has us well-positioned to continue driving price throughout the year and into 2020, where we will also benefit from the first full year of sailings from Norwegian Encore and the addition of Regent’s Seven Seas Splendor.”

Looking forward, chief financial officer Mark Kempa added: “We are confident in our outlook for 2019 and beyond, and have built upon our foundation for measured capacity growth by enhancing our growth profile through 2027, with announced orders for all three of our award-winning brands, now totalling 11 vessels, enabling us to expand our presence both globally and domestically and further diversify our product offerings to continue driving outsized shareholder returns.”

New ships on order include two $575 million Allura class next generation vessels for Oceania Cruises set for delivery in 2022 and 2025, each carrying 1,200 passengers.

A third 750-passengers Explorer class ship for RSSC is due for delivery late in 2023 as sister vessel to Seven Seas Explorer and Seven Seas Splendor. Bookings for the brand’s sixth all-suite ship will open in 2021.

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