IN THE HOT SEAT
Frank Del Rio
Prestige Cruise Holdings
Frank Del Rio, CEO of Prestige Cruise
Holdings, was in New York last week to
reveal a restaurant on Oceania Cruises’
upcoming newbuild, Marina, run by and
named for the line’s master chef, Jacques
Pepin. Cruise editor Johanna Jainchill
spoke with Del Rio about an improving
economy, shore excursions vs. discounting
and the new chief at Azamara Cruises.
low point on March 9 and has since rallied from there. [Oceania] has now sold
47% of 2010. We are right now tracking
3 percentage points behind where we
were last year at this time, and we are
catching up every week. Occupancy will
be slightly down in 2009 vs. 2008, but
we are on pace to return to normal in
You know how I know that things are
getting better? Because I was just on vacation in Colorado, and a day didn’t go
by that I didn’t get an email from a travel
agent asking me to clear a wait list.
Michael O’Leary, the outspoken boss of Ryanair, might have had the last laugh on us, after TC discovered that an O’Leary quote we published last week — that he “failed to see the difference” between flying standing up and riding the Underground, and that some people think a weekend in Gdansk, Poland, is “worth dying for” — appears to be a fake. TC traced the quote back to satire publication
the Daily Mash, which is like a U.K. version of the Onion.
Q: The year is more than halfway over.
The fourth quarter of 2008 made you
question the long-term business. How
are things going?
A: The fourth quarter was absolutely
abysmal. It was like we were closed. Had
it continued past one-third of 2009, we
would have had to significantly overhaul
our business plan. No industry can sustain the results
of the shock of that quarter,
when the stock market was
going up or down 500 points
from one day to the next.
The velocity of new bookings and pricing has returned
to historical levels. This
proves to us that cruising
is the most resilient sector
of the travel business. Look
around: Ships are not being foreclosed
on like some hotels, and you are not
seeing thousands of people being laid
off. The cruise industry is resilient and
Frank Del Rio
Q: With Regent, you chose to include
shore excursions rather than lower prices. Did that stimulate sales?
A: Like nothing you’ve seen.
It’s one of the reasons why
our business is stronger than
most right now. This industry
is one of lemmings. There
is too much copying going
on. Everyone lowers prices
to stimulate sales. It works,
but it hurts the travel agents.
Every week I hear that half a
dozen agencies are going out
of business. We said, we don’t
want to hurt travel agents, and knocking
$60 off our cruise won’t motivate a sale
the way it might at [a mass-market line].
Including shore excursions makes them
But in TC’s defense, when does
O’Leary, or Ryanair, not say or do outrageous things? Heck, TC might have
even believed the fake news story when
it reported that O’Leary “said” that
Ryanair passengers could be strapped
to the roof of the plane if there was no
room left in the cabin.
What does appear to be true, however,
is Ryanair’s public relations push for
stand-up “seats” on its aircraft. The carrier ran a poll on its website that asked
flyers whether they’d fly standing on
short-haul flights for free or reduced
fares. Ryanair also linked from its site
to a You Tube video that features a parody of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing,”
with the chorus “You’re all standing”
and lyrics that rhyme “crazy schemes”
with “poor sardines.”
The carrier called it “Ryanair’s corporate song” in the link. But TC doesn’t
dare vouch for the identity of the singer, who — of course — claims to be
week to meet with former U.S. President
Bill Clinton, who recently visited Haiti
on his first trip as a special U.N. envoy.
It turns out the two men have a mutual interest in the nation: It’s the location
of Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private
beach destination. Since Royal Caribbean runs what Goldstein called “one of
the few things that works” in Haiti, he
was hoping to bend Clinton’s ear on persuading more foreign investment there.
And speaking of Labadee, it turns out
that one passenger of the many thousands that have visited there got stuck on
the zipline and ended up suspended over
Unfortunately for the attraction’s operators, that person was Goldstein’s son.
Q: But the economy is still hurting.
still under stress?
A: Our target
market is focused
on the health of
more than the
rate and foreclosure numbers. The market has stabilized, and people have come out of shell
shock. We have to motivate them to
spend their disposable income with us.
Q: How do you feel about Larry Pimentel taking the
helm at Azamara
A: I welcome
Azamara. I told
him that. And
I hope he does
the right thing
and stops copying Oceania.
Royal Caribbean International chief
Adam Goldstein was in New York last
What kind of fall and winter are airline
executives planning for? Kevin Healy of
Air Tran provided a clue to Wall Street
analysts last week when the told them, “If
we could find a way not to fly in September and January, it would be fantastic.”
TC has an idea: Park the planes on the
tarmac and turn them into mini-lounges
for travelers who are stranded or stuck
because of flight delays and diversions.
‘This industry is one of
lemmings. Everyone lowers
prices to stimulate sales. It
works, but it hurts agents.’
Tague ascends to United presidency
Q: What would you say the turning point
was when sales began normalizing?
A: In January and February and early
March, things picked up. They were not
normal, but there was business. It really
turned back in mid-March. And it’s not a
coincidence that the stock market hit its
Q: You said you want people to associ-
ate Oceania with good taste. How do
you market that?
A: The brand screams taste. In our de-
cor, culinary program and our itinerar-
ies. Every great brand should be able to
be defined with one word. When I say
Volvo, you think safety. When you think
of Oceania, we would like you to think
UAL Corp. announced that John Tague has been named
president of United Airlines.
He will continue in his role as executive vice president of
UAL Corp. and also serves on the executive council of the
The title of president had been held by Glenn Tilton, who
will continue as chairman and CEO of the airline.
The company also announced that Kathryn Mikells has
been named executive vice president of UAL Corp. Mikells
will continue in her role as CFO.
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Carol Marlow will move
from her post as president
of Cunard Line to assume
the position of managing
director of Cunard’s British
sister line, P&O Cruises.
Peter Shanks, the former
chief commercial officer of
Carnival U.K., will replace
Marlow as Cunard president
and managing director.
Marlow said in a statement that Cunard’s current
North American sales, marketing and customer service
teams would not change.
Shanks will retain his role
as U.K. director of sister
brand Princess Cruises.
Shanks will oversee the
construction of Cunard’s
new ship, the Queen Elizabeth, to be launched October
2010 and will direct Cunard
offices in Los Angeles; Hamburg, Germany; and Sydney.
(SUBMIT YOUR STORIES AND PHOTOS: Gerry Bourbeau, Travel Weekly deputy managing editor, at email@example.com.
ILLUS TRA TION B Y J-C SUARES