Reports began to surface last night that Norwegian Cruise Line has submitted a three billion dollar bid to buy Prestige Cruises International. Prestige is a very upscale operator, having both upper premium Oceania Cruises and ultra deluxe Regent Seven Seas Cruises in its current portfolio. The talks are stated to be at an ‘advanced stage’.
The hugely ambitious move comes at a time when both of the Prestige flag bearers were on the cusp of far reaching changes in any event. Oceania is said to be on the verge of confirming an order for a second pair of sister ships for its first, highly successful dedicated new builds, Marina and Riviera. Meanwhile, Regent is eagerly awaiting the arrival in 2016 of the new, 700 guest all suite Seven Seas Explorer, its first dedicated new ship since the Seven Seas Voyager back in 2003.
As things stand, the eight ships that comprise the joint Oceania/Regent portfolio will complement the current, thirteen ships (with four more on order) in the Norwegian fleet. This combination will give the seagoing operation an extensive presence right across the mainstream, premium and deluxe cruise brands.
Cynics will no doubt recall how NCL (as Norwegian then was) underwent a similar, massive expansion in the mid to late 1980’s. Then, the line absorbed both the very upscale Royal Viking Line, immediately followed by the premium grade Royal Cruise Line.
That was soon followed by the acquisition of Orient Lines in 1998.
Then, the company hoped that many mainstream passengers might be persuaded to move up to the more elegant, patrician brands. It ultimately failed, and almost took NCL down with it. The company was on the maritime equivalent of life support for years afterwards.
However, following a hugely successful IPO in January of 2013, Norwegian is in a far better position than it was back in the late eighties. The two newest ships in the fleet- Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway- have been hugely successful, and the recipients of much critical acclaim.
Likely future consort, Oceania, is doing so well that it looks to expand to a seven ship operation within a couple of years, as mentioned above. Meanwhile, Regent Seven Seas continues to be one of the most consistently fully booked of the deluxe cruise lines, partly as a result of having the most truly all inclusive fares in the luxury segment of the market. And Regent is also the only line anywhere that can field a pair of all balcony accommodation sister ships- Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager. Over the last year or so, both of these ships underwent extensive, multi million pound enhancements that put them at a pinnacle of the cruising firmament.
For sure, interesting days are ahead for all of the protagonists in this menage a trois. As ever, stay tuned.