The cruise ship industry, already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, has now been dealt another crushing blow.
Arne Wilhelmsen, a founder of Royal Caribbean Cruises, passed away on Saturday in Palma, Spain, Fox Business reported. He was 90.
No cause of death was provided, according to a report from the Associated Press.
Building a legacy
The Norwegian-born entrepreneur earned an MBA from Harvard Business School before joining his family’s shipping business in 1954, Fox Business said. Wilhelmsen went on to become the company’s president in 1961.
Seven years later, he founded Royal Caribbean Cruises, which later become known as one of the premier fleets in the industry. According to the AP, “Royal Caribbean now has 61 ships,” some of which are among the largest in the industry.
Wilhelmsen served as a member of the cruise line’s board until 2003, when he retired and handed over the reins to his son Alex.
The family is estimated to be worth more than $1.9 billion, Fox Business reported.
Statement from Royal Caribbean
Wilhelmsen’s passing was first announced in a press release from Royal Caribbean, according to the AP. The cruise line extended condolences to Wilhelmsen’s family and praised what they described as his visionary leadership.
“At a time when the rest of the world thought cruising was a niche use for old transatlantic liners, Arne was already seeing glimmers of the growth that was possible,” Royal Caribbean’s CEO and chairman, Richard Fain, said, according to the AP. “He had a vision of the modern cruise industry when the ‘industry’ might have been a dozen used ships, total.”
That vision included basing the company out of Miami instead of New York in order to take advantage of Florida’s warmer climate, as well as encouraging the construction of ships designed specifically for vacation cruising.
“Arne was a steady presence and source of wisdom on our board for decades,” Fain said, according to Fox Business.
He went on: “Our high standards as a company, our insistence on excellence in operations and design, and our determination to persevere all owe a great deal to the long-term vision of Arne, Alex, and the Wilhelmsen family. We salute our friend, and we will miss him dearly.”