Co-founder of Royal Caribbean Cruises , Arne Wilhelmsen, sadly passed away on 11th April, aged 90.
Wilhelmsen was a constant influence on the company from its founding, serving more than three decades on the company’s board of directors, RCL said.
Together with the company’s first CEO, the late Edwin Stephan, Wilhelmsen saw possibilities for the fledgling cruise industry that others did not.
“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,” said Richard Fain, RCL’s chairman and CEO. “He had a vision of the modern cruise industry when the ‘industry’ might have been a dozen used ships, total.”
At the time of its founding, Wilhelmsen and his patners built ships uniquely designed for cruising in warm weather and another innovation was that this industry did not grow from New York, the traditional passenger liner hub but was based in Miami, helping the area to grow as the public discovered an entirely new way to take a holiday.
A believer in economies of scale, he once recalled: “My initial challenge was to convince my partners and management in Miami to build bigger and more efficient ships in order to grow the company.”
Born on 15th June, 1929, in Oslo, Norway, Wilhelmsen earned his MBA at Harvard Business School and worked as a chartering assistant for Norway’s EB Lund & Co later to become a shipbroker in New York.
After joining the family business in 1954, he became its President in 1961. The driving force behind Norwegian shipping concern – Anders Wilhelmsen & Co AS – he spent most of his life in the family business, including an early stint as a deckhand on board ship.
“Arne was a steady presence and source of wisdom on our board for decades,” Fain added. “And in 2003, when he was ready to step back, he was succeeded on the RCL board by his son, Alex, who has carried the involvement of the Wilhelmsen family in charting our company’s course into its sixth decade.
“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,” he concluded.