Arne Wilhelmsen, a founder of cruise line Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, passed away on Saturday 11 April 2020, at the age of 90.
Wilhelmsen worked closely alongside its first chief executive, the late Edwin Stephan and he served more than three decades on the company’s board of directors.
Richard Fain, RCL’s chairman and chief executive said:
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. He had a vision of the modern cruise industry when the ‘industry’ might have been a dozen used ships, total.
Wilhelmsen’s vision was for building new ships designed for cruising in warm weather, and grew the industry from Miami rather than the traditional transit hub of New York.
The company now sails 61 ships calling on all seven continents and its fleet features the largest cruise ships in the world.
Born on June 15, 1929, in Oslo, Norway, Wilhelmsen earned his MBA at Harvard Business School and worked as a chartering assistant for Norway’s EB Lund & Co. and later as a shipbroker in New York. After joining the family business in 1954, he became its president in 1961. The scion of a leading Norwegian shipping concern – Anders Wilhelmsen & Co AS – he spent most of his life in the family business, including an early stint as a deckhand.
“Arne was a steady presence and source of wisdom on our board for decades. 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.”