Wilhelmsen was a constant influence on the company from its founding, serving more than three decades on the company’s board of directors.
“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.”
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,” Fain said.
“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.”
Royal Caribbean Cruise operates four brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea Cruises.
It is also a 50% joint venture owner of the German brand TUI Cruises and a 49% shareholder in the Spanish brand Pullmantur Cruceros.
Together these brands operate a combined total of 61 ships with an additional 17 on order as of December 31, 2019.