Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

Royal Caribbean founder Arne Wilhelmsen passes away at 90

12 Apr 2020
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced one of the men responsible for the founding of the cruiose line died on Saturday, April 11, 2020, in Palma, Spain. He was 90 years old.

Arne Wilhelmsen, with sons Preben and Alex as Song of Norway pull away from Oslo

Wilhelmsen worked closely with Royal Caribbean's first CEO, Edwin Stephan, to help bring Royal Caribbean into the cruise industry and establish itself as a major player.

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.

1970: Harry Irgens Larsen, Mortis Skaugen, Gjert Wilhelmsen, Brynjulf Skaugen, Sigurd Skaugen, Arne Wilhelmsen

Wilhelmsen saw the potential for cruising to become the fastest growing segment in a growing vacation industry. 

Wilhelmsen's primary contribution was building new ships uniquely designed for cruising in warm weather. He saw potential in offering cruises from Miami, instead of New York, where Royal Caribbean could offer a completely different kind of vacation for its guests.

Arne Wilhelmsen, Miami's Port Director Admiral Irwin Stephens and Ed Stephan inspecting Dodge Island passenger terminal

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said it, "extends its heartfelt condolences to the Wilhelmsen family."