UPDATE 3-Pandemic-hit Norwegian Cruise forecasts loss until sailings resume

(Adds statement from earnings call, updates share movement)

Feb 25 (Reuters) - Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd said on Thursday it expects to post a net loss until sailings resume, even as the cruise operator forecast strong bookings for next year after what was a calamitous year for the industry.

Cruise operators have been forced to raise high-interest-rate debt of billions to keep their heads above water as a nearly year-long sailing hiatus imposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had ravaged their business.

Norwegian Cruise, which continues to work on its plan to meet the requirements of the Conditional Sailing Order issued by CDC, earlier this month extended the suspension of all voyages globally through May 31.

For the fourth quarter, Norwegian Cruise lost $2.33 per share on an adjusted basis, compared with analysts’ estimates of a loss of $2.17 per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

The company’s shares, which gained about 40% since the start of the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in December, were down nearly 7% on Thursday.

COVID-19 vaccinations and strong pent up demand have led to an uptick in the company’s 2022 bookings, as also noted by bigger rival Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Norwegian said even though it was early in the booking cycle, the overall cumulative booked position for the first half of 2022 was markedly ahead of 2019.

“We expect that by the time cruising resumes, vaccination will most certainly be widely available in the developed world,” Chief Executive Officer Frank Del Rio said in an earnings call.

“People are booking further and further out. People know that this pandemic will end someday ... So we have more visibility today in our future business than we’ve ever had.”

Reporting by Mehr Bedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli