Norwegian Cruise Line shares popped over 30 percent in the cruise line's trading debut on Friday.
The third-largest U.S. cruise ship operator priced 23.5 million shares at $19.00 per share, above the $16 to $18 range initially expected and raising $446.5 million. The company's major shareholders include private equity firms Apollo Global Management and TPG Capital, as well as Genting HK, which operates cruise lines in Asia.
Norwegian Cruise Line's CEO Kevin Sheehan told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" that the offering was "very strong" and attributed the strong demand of its stock to its unique proposition.
"We call it 'freestyle cruising,' which means freedom and flexibility of a resort-type vacation," Sheehan said. After winning awards for Europe, he expects that as marketing efforts ramp up in the U.S., more people will want to take that type of vacation.
Because all of its assets are built for this type of vacation, with multiple dining rooms and entertainment venues, Royal Caribbean and Carnival will have a harder time matching this style cruise offering, he said.
The offering also will help improve the company's balance sheet. "Our debt profile improves dramatically over the next couple of years," he said. "We generate quite a bit of cash flow. So our balance sheet will improve over time as we continue down our journey with these very efficient ships."
"Wave Season" — when cruise lines promote their very best deals for the year — also looks strong, he said. "Our ships are loaded more than they were in the prior year," Sheehan said, noting that the industry will come into easier comparisons following last year's Costa Concordia disaster.