With the debut of NCL's Freestyle 2.0 initiative, the line's multi-million dollar fleetwide upgrades to accommodations, service, food and entertainment, firmly in place onboard Norwegian Jade -- and the remainder of the fleet receiving upgrades by mid June -- the time is now ripe to look to the future. The place for such forward gazing? Today, in fact, in Aker Yards in St. Nazaire, France, where the next phase in the construction of NCL's newest evolutionary project, the first of two 4,200-passenger, 150,000-ton F3 concept vessels, was to begin.
So with the pulsating sounds of techno trance interspersed by snippets of Queen's "We Will Rock You," and a violently setting sun blinding the audience of executives from NCL, Star Cruises and Apollo Management (NCL's 50/50 shareholders), international press, shipyard workers and other special guests, a towering crane slowly lowered the "keel" onto its waiting supports. The first of thousands of pieces of steel secured, there was much rejoicing. Nearly two years of construction will follow. The ship will debut in March 2010.
The common shipbuilding ritual was preceded with another equally common tradition: the collection of lucky coins to be placed in a tube attached to the keel. Beginning with the top brass (bourgeois), and culminating with an open invitation to all in attendance (proletariat), guests were invited to place their coins in a prescribed location. Many pictures were taken, the tube was welded shut, and the crowd applauded once more.
Like the steel-cutting before and ship's first venture into water, the so-called "floating out" that will eventually follow, the keel laying represents an important step in the construction process.
But overshadowing the day's keel laying ceremony -- an event more about tradition than revelation -- was the first true taste of what passengers will see in terms of onboard accommodations on F3. A visit to the adjacent cabin factory offered a glimpse of the "New Wave" balcony cabin, with its decidedly futuristic design. Unlike anything currently available at sea, the living space will feature curvy walls, a segregated bathroom -- shower on one side, toilet on the other; sink and vanity in the actual stateroom -- a rounded bed, and a muted teal and orange color scheme.
Check out more information, and photos, here.
And stay tuned for updates on F3. We'll be covering them as they come.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
NCL Reaches Milestone as Keel is Laid for F3
April 24, 2008