In mid-November, Cruise Critic reported that there were signs of some thawing out between Norwegian Cruise Line and STX Europe over a serious dispute concerning the innovative two-ship F3 cruise project. Insiders predicted that we might be hearing positive news soon.
Today, industry publication Seatrade Insider is reporting that NCL and STX Europe have in fact reached a settlement. The new agreement seems to confirm what's been hinted at all along: One of the 150,000-ton, 4,200-passenger F3 ships, the largest ever built for the line will come to fruition, instead of the two originally announced by the line back in fall 2006.
As in the past, NCL would not comment on the project, and Seatrade's report even noted that STX Europe maintained the dispute remains ongoing.
The disagreement between yard and line first stemmed from major requests for design changes by the line that resulted in large, new fee assessments from STX Europe. Things became so bad that work on the second vessel, which is still in the very early stages of construction, had stopped.
So how has the project gotten back on track?
Sources told Seatrade that NCL will have to pay a 100 million euro penalty for canceling the second ship order, plus 55 million euro for added design changes. The cost of the new-build has risen from its original price of 735 million euro to a whopping 890 million euro, or nearly the cost of Oasis of the Seas.
Seatrade's report, however, raises just as many questions as it answers. If the first F3 is to be completed, what's to happen with the second ship? And what changes are in store for F3, the original design for which included several one-of-a-kind cruise ship features such as wavy-walled cabins and an ice bar, not to mention an absence of a main show lounge, main dining room and lido buffet style?
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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December 8, 2008