We should stress that this is only a rumour at this stage; according to trade Web site cruise-community.com (subscription required), "independent industry sources" say the order would be for two ships and one option for a third, all subject to financing, with the first vessel due for delivery in 2013.
A spokesman for Flagship Consulting Limited, a London-based PR agency that represents NCL in the U.K., tells us the cruise line has declined to comment on the issue ("we're not in the position to confirm any details at the moment"). Likewise, a Meyer Werft spokesperson tells us via e-mail that statements and details will be published when a contract is signed ("we don't comment on rumours and speculations"). But if the story is true, this could be a great boost to the flagging global order book for new cruise ships.
The cruise-community.com story further indicates that the new vessels would not be replicas of Norwegian Epic (pictured), but slightly smaller.
This last piece of speculation is no surprise; on Epic's preinaugural cruise from Southampton in June, NCL's CEO, Kevin Sheehan, confirmed that there would not be an Epic Mark Two. When asked when the line would announce its next new cruise ship, Sheehan said: "We will continue to evaluate our business and build when the time is right. Any new ship will not be exactly like this, but will allow us to take on the next generation of Freestyle Cruising."
A switch from the STX Europe shipyard in France to Meyer Werft, which has already built seven ships for NCL, makes sense, too. NCL reputedly fell out with STX Europe in 2008 and cancelled the order for a second Epic-class ship. There were subsequent problems at the yard, with three mysterious fires on the new vessel and a police investigation into arson. Epic was finally delivered not quite ready.
Some European shipyards are struggling; STX Finland, which will deliver Allure of the Seas to Royal Caribbean in November, has no new orders. But Meyer Werft, based on the River Ems in Papenburg, north Germany, appears to be on a roll, announcing only last month that AIDA, the German line belonging to Carnival Corporation, had ordered a new ship, the seventh from the yard, for delivery in 2013. The yard is also building ships for Disney Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises.
Watch this space for the big announcement -- if and when it comes!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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