February 24, 2003
As predicted here, President Bush has signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act which gives Norwegian Cruise Line the final go-ahead to revive Project America in Hawaii. Essentially, a clause in that bill contained a cruise ship provision which gives NCL the right to American-flag three ships sailing Hawaiian waters. Two of these are Project America ships. The pair was originally designed by American Classic Voyages specifically to sail Hawaii. NCL bought one partially completed Project America vessel and parts from the second after AMCV went out of business. Here are the most important elements for cruise passengers: The first Project America ship, whose construction was halted when AMCV shut down, is in the construction process at Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven, Germany. The ship's design is being modified to fit NCL's "freestyle" concept and the company says it's also undergoing additional safety- and environmentally-oriented upgrades. Look for the as-yet-unnamed ship to begin regular Hawaii cruising in summer 2004. Ultimately, the second Project America ship, whose parts were transported to Bremerhaven, will be constructed with the same modifications as the first. No target date for launch on that vessel has been announced but it will sail Hawaii as well. The measure also allows NCL to re-flag one existing ship --expect that to be Norwegian Star though the company has not confirmed it -- which would mean that it, being a U.S. flagged vessel, could forego the out-of-the-way trip to an international port -- in this case Fanning Island -- which is, at this point, still on the Star's 7-day itinerary. All three vessels, according to the terms of the provision, will be 100 percent staffed by American crew. Expect NCL to announce altered Hawaii itineraries for the existing ship sometime in mid-to-late March.