NCL Provides Update on Fleet, Itinerary

March 16, 2005

At a press conference today at Seatrade, the annual cruise industry convention in Miami, Norwegian Cruise Line president and chief executive officer Colin Veitch offered a handful of hints and tidbits about upcoming news. Highlights included:

Some new details about the soon-to-be-launched Norwegian Jewel. Veitch describes Jewel as "Norwegian Dawn -- taken one step further." In addition to previously announced new additions to Norwegian Jewel (we've already reported that the ship will feature a unique "bar central" themed lounge destination and a new set of suites -- Courtyard Villas), Veitch told us about a new concierge lounge for Garden and Courtyard suite holders.

Pride of America will be the most heavily themed -- decoratively speaking -- ship in the fleet. This, the first new-build for NCL America, launches this summer and will spend its time on year-round Honolulu-based itineraries. Renderings of public room designs were scattered around at the press conference -- all have some tie to the U.S., and include, for instance, the Hollywood Theater, Jefferson's Bistro, the South Beach Pool and the Cadillac Diner. One of the most notable touches includes a bungee jumping "station" in the pool area. In another corner of the pool deck there's going to be a gyroscope -- this is a concentric open sphere where you get strapped in and spun around. "It's something to watch" while you're sitting around the pool, Veitch noted.

The big news in itineraries -- for 2006 -- is that NCL will return to Europe. The line has pulled its ships out of Europe over the past few summers to concentrate on homeland cruising (though sister company Orient Lines has consistently maintained a presence there). Next year there'll be two ships posted -- one in the Baltics and one in the Mediterranean. Veitch said Norwegian Dream has been assigned; the second, as yet undetermined, will be one of the line's newer models.

Speaking of newer models, Veitch noted that by fall 2005, 70 percent of NCL's passengers will be traveling on its seven most contemporary ships -- Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Star, Norwegian Dawn and Pride of Aloha (plus Norwegian Jewel and Pride of America which debut later this year).

All of these ships' hulls are getting a bit of a new exterior look, inspired by a one-time stunt on behalf of the Big Apple debut of Norwegian Dawn -- the company's gotten so many compliments, it is creating themed hulls on all its newer ships. Said Veitch, "you can see all our ships from a mile away."

In an update on NCL's Norway, which suffered a tragic boiler explosion in 2002 and has not been in service since, the CEO confirmed that the company is serious about selling the vessel (Norway, staffed with 70 crew members, is docked in Germany; the company has spent some $10 million simply maintaining the ship). "It's going to be somebody else's baby soon ... we want to be rid of the vessel," Veitch said, though he wasn't sure whether the ship would be transferred to Star Cruises, sold to a company that would operate it as a floating hotel, or designated to shipping's scrap pile. "We've been trying to find some better solutions than razor blades," he said. One thing's for sure: Norway will never sail for NCL again. Veitch noted that the National Transportation Safety Board report on the boiler explosion, which claimed lives of crewmembers, has not been released. But he said that no one has been able to determine what caused the explosion of the boiler -- and as such there's no guarantee that the tragedy could not be repeated in any of the other three.