Norwegian Spirit Goes Under Refurb Knife

August 16, 2005
NCL is generating so much hoopla with Pride of America and Norwegian Jewel, this year's two brand-new ships, that its plans for a major refurbishment this fall of its 76,800-ton, 1,996-passenger Norwegian Spirit have gone virtually unnoticed.

That ship, launched in 1998, is actually a newcomer to NCL, sent over from parent company Star Cruises. Long story short, the transfer was a response to the shipyard accident that would delay Pride of America for a year and result in Norwegian Sky being transformed into Pride of Aloha well ahead of schedule. As a result, there was a need to immediately add a ship to the fleet that would take over from Norwegian Sky.

Interestingly, this vessel, though built with NCL's trademark "Freestyle Cruising" in mind, was also designed for an Asian audience. According to our recent review of Norwegian Spirit, "purpose-built for the Asian/Pacific market and for family cruises of three to four nights (rather than the seven-night itineraries it will be sailing as Norwegian Spirit), the ship is an interesting blend of modern convenience and Asian custom. Those unaware of the history of this ship might be confused by the surfeit of Chinese symbols and artwork, by the rack of chopsticks at the fast-food restaurant, by the banks of chaises and chairs that form an amphitheater overlooking the children's play area, by a specially designed room for mah-jongg."

At the time of its transfer, alterations made to the ship were minimal.

All that will change, reports Cruise Critic correspondent Teijo Niemela, who tells us that the ship will undergo its major refurbishment in a San Francisco shipyard in October. According to Trevor Young, NCL's new-building vice president, "we are spending a great deal of time and effort to ensure the integrity of design originally created for SuperStar Leo is continued." Interestingly, Young was involved in the actual building of this ship - which was a significant addition to the Star Cruises fleet as its first ever built-for-Star ship and the first from either line to incorporate "Freestyle" elements into its design.

Among the highlights:

Twenty-two new passenger cabins will be built on Deck 13 with another 14 new cabins added to Deck 4.

Getting a complete overhaul will be Raffles Buffet, the ship's Lido restaurant, which has been particularly problematic, according to our Norwegian Spirit review: "The one dining venue on Spirit that is disappointing is the Lido deck buffet, Raffles Cafe. The ship's staff acknowledges that this spot presents a challenge, and explains that the kitchen setup in that location, prior to the change from SuperStar Leo to Norwegian Spirit, did not comply with either CDC regulations or safety regulations. As a result, there are no cooking facilities at all in that location, so food has to be brought up from the kitchen to be placed in the steam tables, by which time it has lost most of its appeal."

Other galleys will also be modified throughout the ship.

In public areas, look for a new "high energy" nightclub and lounge, and an expanded shopping area and photo gallery.

Equipment in the ship's fitness facility will be replaced with more contemporary machines.

A new pool bar will be added to Deck 12 (originally there was no bar in the midship pool area because Asian passengers do not tend to congregate much on sun decks).

Upon completion of its refurbishment, the new and improved Norwegian Spirit will head to New York, where it will be based year-round. Its first post-"surgery" cruise will take place on October 29 from San Francisco to Miami. In November, the ship will begin sailing 10- and 11-night cruises to the Southern Caribbean.