NCL's Seatrade Announcements Surprisingly Low-Key

March 15, 2006

Norwegian Cruise Line, whose President Colin Veitch has created an art form out of divulging meaty news bits at the cruise line's annual Seatrade press conference, was remarkably low-key today but still offered some interesting tips and hints about the future. (Don't miss our update on Pride of Hawaii.) Among the most intriguing details:

Norwegian Pearl, slated for release next February, will actually be early -- by almost three months! The ship will now be delivered from the shipyard on November 28 and head straight to Miami, where it will offer a nine-night/five-night split itinerary schedule throughout the winter. On the longer trip Norwegian Pearl heads to the Southern Caribbean. On the five-nighter, the ship will visit the Western Caribbean. Norwegian Pearl will spend summer 2007 in Alaska, joining Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star.

Set your TiVo (or VCR) for some key NCL-on-television dates. Norwegian Jewel will be featured on NBC-TV's "The Apprentice" on March 27, though Veitch won't divulge any details due to federal regulations that ensure buttoned-up lips before competition-oriented programs air. "I know who's being fired," he teased, "but I can't tell." Norwegian Dawn gets a starring turn on HBO on April 6 in a documentary made when Rosie O'Donnell's R Family Vacations, geared to gay and lesbian families, chartered the ship for a cruise last year. Stay tuned to Cruise Critic's news section for a preview on Monday, March 27.

NCL will launch a new and revamped Web site next fall that Veitch promises will be an improvement -- including fun features, better functionality and more up-to-date info.

The delivery of Norwegian Gem in October 2007, a sister to Norwegian Pearl, will mark the end of that series of ships (Norwegian Gem will replace Norwegian Dawn in New York; Dawn will head to Miami). Veitch said that no further newbuilds have been announced and that, as shipyards are full through 2009, there definitely won't be another new addition until 2010 or beyond. But the good news is that the company has clear intentions for the creation of a new class of ships. Look for vessels that will, he said, "be significantly bigger. We'll have 10 contemporary Panamax-sized ships [at that point] and we think that's enough."

Deployment-wise, four ships this year will visit Bermuda in some fashion, ranging from the traditional three-day stay to a one-day port of call. This summer, Norwegian Jewel will represent NCL in the Mediterranean and Norwegian Dream will hang out in the Baltic. And NCL is experimenting with new turn-around ports, at least on a seasonal basis, in Philadelphia and Charleston.

The company is experimenting with an upgrade in bedding. The test effort is currently taking place on Norwegian Spirit (which incidentally sailed past us today on its way into Miami, looking gorgeous). The tests are being conducted in cabins in all categories and Manfred Ursprunger, the line's hotel management honcho, says that guest feedback will help determine the ifs and hows of a new direction in that arena.

There's more news to come on NCL -- don't miss our update on Pride of Hawaii, which will be delivered from its German shipyard on April 12, and, in response to numerous emails to Editor Carolyn Spencer Brown, a look at the challenges that have faced Pride of America.