Norwegian to Increase Fleet in Europe?

March 27, 2013
Viking Embla (6 a.m. EST) -- Norwegian Cruise Line's head of international has said he would like to have another ship sailing in Europe. Francis Riley, Norwegian's Vice President and General Manager International, said he would be keen to increase the number of ships operating European itineraries to five at some point -- but ruled out placing any of those out of the U.K.

Speaking at a dinner ahead of the imminent launch of the line's latest ship, Norwegian Breakaway, which debuts April 29 in Southampton, Riley said: “We are very good at seven-day itineraries. That was one of the reasons why we took the ship out of Dover and placed it in Copenhagen, where it operates nine-night itineraries. We've attracted a market from the north of the U.K. It takes as long to fly from Scotland and the north to Copenhagen, as it does to get to Southampton.

"When we have two ships coming in 2013 and 2014 it provides us choice for the future as to where we can deploy our ships -- and whilst we have no plans at this stage to put a fifth ship in Europe it could well be an option to increase our presence in Europe and or new destinations where we currently do not cruise.

“I'd like another ship in Europe, but not one ex-U.K. ,” he added. "We put our foot in the water [in 2008 with Norwegian Jewel] out of Dover, and when you have a limited number of assets it means you have to make a choice,” Riley said. “Our aim is to maximise revenue, and we believe we will not do that in the ex-U.K. market.”

Though not as big as Norwegian Epic, the line's previous new-build, which also debuted in Southampton three years ago, the 146,600-ton, 4,028-passenger Breakaway has many of Epic's most popular features, including most of its eateries and Cirque Dreams, though not the Blue Man Group. Its big difference is Options on the Waterfront -- a space the line says was inspired by the desire to reconnect passengers to the sea – and includes terrace seating at a trio of for-fee restaurants found on other Norwegian ships.

The two other new builds are Getaway, which will debut next spring, and Breakaway Plus, which will launch in October 2015. Once the three new ships have been completed, it will double the line's capacity, as the existing ships are half the size of the new builds. The line also has an option on a fourth ship in the Breakaway class, which the smart money says the line will exercise.

Commenting on why the line did not make more ships in the Epic class, Riley said: “Epic was exciting, but it was a one-off ship. The timing wasn't right [for more]." --by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor