(11 am AEDT) -- Norwegian Spirit became the first NCL ship to return to Australia today after three long years.
In an emotional return, passengers and crew lined the decks of the 2,018-passenger ship as it made its way into The Heads -- the entrance to Sydney Harbour at 9.45 a.m. local time -- before sailing past Sydney Opera House and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge at 10.30 a.m.
The ship is berthed at White Bay Terminal and will make its way back under the Harbour Bridge tonight, ahead of a gala dinner with NCL execs including President and CEO Harry Sommer, who has flown in from Miami for the occasion.
"Australia and New Zealand are incredibly important markets for us, both as a source market and a destination, and we are committed to this region for the long term," said Sommer.
He added: "I'm thrilled to be here in person to celebrate our return to Australia after a three-year hiatus, and to join the festivities as Norwegian Spirit spends an extended overnight visit in Sydney before she sets sail on her Christmas cruise tomorrow!"
Ben Angell, Vice President and Managing Director NCL, APAC, said: "We’re thrilled to finally welcome Norwegian Spirit to Australia -- she is well and truly worth the wait."
Norwegian Spirit has been making its way from Tahiti on a 13-night repositioning cruisewhich included stops in Samoa and Fiji.
Spirit is the line's smallest and oldest ship in the fleet, but was completely refurbished in 2020 to the tune of $100m -- the line's biggest expenditure on a refurb -- which has seen new restaurants installed such as The Local and Onda by Scarpetta; new night time spots such as The Social, the removal of the kids' club and the installation of new cabins and a brand-new adults-only area, Spice H20, to make the ship more "adult-centric".
Norwegian Spirit will spend the rest of the Australian season in Sydney and Auckland, offering eight 12-night back-to-back cruises to New Zealand, calling in at Napier, Tauranga and Fiordland in New Zealand together with Melbourne, Burnie and Eden in Australia, before leaving on March 28, 2023.