Norwegian Cruise Line fleet
Review of Norwegian Cruise Line
The Norwegian cruise line’s history began in 1966 as “Norwegian Caribbean Line”, founded by Knut Kloster and Ted Arison. It all started with one vessel combining a cruise ship and car ferry, operating cheap Caribbean cruises. When Ted Arison left the company in 1972 to establish the new Carnival Cruise Lines, Knut Kloster acquired more ships for NCL’s caribbean operations.
The Norwegian Line’s list of “cruise industry’s firsts” starts with the first ever fly cruise deals (under the name “Cloud 9 Cruises”), the first cruise ships capable to ferry cars, the ever first cruise line with a private island (the Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas), the first line to develop new Caribbean ports of call (the Jamaica’s Ocho Rios port). Both NCL’s first cruise ships, Sunward (1966) and Starward (1968) were car-ferries, but later this part of the ships was refitted into staterooms and a 2-deck movie theater.
A new history page for the NCL Norwegian Cruise Line was the year 1979 with the acquisition of the Transatlantic ocean liner SS France and its refitting to become the NCL’s SS Norway cruise ship. The cost of this ship transformation was over US $100 million, but it was money well spend. The bigger than any other cruise ship Norway in its time offered many extra square feet of space for a great variety of on-board entertainment, thus starting the new era of the “ship cruise for fun” and creating the time of the new mega big cruise ships.
The NCL Norwegian Cruise Line is better known by the NCL abbreviation. It is also referring to this company’s former name “Norwegian Caribbean Line”. The NCL brand represents one of the major cruise line companies, and is best known for its innovative “Freestyle Cruising” concept. It’s a trademark signifying no fixed dining times or seatings, and no formal dress-code required on board each of the NCL ships.
The list of Norwegian cruise line’s destinations include all the world’s most popular ship travel regions, starting with Alaska and Hawaii, Europe (including itineraries from UK), Caribbean and Bermuda. Under the brand name “Norwegian Capricorn Line”, NCL operated also Australia and New Zealand from 1997 until 2001. A whole new era for the NCL company started in 2002, when the Norwegian line purchased the first Project America ship (under construction at the time). The future “Pride of America” ship was towed from its initial building yard at Pascagoula (MS, USA) to be completed in Germany at the Lloyd Werft shipyard.
Best known as the “Norwegian Cruise Line Hawaii ship”, the NCL Pride of America ship is the largest US flagged passenger ship, sailing year-round and exclusively Hawaiian Islands cruises with a round-trip itinerary from Honolulu. Due to financial considerations, the other 3 NCL America cruise ships in Hawaii “Pride of Aloha” (renamed Norwegian Sky) and “Pride of Hawaii” (now Norwegian Jade) was later transferred to the Norwegian Line’s international fleet.
The Norwegian cruise line’s Caribbean itineraries always include calling on the NCL Bahamian private island Great Stirrup Cay (purchased in 1977). A port of call exclusively for NCL ships, the Great Stirrup experience always starts and ends with the “Bahama Rama Mama” tender boat (with capacity of 300 passengers).
The NCL Norwegian company (officially NCLH / "Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings") is headquartered in Miami-Dade County (FL, USA). NCL's ownership is equally shared by Star Cruises (subsidiary of Genting Hong Kong / GHK multinational corporation specializing in resorts, leisure and gambling) and Apollo Global Management.
- In 2011, NCL had around 8% share in the global cruise market.
- In January 2013 NCL went public. In 2013 the company had revenues of USD 2,57 billion, up 13% from 2012.
- In mid August 2017, Apollo, GHK and TPG Global affiliated funds started selling 15 million NCLH shares to a group of underwriters (Barclays Capital, Citigroup Global Markets. and Goldman Sachs). The negotiated fixed price per share was USD 54,57, or total value USD 0,8185 billion.
- Until 2015, GHK was NCLH's principal shareholder, when the corporation started selling down its stake in order to buy Crystal Cruises, expand Star Cruises in Asia and create (in 2016) the premium brand Dream Cruises (Asia).
On August 31, 2014, it was announced that NCL Norwegian was in “advanced talks” to buy the Miami-based Prestige Cruises (operating the RSSC Regent and Oceania brands, or 2 fleets with all 8 top-luxury ships) for approx USD 3 billion. Prestige Cruises’ owner (Apollo Global Management) also owns 20% of NCLH.
On October 17, 2012, NCL Norwegian and Meyer Werft reached an agreement for the construction of two new Breakaway-Plus class vessels with scheduled delivery in 2015 and 2017. The order for the 2nd ship was placed in July 2013. In September 2013, the two new cruise ships were named Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss, through an online campaign. The "Breakaway-Plus" project's contract value was estimated to be EUR 1.4 billion (USD 1.92 billion). Two more ships were ordered on July 14, 2014, to enter service in 2018 and 2019.
NCL ship refurbishments
Ship refurbishments were the biggest part of "The Norwegian Edge" - fleet upgrade program. Drydock refurbishments started in October 2015 with Norwegian Epic, Followed Norwegian Gem in November 2015. Next scheduled drydocks were in 2016 (Pride of America, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Sun). These dry docks were longer than usual for NCL ships (some up to 3 weeks).
All NCL ships (except Norwegian Jewel) were scheduled for upgrade by the end of 2017. Jewel was scheduled for 2018. The Norwegian Edge project covers 11 vessels , which are the company's all older ships launched before Norwegian Breakaway (2013). On all these ships NCL added new venues, did extensive restaurant makeovers (La Cucina Italian, Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro French, Moderno Churrascaria Brazilia). Decors were changed in main dining rooms and buffet restaurants. Most public spaces (including all lounges, bars, complimentary food outlets) received new furniture and flooring, and some were completely re-designed.
Another major upgrade was the shipwide Wi-Fi, installing interactive digital signage boards and wayfinders, new teak flooring of open decks, new carpeting in hallways and corridors, adding more shaded seating areas, private cabanas and lounge chairs on sundecks.
NCL's new drydock refurbishment program (2016-2018) was budgeted over USD 400 million. Along with the fleet upgrades, it also included updated onboard culinary and enrichment programs, private island upgrades and enhanced cruisetour / destination amenities and services. Detailed dry-dock refurbishment reviews by ship you will find at their CruiseMapper's deckplan pages.
As part of the program was enhanced Great Stirrup Cay (NCL's private island in The Bahamas), This project resulted in building new facilities, newly added bars and lounges, redesigned and renovated venues, enchanced The Haven Suite passenger experience. Details on all these changes are available at the above island link.
In November 2017, the company MAN PrimeServ (division of the marine engines manufacturer "MAN Diesel and Turbo") confirmed an order from NCLH for SOLAS insulation upgrades for all 9 liners (44 diesel engines) from the NCL fleet. MAN provided the necessary equipment for all engines with power output 375+ KW, which included heat insulation, spray protection, resistance to flammability and fluid density. Upgrades received all NCL ships with MAN marine diesel engines models 48/60B, 48/60A and 58/64. The project was scheduled for completion in 2018.
NCL cruise ship dining packages
On each of its ships NCL offers up to 28 dining options. In 2016 on all ships were introduced upgraded main dining room menus (complimentary) with added new (a la carte priced) menu items. The upgraded complimentary food menus offer more variety of appetizers, soups and salads, signature entrees, desserts. New are the seafood offerings (fresh grouper, shrimp ceviche, seared scallops).
- Since January 31, 2016, NCL expanded the line's specialty dining menus on Norwegian Escape and introduced them fleetwide. These new menus are of the at-fee restaurants Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro (French cuisine), La Cucina (Italian cuisine), Moderno Churrascaria (Brazilian Steakhouse) and Teppanyaki (sushi). Among the new menu choices are Bouillabaisse, pan-seared scallops and sea bass filet, veal medallions, antipasti, risotto, Osso Buco alla Milanese.
- NCL has partnered with the ACF (American Culinary Federation) for training and certification of fleet's dining and culinary teams.
- Since August 2015, NCL offers specialty dining packages available fleetwide. The new packages prices start at USD 59 per person (3-day package purchased prior departure). These deals help save on the cover charges of all onboard specialty restaurants (including Teppanyaki, Cagney's Steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria, La Cucina, Le Bistro).
- Specialty dining packages allow NCL passengers to dine at a la carte priced and cover charge restaurants at an additional cost raging USD 7-15. Follows the list of restaurants and the cover charge / fixed fee in USD (shown in brackets): sushi bar ($7), Raw Bar ($7), Pincho Tapas Bar ($7), Bayamo ($10), Illusionarium ($10 general- and $15 premium seating), Cirque Dreams ($10 general-, $15 premium- and $35 VIP seating), Ocean Blue ($15), Dear John Hughes ($15).
- Packages can be purchased at discounted pricing online (prior to departure) or onboard (but only during the itinerary's first 2 days). On 3-day cruises, NCL dining packages are available for purchasing only on the 1st / embarkation day. Specialty dining reservations can be made online (within 90 days prior departure) or onboard.
Private cruise destination enhancements
NCL Norwegian expanded the company's plans for its Bahamian privately-owned island Great Stirrup Cay and the exclusive luxury resort destination Harvest Caye (Belize). The Harvest Caye port of call features a large-sized swimming pool, private beach, shallow lagoon (watersport activities), private cabanas available for rent, as well as a huge flora and fauna diversity.
Great Stirrup Cay was last enhanced in 2014 and by 2017 spring will feature several new offerings and amenities (for details see the island's review above).
All-inclusive NCL cruise package
Since 2017, Norwegian Cruise Line offers all inclusive cruise itineraries in some markets. The company's new program was named “Premium All Inclusive” and is included in NCL's cruise fares. The new program is only available to travelers living in select countries and as destinations - on cruises to Alaska, Hawaii, Asia, Bermuda, Caribbean, Europe, Panama Canal, South America.
- The list of "select countries" includes Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Russia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Turkey, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Angola and Algeria.
- passengers 21+ yo enjoy drinks-inclusive cruises with included unlimited spirits, bottled and draft beers, wines (by the glass), cocktails (priced up to USD 15), light beers, soft drinks, juices. Even the NCL's 18% gratuity is included. A 20% discount is given on oboard purchased bottles of wine, champagne, sparkling wines.
- Passengers aged 2–20 yo enjoy unlimited soft drinks, water and juices (excluding freshly squeezed) in all onboard bars, lounges and restaurants during the entire cruise. here also the 18% gratuity is included.
- The new NCL package also includes bottled water (1 L) per person per day (in the stateroom) and speciality coffees (in all restaurants at meal times).
- All gratuities and service charge related to the new all-inclusive cruise services are cruise ticket price inclusive.
- Passengers in The Haven staterooms and those in Suites receive 250 minutes of free WiFi, USD 100 in onboard credit and complimentary specialty restaurants reservations (3 dinners on itineraries 3-9 nights, and 4 dinners on 10+ nights itineraries).
NCL's "Premium All Inclusive" deals were introduced on April 3, 2017. These bookings include all cabin categories. As of September 2017, the cruise line pampers guests with Premium All Inclusive Plus. The new offer includes 5 additional benefits for passengers who have chosen to sail on a selection of port-intensive longer voyages of 9 nights or more in all worldwide destinations from Baltic Sea to longer Canary Islands and Mediterranean sailings, South America, Panama Canal and Asia-Pacific.
The additional extras include the following:
- 250-minute internet package
- 120-minute phone package
- US$50 shore excursion credit per port of call
- Up to GBP 75 hotel credit in select ports of call
- Up to GBP 150 air credit.
NCL cruise ship weddings
Since 2016, Norwegian Cruise Line offers weddings at sea, including same-gender ceremonies. The weddings are performed by the ship's Captain.
- For now, these offers are only for the company's newest (largest) vessels of the Breakaway- and Breakaway-plus classes.
- Formerly, couples were not allowed to marry at sea, but only ashore (in ports of call along the cruise itinerary). They also had to produce a marriage certificate before participating in an onboard ceremony. By the NCL's new policy, cruise ship captains can perform the wedding ceremonies on board the ship, with a Bahamas-issued marriage license.
- NCL also offers absolutely legal same-gender ceremonies. However, these offers are only available in cruise port destinations where such marriages are recognized by local law. The list of such destinations in the USA includes Hawaii, Boston MA, NYC New York, Los Angeles CA, Seattle WA, Florida (Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa), also Vancouver BC (Canada).
- NCL's new package "Wedding at Sea” includes a bridal bouquet, 1 matching boutonniere, 1 wedding cake for 2, champagne toast. The company also provides an experienced wedding coordinator.
- In addition to the "Wedding at Sea" program, Norwegian Cruise Line also offers harborside ceremonies (when the ship is docked in ports of call along the itinerary), also destination weddings (beach and resort) and vow renewals.
NCL cruise ship lifeguards
In April 2017, NCL Norwegian Cruise Line announced the company will employ certified lifeguards on some of its vessels (in summer 2017) and fleetwide (by the year 2018). The news made NCL,the 3rd major cruise company with lifeguards onboard its ships - following Disney and Royal Caribbean.
- The onboard lifeguards are stationed only at the family pools during scheduled swimming pool hours. This staff will be "American Red Cross" trained and certified.
- NCL will also offer complimentary swim vests for both adults and kids. Parents can obtain safety vests at the Lido Deck's towel station during daytime hours.
- The first NCL ships with lifeguards will be Norwegian Epic (homeported in Port Canaveral), Norwegian Escape (Miami), Norwegian Getaway (Miami) and Norwegian Breakaway (NYC New York).
- NCL started testing monitoring through CCTV cameras at family pools (on fleet's largest ships only) since 2015. So adding full-time lifeguards was a decision for more safety on pool decks. However, it should be known that lifeguards don't replace parental supervision and that parents (legal guardians) remain the best form for preventing onboard accidents.
- Disney Cruise Line employs certified lifeguards since 2013. RCI Royal Caribbean employs cruise ship lifeguards since February 2017 (by the line's "water safety program"). RCI's onboard lifeguards are dressed in special uniforms (bright red and white) and stationed at every onboard swimming pool, including the Solarium (adults-only retreat) during the complex' opening hours.
NCL cruise cabin upgrades
In February 2017, NCL started a new (industry's first) cruise cabin upgrade program that allows already booked passengers to bid for upgrades to higher-category staterooms.
- The new "Norwegian Upgrade Advantage" program was tested and approved by a group of top travel agencies. The entire system is automated and don't require travel agent intervention and pays commissions on the enhanced fare.
- NCL's senior sales VP Camille Olivere commented: "After final payment guests can bid on an upgrade and there’s a little dial that will show them in red, yellow or green the likelihood their bid is going to be accepted. When NCL offers the cabin upgrade to the guest we email the travel agency of record, so they see the guest has been offered the ability to upgrade, and if the bid is accepted we notify the agency. The agency has to do absolutely nothing".
- Once the passengers' bids are accepted, they are assigned to an available higher-level stateroom - interior to oceanview, oceanview to balcony, balcony to suite or to The Haven accommodation. However, they can't choose the exact stateroom (number) to which they are assigned.
NCL cruise gratuities (2017-2018 cruises)
Daily gratuities are per person (pp):
- USD 13,99 pp (interior, oceanview, balcony staterooms, both adults and kids)
- USD 16,99 (suites receiving concierge / butler services)
- Gratuities increases applies to all NCL cruise vessels, excepting Norwegian Sky (which is drinks-inclusive). On NCL Sky ship, standard cabin and mini-suite passengers pay per person USD 18,99 per day, while suite passengers pay per person USD 21,99 per day.
- Daily gratuity is an automatic service charge added to the passenger's onboard account each day.
- Passengers can prepay gratuities.
- The amount of gratuities is split between the ship's staff (dining, housekeeping, cabin stewards, butlers, concierges, support).
- The ship's speciality restaurants (a la carte priced or cover charge venues) add 18% gratuity service charge.
(new) NCL Cruise Cancellation Policy
Since January 2016, NCL adjusted the company's final payment and cancellation policies. Under the new cruise cancellation policy, booked NCL customers will incur penalties further from departure date when canceling.
- Before 2016, NCL cruise itineraries 6 days or longer, canceled 56 to 75 days prior to embarkation date guaranteed full deposits back. Under the new cancellation policy, final payment for itineraries 6 or more days is due 90 days prior to departure date (vs the old policy's 75 days). Cancellation penalties start 89 days prior to departure date.
- NCL's cruise deposit schedule also shifted. Previously, for itineraries 6 to 9 nights long, booked customers had to put down an USD 250 pp (per person) deposit. After January 2016, that was changed to USD 250 pp for itineraries 7 to 9 days, and USD 100 pp for itineraries 2 to 6 nights long.
- Final payments for holiday cruises (Christmas and New Year) are now due 120 days prior to departure dates, only excluding cruises on the ship Norwegian Sky.
Itinerary of Norwegian Cruise Line
All NCL cruise ships are either new or recently refurbished. As you can see from their list below, the oldest one (NCL Sky) is just 14 years old. NCL's fleet is one of the world's biggest and most innovative ones. NCL ships are big (to really large), well-equipped, offering feature amenities and onboard activities, and sailing worldwide.
Newest NCL ships boast up to 10 different restaurants and various dining options. Charging gratuities to the guests' shipboard account is another no more worrying about cash and envelopes. Singles and honeymooners will find parties just for them, and everyone can enjoy dancing classes, culinary demonstrations and a perhaps even a fashion show. If you'd like to learn to snorkel, NCL's Dive In program will teach you how, provide equipment, and bring to you excellent snorkel spots.
NCL cruises to Cuba 2017-2018
In December 2016, NCL (Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings) received permission to operate cruises to Cuba - beginning March 2017. The first-ever NCL ship visiting Cuba was Norwegian Sky.
- NCL Sky's itinerary program offers 4-night cruises from Miami that include Havana overnights - starting May through December 2017. The itinerary also visits the NCL private island Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas).
- With Norwegian Sky, NCL's first ever ship call at Havana was on May 2, 2017 (overnight). NCL Sky's Cuban cruise prices started from USD 700 per person (inclusive of unlimited drinks).
- In 2018, NCL will expand its Cuba cruise program - to a total of 63 itineraries, most of which offer Havana overnight. The season starts with NCL Sky (4-day Miami roundtrips) on March 26, 2018. The number of previously scheduled 2018 NCL Cuba cruises was 30 (through December 2017).
The current list of passenger shipping lines offering cruises to Cuba in 2017-2018 includes:
- Carnival Paradise leaving from Tampa Florida - cheapest prices (from USD 480 pp)
- Royal Caribbean (ship Empress of the Seas, leaving from Miami Florida)
- Holland America (ship Veendam) leaving from Fort Lauderdale since December 2017
- NCL (ship Norwegian Sky, 4-day itineraries with Havana overnights - starting May 2017
- MSC Cruises (ship MSC Opera, leaving from Havana)
- Oceania Cruises (ships Marina and Regatta) starting in 2017, Cuba circumnavigation, stops in Cienfuegos and Havana, also part of some Panama Canal transition itineraries.
- Azamara Cruises (ship on Azamara Quest from Miami)
- Thomson Cruises (ship Thomson Dream) 7-day, leaving roundtrip from Jamaica (Montego Bay) to Havana
- Compagnie du Ponant (yacht ship Le Ponant, leaving from Miami Florida)
- Pearl Seas Cruises (ship Pearl Mist, leaving from Fort Lauderdale Florida)
- Lindblad Expeditions (chartered sailing ship MS Panorama II, leaving from Havana)
- Celestyal Cruises (ship Celestyal Crystal, leaving from Havana and Montego Bay Jamaica)
- Grand Circle Cruise Line (ship MV Clio / ex Tere Moana) one-way from Miami to Havana, or the reverse from Havana to Miami (embarkation/disembarkation in port Cienfuegos).
- International Expeditions (leaving from Havana, charter flights out of Miami)
- Victory Cruise Lines - MS Victory I (former MS Saint Laurent) - fly-cruises from Miami to Havana (home-port Cienfuegos /departures)
- Note: According to the current Cuban law, US citizens of Cuban origin (born in Cuba) are not allowed to visit the island country (including on cruise ships). Regardless of their US citizenship status, Cuban-born Americans were denied booking on cruise itineraries visiting ports in Cuba. However, the situation changed in April 2016, after Carnival Corporation negotiated with the Cuban government for allowing ships with Cuban-born passengers, as such US citizens are allowed to visit the country on USA-Cuba charter flights. The Carnival-fathom line started Miami to Cuba cruises in May 2016.
- Alaska Airlines offers regular nonstop flights to Havana from Los Angeles (California USA). An 80-min ling JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) to Havana costs less than USD 100. Previously, air travel from USA to Cuba was thought charter flights only.
NCL ships itineraries overview
round-trip New York departures
USA departures (New Orleans and Boston) and Canada (Quebec City)
In 2017 Norwegian Epic continues spending summer seasons in Europe and returns to USA in fall (homeported in Port Canaveral) for 3-, 4- and 7-day Bahamas and Eastern/Western Caribbean itineraries.
New York City departures
Europe cruises (MEDITERRANEAN)
Seattle WA, Los Angeles CA, Houston TX and Vancouver BC departures
EUROPE cruise (Mediterranean, Canaries)
In 2017 Norwegian Star offers cruises to Asia, with itineraries departing from Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Sydney and Auckland
NCL cruise itinerary changes
- In 2016 the NCL Norwegian company confirmed an investment of USD 525 million for fleetwide upgrades (of all cruise ships) for the period 2017-2018.
- For winter 2017-2018 season, NCL Jewel ship will be redeployed from USA-California to the Asia-South Pacific for departures from Australia and Singapore (starting Nov 2017). The new set of itineraries starts with the Alaska to Australia repositioning via Hawaii (Vancouver to Sydney, on Oct 3, 2017). The NCL Australian cruises are all seven round-trip itineraries from Sydney (5-day to Tasmania, plus a 9-day South Pacific Islands) and all ten 16-day Australia and New Zealand cruises (Nov 2017 through Feb 2018). Follows an 18-day Australia to Asia repositioning (Sydney to Singapore, on Feb 20, 2018. NCL Jewel's Asian cruises will visit ports in Vietnam, Japan, China (incl Hong Kong), Singapore, South Korea.
- For 2017-2018 season, NCL Pearl ship will repositioned from Miami to NOLA (New Orleans Louisiana). The ship will operate on 7-8-9-day round-trip Western Caribbean cruises (between Oct 22, 2017 and April 1, 2018). NOLA itineraries will visit ports in Mexico (Cozumel, Costa Maya), Honduras (Roatan); Belize (Harvest Caye). Longer itineraries will additionally visit Grand Cayman and Guatemala (Santo Tomas de Castilla).
- For 2017-2018 season, NCL Dawn ship will be repositioned from New Orleans to Tampa Florida. Next the ship will be redeployed to San Juan Puerto Rico (Nov 12, 2017 through Jan 7, 2018) to operate on 7-10-11-day round-trip itineraries in the Southern Caribbean. Listed below are all Norwegian Cruise Line ships schedules with dates and prices PP. In barckets are shown (Departure Ports, Year Built / Passenger Capacity / Cabins_total).
NCL cruise cancellation policy changes
In 2016, Norwegian Cruise Line adjusted its final payment and cancellation policies. Under the new policy, vacationers incur penalties further from departure date when canceling, effective for bookings since January 2016. Before, itineraries 6 days or longer canceled 56 to 75 days in advance of embarkation guaranteed passengers full deposit back. Under the new policy, final payment for sailings 6 or more days is already due 90 days prior to cruise versus the old policy of 75 days. Cancellation penalties will start 89 days prior to sailing.
The deposit schedule of NCL has also shifted. Previously, for cruises of 6 to 9 nights, cruisers would need to put down a deposit of US$250 per person. On/after January 1, 2016 that shifts to US$250 per person for cruises 7 to 9 days; cruises 2 to 6 nights only require a US$100 deposit per person. Final payments for holiday cruises during Christmas and New Year are due 120 days (about 4 months) prior from sailing dates, excluding voyages on Norwegian Sky.
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