Norwegian Cruise Line

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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 line is headquartered in Miami-Dade County (FL, USA). The ownership of the NCL company’s is equally shared by Star Cruisesnofollow (a subsidiary of the Genting Groupnofollow – a leading multinational corporation in Malaysia) and the Apollo Investment Corporationnofollow. According to the 2011 data, the Norwegian Line has around 8% share in the cruise market. In January 2013 NCL went public. In 2013 the company had revenues of $2.57 billion, up 13% from 2012.

On August 31, 2014, it was announced that NCL Norwegian Line was in “advanced talks” to buy the Miami-based Prestige Cruises (operating the Regent and Oceania brands, with eight luxury cruise ships) for approx. $3 billion. Prestige Cruises’ owner, Apollo Global Management, also owns 20% of NCL.

On October 17, 2012, Norwegian and Meyer Werft reached an agreement for the construction of one, or possibly two new vessels of Breakaway Plus class (for delivery in October 2015 and mid-2017). The order for the second 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 contract value of the Breakaway Plus project was estimated to be €1.4 billion (US$1.92 billion). Two more ships were ordered on July 14, 2014, to enter service in 2018 and 2019.

As of 2016 Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) adjusted its final payment and cancellation policies. Under the new policy, vacationers incur penalties further from sailing date when canceling, which is effective for bookings made on/after January 1, 2016. Before, sailings 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.

In 2016 Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) launched a $400 mill upgrade program named The Norwegian Edge. Aspects of the program include a revitalization of the fleet, which started in 2015 with the upgrade of Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Epic and continues this year with Pride of AmericaNorwegian Dawn and Norwegian Sun. Speaking to reporters in Miami, Andy Stuart, Norwegian president and chief operating office, said that dry docks for the NCL ships would be "longer than usual for the line", some for 3 weeks, and would result in "meaningful" changes to the mid-size fleet of Norwegian.

All Norwegian  ships, except Norwegian Jewel are scheduled for upgrade by the end of 2017. Jewel will be rehabbed in 2018. The Norwegian Edge project covers 11 cruise ships and does not include the newest Norwegian BreakawayGetaway and Escape.

As part of the program, NCL is also enhancing Great Stirrup Cay, its private Bahamas island, in "another major project." Stuart said among new facilities added would be bars and lounges, as well as The Haven experience for passengers in top accommodations.

On the culinary front, NCL will be expanding specialty dining menus introduced on the latest ship of the line, Norwegian Escape, to the rest of fleet, beginning with Norwegian Breakaway (January 31). All ships will feature the new menus by the end of June. The line has partnered with the ACF (American Culinary Federation) for training and certification of fleet's dining and culinary teams.

NCL Norwegian Cruise Line refurbishments 2016-2017

Named "The Norwegian Edge", NCL's new fleet enhancement program (2016-2017) has budget of over USD 400 million. It includes fleet-wide ship refurbishments, private island upgrades, updated onboard culinary program and enhanced destination experiences.

Ship refurbishments

Ship revitalization projects are the biggest part of "The Norwegian Edge". Cruise ship refurbishments started in October 2015 with Norwegian Epic, Followed Norwegian Gem in November 2015. Next scheduled for refurbishment in 2016 were the ships Pride of America, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Dawn. For 2017 are scheduled the dry-docks for the ships Jade, Spirit , Sky and Pearl. NCL adds new venues, does extensive restaurant makeovers (to La Cucina Italian, Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro French, Moderno Churrascaria Brazilia). Decors are changed in the onboard dining rooms and buffet restaurants. Most public spaces (including all lounges, bars, complimentary food outlets) receive new furniture and flooring, some are completely re-designed. Another upgrade is 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. For detailed dry-dock refurbishment reviews by ship, see their corresponding pages at CruiseShipDeckPlan.com

Ship dining enhancements

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.

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 in 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).

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

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 will be Norwegian Sky. Its itinerary program includes several 4-day cruise itineraries that include Havana overnights - starting May 2017.

The current list of passenger shipping lines offering cruises to Cuba in 2016-2017-2018 includes:

  • Carnival-fathom (ship MV Adonia, leaving from Miami Florida)
  • Royal Caribbean (ship Empress of the Seas, leaving from Miami Florida)
  • 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.

NCL ships itineraries overview

 NCL Bliss (2017)
  • list of itineraries and home-port to be announced in the end of 2015.
 NCL Breakaway round-trip New York departures
  • 7-day Florida to Bahamas
  • 12-day Southern Caribbean to Barbados and Puerto Rico
  • 7-day Bermuda
  • 2-day “Cruise to Nowhere-NYC”
  • 2017: 7-day cruises from New York City to Bermuda (every Sunday; April 23, 2017 - September 24, 2017)
  • 2017-2018: Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida cruises from New York to Port Canaveral, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay.
 NCL Dawn USA departures (New Orleans and Boston) and Canada (Quebec City)
  • 7-day Boston to Bermuda
  • 14-day Boston to New England
  • 7-day Western Caribbean – New Orleans to Mexico
  • 14-day relocation Boston to New Orleans visiting Jamaica
  • 2017: 7-day Bermuda cruises, departing from Boston (every Friday; May 5, 2017 - September 15, 2017; October 20 and 27, 2017)
  • 2017: two 7-day, one-way Canada & New England cruises sailing from Boston to Quebec City (September 22; October 6, 2017) with calls in Portland, Halifax, Charlottetown, Gaspésie and Saguenay
  • 2017: two return 7-day voyages from Quebec City to Boston (September 29; October 13, 2017), with an overnight in Quebec City
  • 2017-2018: seasonal Caribbean sailings from Tampa and San Juan.
NCL Epic In 2016-2017 Norwegian Epic will continue spending summer seasons in Europe and return to the US in fall as Norwegian’s newest and largest vessel to homeport in Port Canaveral, with 3-, 4- and 7-day Bahamas and Eastern/Western Caribbean itineraries.
  • Miami, Barcelona, Venice, Rome, Southampton (UK, repositioning) departures
  • 7-day Western Caribbean Miami to Jamaica
  • 3-, 4-, 7-day Bahamas/Caribbean from Port Canaveral
  • 7-day Mediterranean Barcelona, Rome
  • 14-day Mediterranean departing from Venice
  • 2017: western Mediterranean through summer 2017, with embarkation in Civitavecchia (Rome), Marseille and Barcelona
  • Norwegian Epic returns to the US in 2017 fall to sail from Port Canaveral through the winter on 3-, 4- and 7-day eastern and western Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries. On all the Canaveral cruises will be featured Great Stirrup Cay, which adds island-wide enhancements, new features and amenities over the next 16 months. Norwegian Epic also sails alternating 7-day eastern and western Caribbean voyages from November 5, 2017 through March 21, 2018. The eastern route includes St. Thomas, Great Stirrup Cay and Tortola, while the western itinerary has Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios, Great Stirrup Cay and Cozumel. In March 2018 the vessel will provide 3- and 4-day Bahamas getaways to Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau.
NCL Escape
  • Miami and Southampton (Transatlantic) departures
  • 10-day Southampton to Miami Inaugural cruise
  • 7-day Eastern Caribbean departing from Miami
  • During fall and winter 2017-2018 Norwegian Escape continues to sail year-round eastern Caribbean voyages to Nassau, St. Thomas and Tortola every Saturday from Miami. 
NCL Gem New York City departures
  • 7-day Florida and Bahamas
  • 7-day Canada New England
  • 9-10-day to Puerto Rico (Eastern Caribbean)
  • 1-2-day “Cruise to Nowhere-NYC”
  • 2017: 7-day Bahamas & Florida from New York (April 29, 2017 - August 26, 2017)
  • 2017 Summer: two Canada & New England roundtrip 7-day voyages from New York City (June 10 and June 24, 2017) calling in Halifax, Saint John, Bar Harbour and Portland
  • 2017: 7-day roundtrip cruises from New York City (September 2 - October 14, 2017)
  • The enhanced Norwegian Gem operates alternating 10- and 11-day eastern Caribbean sailings from New York from October 21, 2017 through April 17, 2018. Call ports include San Juan, Saint Thomas, Saint Maarten and Tortola. The 11-day version adds St. Kitts. In addition to 7-day Canada & New England round-trip cruises from New York during prime fall foliage season, NCL Norwegian Gem sails on a 10-day eastern Canada & Quebec cruise out of New York, calling at Québec City (overnight), Halifax and Sydney (Nova Scotia) and Corner Brook (Newfoundland).
 NCL Getaway
  • 7-day Bahamas and Eastern Caribbean departing from Miami
  • 2017: 8- and 9-night Baltic capitals voyages from Copenhagen, overnighting in St. Petersburg and calling at Tallinn, Stockholm, Helsinki
  • Western Caribbean routes are operated by Norwegian Getaway, returning to the US from seasonal Baltic deployment 2017 fall. Sailing Sundays from October 29, 2017 to April 22, 2018 the ship calls at Costa Maya, Cozumel, Roatan in Honduras and NCL's new Harvest Caye in Belize.
NCL Jade Europe cruises (MEDITERRANEAN)
  • Barcelona (on repositioning), Venice and Houston TX departures
  • 14-day Venice to Turkey and Greece (Mediterranean)
  • 7-day Houston to Mexico (Western Caribbean)
  • 2016-2017 winter from Tampa to Eastern/Western Caribbean
  • 2017: homeported in Hamburg, a first for NCL. The ship will offer 6- and 8-night western Europe, 8- and 9-night Norwegian Fjords, 11-night Norway and North Cape, and a 13-night cruise to Norway, Iceland, and the UK. A number of sailings will also offer the opportunity to start the sailing in either Amsterdam or Southampton
NCL Jewel
  • Seattle WA, Los Angeles CA, Houston TX and Vancouver BC departures
  • 7-day Alaska cruises from Seattle
  • 7-day LA to the Mexican Riviera
  • 7-day Houston to Mexico (Western Caribbean)
  • Panama Canal (LA to Houston, repositioning)
  • 14-day Panama Canal 2016-2017 sailings from LA and Miami
  • 2017: 7-day Alaska (Sawyer Glacier) from Seattle
  • 2017: 8-day Sawyer Glacier from Vancouver to Seattle (May 5, 2017), featuring port calls in Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Icy Strait Point and Victoria BC
  • 2017: 10-day Ultimate Alaska from Seattle to Vancouver (September 23, 2017)
  • homeported in Sydney for its 2017-2018 Australian summer season (40-day repositioning cruise, October 03, 2017 from Vancouver to Sydney via Alaska).
  • 5-day cruise to Tasmania; New Zealand cruises including one-way voyages from Auckland and roundtrips from Sydney. The last cruise of the season departs Sydney on March 21, 2018 and ends in Osaka, in time for Japan’s cherry blossom season, via Indonesia, Vietnam and China. 
NCL Pearl
  • Seattle, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver departures
  • 7-day Alaska cruises from Seattle WA
  • 14-day repositioning LA to Miami, Panama Canal
  • 10-day from Miami to Eastern Caribbean
  • 11-day from Miami to Southern Caribbean
  • 10-11-day roundtrip Panama Canal and Caribbean from Miami
  • 2017: 7-day Alaska (Glacier Bay) from Seattle
  • 2017-2018: seasonal Western Caribbean sailings from New Orleans.
NCL Sky
  • 3-4day Miami to Bahamas cruises
  • 2017: year-round 3- and 4-day cruises to the Bahamas from Miami, visiting Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, NCL Norwegian’s private island
  • During fall and winter 2017-2018 Norwegian Sky offers 3- and 4-day Bahamas cruises from Miami year-round, with an all-inclusive experience boasting a free open bar.
NCL Spirit EUROPE cruise (Mediterranean, Canaries)
  • Port Canaveral, Malaga, Barcelona and Venice departures
  • 7-day from Port Canaveral to the Eastern Caribbean, visiting BVI
  • 7-day from Port Canaveral to Jamaica and Mexico (Western Caribbean)
  • 12-day from Venice to Barcelona (Mediterranean)
  • Mediterranean from Barcelona, Istanbul, Venice
  • 10-day Canary Islands Barcelona to Morocco
  • South America 2016-2017, 7-20 nights from Buenos Aires, Santiago (Valparaiso), Rio de Janeiro
  • repositioning Transatlantic
  • 2017: 10- and 11- night Mediterranean cruises between Barcelona and Venice
  • Norwegian Spirit is scheduled for early 2017 dry dock for significant enhancements. The ship remains in Europe for 2017 fall and winter, sailing the Canary Islands out of Barcelona. From late November 2017 to late April 2018, the 10-day Spain, Morocco and Canary Islands itinerary of Norwegian Spirit includes Casablanca, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Las Palmas, Funchal, Madeira, Malaga and Alicante.
NCL Star In 2016 and 2017 Norwegian Star will offer cruises to Asia, with itineraries departing from Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Sydney and Auckland
  • Miami, Los Angeles, Tampa and Copenhagen departures
  • 7-day Tampa to Mexico (Western Caribbean)
  • 7-day Los Angeles to Mexican Riviera
  • 9-day Copenhagen to Scandinavia and Russia (Baltic)
  • 7-day from Copenhagen to Norwegian Fjords
  • 14-day from Copenhagen to UK-Norway-Iceland
  • 14-day LA to Miami (Panama Canal)
  • repositioning Transatlantic
  • Asia 2016-2017 (out of Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Sydney and Auckland)
  • 2017: sailings from Venice to Turkey and the Greek Isles
NCL Sun
  • Tampa, San Diego, Seward AK, Whittier AK, Vancouver BC, Valparaiso (Santiago) and Buenos Aires departures
  • 7-day Tampa to Mexico (Western Caribbean)
  • 11-day from San Diego to Mexican Riviera
  • 7-day Alaska cruises from Seward and Whittier
  • 14-day Alaska cruises roundtrip from Vancouver
  • 14-day from Buenos Aires and Santiago to South America
  • 2017: 7-day Alaska voyages alternating between British Columbia, Seward and Vancouver
  • 2017: 14-day Ultimate Alaska from San Francisco to Vancouver (May 15, 2017)
NCL Pride of America – Hawaii
  • 7-day Hawaii cruises from Honolulu HI (round-trip).
  • The refurbished Pride of America continues to sail from Honolulu on Saturdays through April 2018.

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).

Norwegian Cruise Line related cruise news