Norwegian Cruise Line fleet
Review of Norwegian Cruise Line
The American-Bermudian passenger shipping corporation Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH) was founded in 1966. NCLH is headquartered in Miami (Florida USA) and publicly traded (NASDAQ) company listed on NYSE (NYC). NCLH's major shareholders are the corporations Apollo Global Management (American), Genting Group (Malaysian) and TPG Capital (American). In 2017, NCLH (shipowner) had worldwide cruise market share 9,5% (passengers) and 12,8% (revenue), combining the fleets of its three subsidiary cruise companies (sister-brands) Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Oceania and RSSC (Regent).
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) was founded in 1966 (under the name "Norwegian Caribbean Line) by two shipping magnates - Knut Kloster (Norwegian, 1929-alive) and Ted Arison (Israeli, 1924-1999). Passenger shipping operations started with one vessel (cruise ferry/combined cruise ship and car ferry) operating on short and cheap Caribbean cruises. When Ted Arison left NCL in 1972 (to establish Carnival Cruise Lines), Knut Kloster acquired more ships for NCL's Caribbean operations. NCLH corporation's President and CEO is Frank Del Rio. NCL company's CEO is Harry Sommer (since 2020).
The following table shows statistical data about NCL-Norwegian Cruise Line's market share (as fleet and passenger capacity / ship-berth numbers) in comparison to other major cruise companies.
|Parent Company||Subsidiaries||Fleets (vessels per brand)||Passenger Capacity (berths per brand)|
|Carnival Corp||Holland America||15||25900|
|Carnival Corp||P&O UK||8||18600|
|Carnival Corp||P&O Australia||5||8200|
|Carnival Corp||TOTAL||103 ships||233,200 berths|
|RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd)||RCI (Royal Caribbean International)||26||84,700|
|RCCL||TOTAL||64 ships||141400 berths|
|NCLH (Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd)||NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines)||16||46600|
|NCLH||TOTAL||26 ships||54400 berths|
|(other large brands)|
3- Star Cruises (GHK)
4- Dream Cruises (GHK)
6- Viking Ocean
NCLH'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 (among world's largest alternative asset management companies).
- In 2011, NCL had around 8% global market share. As of 2018, NCL's global market share is around 20%, ranking it world's 3rd largest passenger shipping company (after Carnival and RCCL).
- In January 2013 NCL went public. In 2013 the company had revenues USD 2,57 billion (13% increase over 2012).
- On August 31, 2014, was announced that NCLH is in "advanced talks" to buy the Miami-based company Prestige Cruise Holdings Inc (owner of RSSC Regent and Oceania - a combined fleet of 8 top-luxury ships with total berths around 6500) for USD 3,025 billion (including debt's assumption). Prestige's owner (Apollo Global Management) also owns 20% of NCLH. On September 2 was announced the acquisition agreement. On November 19 the acquisition of Prestige Cruises International was completed.
- 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. 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).
- In 2018, NCLH had 8 cruise ships on order (7 for NCL and 1 for RSSC Regent) to be delivered 2019 through 2027. Company's newest class (Leonardo) has GT tonnage 140,000 tons and passenger capacity 3300.
- On July 30, 2018, following industry's "eco trend", NCL announced banning fleetwide single-use plastic straws. The policy also includes the private islands Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas) and Harvest Caye (Belize). As result, annually will be eliminated over 50 million plastic straws.
In June 2019, NCL announced company's exclusive partnership with Scarpetta Restaurants via LDV Hospitality (USA-based boutique hospitality company specializing in unique restaurant and bar experiences). By this deal, on the newbuild Norwegian Encore (2019) was introduced fleet's first "Onda by Scarpetta" - specialty restaurant offering dining premium experiences fleetwide. The new restaurant joins Scarpetta's land-based restaurants in NYC, The Hamptons (Long Island NY), Miami FL, Philadelphia PA, Newport RI, Las Vegas NV, and London OH. "Onda by Scarpetta" restaurant's menu showcases the unique flavors of the modern Italian cuisine featuring a selection of beautifully presented seafood and signature dishes, including daily handmade pasta and traditional gourmet desserts. The new NCL Scarpetta restaurant is similarly designed to the land-based venues, with an interior featuring walnut wood and Calacatta marble.
NCL's list of "cruise industry 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 company with a private island (Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas), the first company to develop new Caribbean seaports of call (Jamaica's Ocho Rios). Both NCL's first cruise ships - Sunward (1966) and Starward (1968) - were car-ferries, but later their car decks were refitted into cabin decks (housing staterooms) and a 2-deck high theatre lounge.
A new history page for NCL Norwegian was the year 1979 when was purchased the Transatlantic ocean liner SS France - thoroughly refitted and renamed SS Norway. Cruise ship's drydock conversion cost over USD 100 million, but it was money well spent. Bigger than any other cruise liner, SS Norway in its time offered extra space for a great variety of onboard entertainment, thus starting the new era of "ship cruise for fun" and creating the time of mega-liners.
Norwegian Cruise Line (better known by the NCL abbreviation) as a brand represents one of world's top 3 major cruise line companies (following only Carnival and Royal Caribbean). It is best known for its revolutionary "Freestyle Cruising" (trademarked) concept signifying no fixed dining times or seatings, and no formal dress-code required fleetwide.
The list of NCL's destinations includes all the world's most popular ship travel regions - Alaska and Hawaii, Europe (including UK itineraries), Bahamas-Caribbean and Bermuda, Asia and Australia New Zealand. Under the brand name "Norwegian Capricorn Line" (1997-2001), NCL operated exclusively Australia and New Zealand. A whole new era for the company started in 2002 when it purchased the first Project America vessel (under construction at the time). The future Pride of America was towed (as hull) from its initial building yard at Pascagoula (MS, USA) to be completed in Germany by Lloyd Werft.
Pride of America is the largest US-flagged passenger ship, homeported in Honolulu for year-round Hawaiian Islands cruises with roundtrip itineraries. Due to financial considerations, the other NCL America ships in Hawaii - Pride of Aloha (now Norwegian Sky) and Pride of Hawaii (now Norwegian Jade) were later transferred to company's international fleet.
NCL's Caribbean itineraries always visit company's Bahamian private island Great Stirrup Cay (purchased in 1977). A port of call exclusively for NCL ships, Great Stirrup's vacation experience starts and ends with the "Bahama Rama Mama" tender boat (capacity of 300 passengers).
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.
For FY2017 (fiscal year) NCLH reported the following data:
- GAAP ("Generally Accepted Accounting Principle") net income was USD 760 million (USD 633,1 million FY2016).
- The adjusted GAAP was USD 907,7 million (USD 776,3 million in 2016).
- EPS ("Earnings Per Share") was USD 3,31 (USD 2,78 in 2016).
- The adjusted EPS was USD 3,96 (USD 3,41 in 2016).
- NCLH's Net Revenue was USD 4,2 billion (11,2% increase over 2016 / USD 3,8).
- The adjusted ROIC (Return On Invested Capital") for 2017 was 16,26%.
- NCLH's total revenue reached USD 5,4 billion (10,7% increase over 2016 / USD 4,9 billion).
- Gross Yield (yield on investments before deduction of taxes and expenses) increased 4,4%.
- Adjusted Net Yield increased by 5% (Constant Currency basis).
- Marine fuel expenses in 2017 were USD 361 million.
NCL ship refurbishments
Ship refurbishments were the biggest part of "The Norwegian Edge" (fleetwide upgrade program). Drydock refurbishments started in October 2015 with NCL Epic, followed NCL Gem in November 2015. Scheduled drydocks in 2016 were for Pride of America, NCL Dawn, NCL Sun. These dry docks were longer than usual for NCL ships (some up to 3 weeks).
All NCL liners (except NCL Jewel) were refurbished by the end of 2017 (Jewel in 2018). The "Norwegian Edge" project covered 11 vessels - all older ships launched before NCL 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 MDRs (main dining rooms) and Lido-buffets. Most public spaces (including all lounges, bars, complimentary food bars) received new furniture and flooring, some were completely re-designed.
Another major upgrade was the shipwide Wi-Fi, installing interactive digital signage boards and way finders, new teak flooring (on open decks), new carpeting (hallways and corridors), adding more shaded seating areas, private cabanas and loungers/deck 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 updates of onboard culinary and enrichment programs, private island upgrades, enhanced cruise tour/destination amenities and services. Detailed refurbishment reviews per vessel you will find at their CruiseMapper's deckplan pages.
As part of the program was enhanced Great Stirrup Cay (NCL's private island in Bahamas), This project resulted in building new facilities, newly added bars, and lounges, redesigned and renovated venues, enhanced The Haven Suite passenger experience. Details on all these changes are available at the above island link.
In November 2017, the company MAN PrimeServ (a division of the marine engines manufacturer "MAN Diesel and Turbo") confirmed order from NCLH for SOLAS insulation upgrades for all 9 liners (44 diesel engines total) 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 brand's specialty dining menus on Norwegian Escape and introduced them fleetwide. These new menus are for 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.
NCL is noted for its high-quality shipboard foods, restaurants, unique dining concepts, well-trained certified chefs-waiters-sommeliers.
- Almost all the shipboard food (98%) is made on the ship and from scratch - including all sauces, bread, pastries, and desserts.
- All ships have full-service butcheries.
- All fish is bought whole and cut and trimmed on the ship.
- Cruise Itinerary-based regional dishes and local beers and wines are always available,
- On NCL Bliss were introduced the restaurants Q (Texas BBQ smokehouse serving smoked meats, brisket, beef-pork ribs, pulled pork, various sides) and Los Lobos (Mexican, also serving tequilas and mezcals).
Private cruise island 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). Harvest Caye port 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, NCL offers all-inclusive cruise itineraries in some markets. Company's new program was named "Premium All Inclusive" and is included in NCL's 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 and Russia, Belgium, Holland, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Turkey, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Angola, 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 onboard purchased bottles of wine, champagne, sparkling wines.
- Passengers aged 20-20-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 specialty coffees (in all restaurants at meal times).
- All gratuities and service charge related to the new all-inclusive onboard services are cruise ticket price inclusive.
- Passengers in "The Haven" staterooms and those in Suites receive 250 minutes of free WiFi, USD 100 in OBC (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, and include all cabin categories. Since September 2017, NCL offers "Premium All-Inclusive Plus" package. The new offer includes 5 additional benefits for passengers booking a selection of port-intensive longer voyages (9 nights or longer) in all worldwide destinations. The additional perks are 250-min internet package, 120-min phone package, US$50 shore excursion credit (per call port), up to GBP 75 hotel credit (in select call ports) and up to GBP 150 flight credit.
In 2015, on NCL Sun and NCL Sky ships was introduced fare-inclusive open bars for all passengers 21 years and older. However, this program was terminated in 2019 (effective for itineraries on or after September 7, 2019). Via NCL/s "Free at Sea" program on both vessels, passengers may continue to enjoy an unlimited open bar, complimentary specialty dining, free WiFi, excursion credits, family members sail free, reduced or free airfare.
NCL's Priority Access
In 2019, NCL started to test a program (Priority Access) that allows new customers to buy the perks generally associated with NCL's loyalty program (Latitudes). "Priority Access" is currently being tested on 2 liners (Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Breakaway) with pricing between USD 69 and 199 per stateroom.
NCL Priority Access passengers receive:
- Priority check-in, security, boarding, tendering, debarkation (homeport)
- Access to daily, complimentary Room Service Breakfast Menu
- Spa Credit (USD 50) on port days only
- Canapes (delivered on the 2nd day of the voyage)
NCL Priority Access prices (per stateroom) are:
- US$69 - for itineraries 3-5 days
- US$99 - for itineraries 6-9 days
- US$149 for itineraries 10-15 days
- US$199 for itineraries 16/16+ days
During this test period in 2019, Priority Access is limited to 25 cabins per cruise.
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 a suite or to The Haven accommodation. However, they can't choose the exact stateroom (number) to which they are assigned.
(new) NCL cruise gratuities (2019-2020 cruises)
Daily gratuities are per person (pp):
- USD 14,50 pp (interior, oceanview, balcony staterooms, both adults and kids) - increased from USD 13,99 pp (effective since April 1, 2018)
- USD 17,50 (suites receiving concierge / butler services) - increased from USD 16,99 pp (effective since April 1, 2018)
- Gratuities increases apply to all NCL cruise vessels, excepting Norwegian Sky (which is drinks-inclusive). On NCL Skyship, standard cabin and mini-suite passengers pay per person USD 18,99 per day, while suite passengers pay USD 21,99 pp 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).
- Ship's specialty restaurants (a la carte priced or cover charge venues) add an 18% gratuity service charge.
NEWS: Since April 1, 2019, NCL increased fleetwide (except Sun and Sky ships) the daily tips to USD 15 pp (all cabin categories through Mini-Suite) and USD 18 pp (for Suites and The Haven staterooms).
(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 a 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.
NCL ships itineraries overview
|Ship Name||Homeports||Itineraries Changes|
NYC New York
Port Canaveral Florida
NOLA New Orleans
USA departures (New Orleans and Boston) and Canada (Quebec City)
Port Canaveral Florida
The new liner Encore enters service on November 17, 2019. From homeport Miami, the ship operates roundtrips (Sunday departures) on 7-day Eastern Caribbean itineraries with call ports San Juan Puerto Rico, St Thomas USVI, and Tortola BVI.
NYC New York
New York City departures
Europe cruises (MEDITERRANEAN)
San Francisco CA
Los Angeles CA
EUROPE cruise (Mediterranean, Canaries)
NCL cruises to Cuba
In December 2016, NCLH (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. The itinerary also visits the NCL private island Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas).
- In 2018, NCL expands its Cuba cruise program to a total of 63 itineraries, most of which offer Havana overnight.
- Norwegian Sun completed her first season of voyages to Cuba from Port Canaveral FL with her last roundtrip on September 3, 2018, before she moved to Miami for select itineraries before South America (for fall/winter season). Being the first Port Canaveral-homeported vessel to Cuba, NCL Sun ship served 30,000+ travelers on 15 roundtrips (4-day Cuba itinerary) during summer 2018 season, visiting Key West Florida and Havana (overnight). Following the successful first season, NCL Sun returned to Port Canaveral in April 2019 with Cuban itineraries.
IMPORTANT: On June 4, 2019, the US Government announced new regulations (economic sanctions) that ended group travel to Cuba, including via US-homeported cruise liners, effective immediately. The ban relates to "private and corporate aircraft, cruise ships, sailboats, fishing boats, and other similar aircraft and vessels". The US travel restrictions impacted hundreds of pre-scheduled cruise itineraries, which were adjusted to no longer stop in Cuban seaports.
UPDATE: NCL's Cuban cruise program was based on two Florida-homeported liners - Norwegian Sky (from Miami) and Norwegian Sun (from Port Canaveral). Following the US Gov's June 2019-issued ban on group travel to Cuba from USA, NCL revised all its scheduled itineraries visiting Cuban seaports. All planned departures beyond September 2 (2019) were auto-canceled. Cuba-visiting itineraries prior September 2 were modified to exclude Havana and visit other Caribbean ports - including in Bahamas (Great Stirrup Cay Island, Freeport, Nassau) and Florida (Key West).
The list of passenger shipping lines offering cruises to Cuba included:
- 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 UK / Marella Cruises (ship Marella 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 the USA to Cuba was thought charter flights only.
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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