With next week’s debut of the hugely anticipated Norwegian Getaway bang on schedule, and two new, further enhanced ships in the same class now firm orders with Meyer Werft at Papenburg, Norwegian can begin contemplating possible expansion into other areas. The question is; where, and with what?
It might be first best to look at the current Norwegian fleet as it stands right now. The fleet comprises the near sisters, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Sky, as well as the Papenburg built sextet of Star, Dawn, Jewel, Jade, Pearl and Gem.
The Norwegian Spirit is unique in the fleet, having transferred over from Star Cruises, instead of vice versa, as was the norm.
The stand alone Norwegian Epic and the Hawaii- based Pride Of America rounded out the roster, until the debut last spring of the spectacularly successful Norwegian Breakaway. With the imminent addition of Getaway next week, that brings the total number of ships under the company colours to thirteen in all.
Currently, Sky is deployed year round on three and four night cruises from Miami. Sister ship, Norwegian Sun, spends summers in Alaska, and winters in the Caribbean.
In Europe, the company has a spring through fall annual deployment of the Epic, which returns to the Caribbean each winter; there is also a year round Mediterranean ship- Norwegian Jade- while the beautiful, oriental themed Spirit spends summer in the Med, and winters cruising to the Canary Islands.
Seasonal Scandinavia sailings are currently handled out of Copenhagen by the Norwegian Star. In the fall season, she relocates to Los Angeles for cruises down to the Mexican Riviera. As previously cited, the one off Pride Of America operates year round sailings around the Hawaiian Islands.
The new Norwegian Breakaway sails year round from New York; to Bermuda in the summer, and the Bahamas through the winter. The remainder of the Norwegian fleet- Jewel and Pearl- spend summers in Alaska, and winters in the Caribbean. Norwegian Dawn spends summers sailing to Bermuda from Boston, and winters in the Caribbean as well.
The addition of Norwegian Getaway- scheduled to operate year round, seven day cruises out of Miami- gives the line some limited options to expand into other markets. We’re not talking about the far reaching, large global redeployments of Carnival and Royal Caribbean- yet- but a new ship does allow a little flexibility in the Norwegian fleet as it stands.
So, what form might such deployments take?
Certainly not a year round ship in the UK in the immediate future. Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan told me himself that he has no plans to base a ship permanently in the British market.
Nor does Asia seem especially likely; sister company, Star Cruises, has that area pretty well covered and, with its own massive new build coming in a year or two, there seems little incentive for Norwegian to go in that direction, either.
Instead, Norwegian might go for an Australian deployment. The company briefly flirted with the Antipodes in the late nineties, with the short lived Norwegian Capricorn Line. It was an idea before it’s time, but that time could have finally come around.
Possibly the Norwegian Pearl, or even the Jewel, could make the switch to Australian sailings. Rumours have centered around the Norwegian Epic going south of the Equator, but she would be too big an act to follow up with in Europe for now, at least. I think one of the smaller ships might get a revamp, and then go to Australia.
Less adventurous, Norwegian could also reintroduce a ship on the five day circuit out of Miami, to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. It did this for a number of seasons (I sailed on a couple of them) but, in the last few years, these cruises have been left entirely to their rivals. It should be a realistic goal over the winter, at the very least.
And with two more ships coming over the next few years- Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss- the company will be replete with more new tonnage to utilize. A return to South America cruising (Norwegian used to specialize in long cruises along and through the Chilean Fjords at one time) could be on the cards, or even a possible entry into the South African cruise season might be on the cards.
In any event, next week’s debut of the Norwegian Getaway certainly moves Norwegian up a gear as a company. I’ll be on board next week for her inaugural celebrations, with a review to follow.
As always, stay tuned.