Norwegian CEO, Kevin Sheehan, has announced that the Norwegian Epic will be permanently based in Europe as of April 2015. Speaking at a press conference aboard the brand new Norwegian Getaway, Sheehan cited the ship’s continuing popularity in the European market as key to his decision.
Currently, the 154,000 ton Epic- the biggest ship in the Norwegian fleet- spends fall and winter in the Caribbean, before crossing to Barcelona every spring to operate a series of seven night cruises, based on Barcelona, with secondary embarkations in Marseilles and Civitavecchia.
A redeployment for the one off Epic- the only one of the eleven new ships built for the line since 2001 not to be constructed by Meyer Werft in Papenburg- has been rumoured for some time, with some sources suggesting that the giant ship might even go out to Australia. The Europe decision is, to be honest, a bit of a surprise, and it raises a couple of conundrums.
Firstly, what of Norwegian Spirit? The former Superstar Leo was acquired from Star Cruises back in 2003, and has spent the last several years home ported in Barcelona year round. It seems unlikely that Norwegian will also keep her in Europe, once Epic takes up permanent residence.
One possibility is that she could be sent back to Miami, to operate the once popular programme of five night cruises to Cozumel and Grand Cayman that the line abandoned a few years back. This would seem like sensible employment for a still popular and very distinctive ship. Or she could also be put onto short Bahamas cruises, perhaps as a potential replacement for the Norwegian Sky.
The other question revolves around Norwegian Jade, which is currently based in Rome through the winter season, with sailings out of Venice throughout the summer season. Will she stay in Europe, or could Norwegian possibly be considering sending her back to Hawaii, to join the Pride Of America?
After being burdened with far too many ships when it first launched, the Norwegian operation around the Hawaiian islands is now very profitable. Norwegian Jade was originally completed as the Pride Of Hawaii, and was intended for Hawaii inter island cruising from the start.
Whatever, the arrival of the game changing Epic as a permanent addition in Europe is a very welcome development. With more than twenty different eateries and a whole raft of affordable, single studio cabins, the Epic will be the most diverse cruise vessel available year round for European cruises.