Norwegian to launch five ships in next seven years

About 500 agents boarded Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss for its maiden voyage. Harry Kemble joins the sailing from Bremerhaven to Southampton

Norwegian Cruise Line wants to achieve “thoughtful, measured, disciplined growth” as it prepares to launch five ships in the next seven years.

Andy Stuart, NCL president and chief executive, told a press briefing during Norwegian Bliss’s inaugural sailing how the line planned growth up until 2025.

Norwegian Encore, the line’s last Breakaway Plus-class ship, due in 2019, will be followed by four Leonardo-class ships, in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025. The line also has two additional options.

Stuart revealed the line’s fleet capacity would increase from 46,520 to 64,000 berths over the next seven years.

“Growth is something that we are excited about as a brand. The way we think about this is – thoughtful, measured, and disciplined growth,” he said.

He added that the new smaller Leonardo-class ship, which has capacity for 3,300 passengers, would offer another chance for the line to “innovate” and “enhance” the guest experience.

“As you can see the capacity [of the Leonardo-class ship] is slightly smaller than Norwegian Bliss [4,004 capacity],” he said.

“We are moving to a footprint that is slightly smaller. It gives us a little bit more flexibility.

“It is going to connect the guests with the ocean. This is really at the heart of everything we do. The [Leonardo-class] ships will continue to enhance the brand in an innovative way.”

Stuart also revealed work was to start on Norwegian’s new Miami cruise terminal this week. It is being built in partnership with the city authorities and is expected to be completed in 2019.

He said: “It is going to be incredible and change the guest experience when arriving into Miami and embarking on a ship.”

NCL invites agents and customers on Norwegian Jade

Norwegian Cruise Line will host 14 ship visits for agents and their customers on Norwegian Jade this summer.

The operator will invite agents to bring groups of between five and 10 customers on board the ship from next month.

The 2,402-passenger vessel is sailing itineraries from Southampton and Hamburg, until November when it will reposition to Miami for the winter season.

Nick Wilkinson, NCL’s UK chief, said: “This is what agents are asking for: the opportunity to host and showcase [ships] to their clients. This is a big game changer.

“It is not about the agents visiting the ship, it is about the agents bringing potential non-cruise customers [on board].”

Agents can book Norwegian Jade ship visit places through NCL or Clia.

‘Switch clients from land to sea on NCL’

Travel agents have been urged to tap into growing demand from UK holidaymakers for all‑inclusive holidays by Norwegian Cruise Line.

According to figures published by Abta, almost a quarter (23%) of Britons are thinking of taking an all-inclusive holiday in 2018 – up from 18% in 2016.

Speaking to agents on new NCL ship Norwegian Bliss, Nick Wilkinson, vice‑president and managing director for the UK, Ireland, the Middle East and Africa, said he believed agents could target that market to boost sales.

NCL offers a Premium All Inclusive fare that includes what was previously classed as ‘extras’.

Wilkinson urged agents to look “wider” and “more broadly” to find Britons thinking of all-inclusive land-based holidays to book an all-inclusive cruise instead. “The one thing that we can guarantee, is that we change the scenery every day.”

‘Too early to say’ if NCL will sail from Liverpool

Norwegian Cruise Line is not planning to launch ex-Liverpool itineraries any time soon, despite the council’s decision to build a bigger cruise terminal in the city.

The Liverpool cruise terminal’s current limit for turnarounds is 1,200 passengers, but if design plans are confirmed the port could handle vessels that have a capacity of up to 3,600 passengers, which includes NCL’s new 3,300-passenger Leonardo‑class ships.

The new facility could open as early as 2020 if more-detailed plans are approved later this year.

Despite the council’s decision, Nick Wilkinson said the city’s port authority and NCL had not discussed bringing its ships to Liverpool.

“It is too early at this stage,” he said.

“One of things the team is doing is looking at how they can constantly refresh the itineraries based on what the customer wants. So we are constantly looking at opportunities.”

Wilkinson: UK market needs more ships

The UK cruise market is “being held back” by a lack of availability in the marketplace.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Nick Wilkinson cited the need for more ships when explaining why UK ocean passenger numbers grew by a modest 0.5% last year to 1.96 million.

Wilkinson said: “One of the reasons [the UK has not grown faster] is that the global demand is at such a level that availability is not in the marketplace. We need more ships.”