Norwegian Cruise Line(NCL) is expected to introduce new ships in 2004, 05 and 06, following the delivery of the Norwegian Dawn this fall and the Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun last fall.

The first of the newbuildings will be built on the partially completed hull of the first ship of now-defunct American Classic Voyages (AMCV), after NCL has contracted to buy all the materials, equipment and the work performed to date on the two AMCV ships at Northrop Grumman Systems' Ingalls yard (NGSS). The reported purchase amount is $36 million.

The hull will be towed to Europe for completion and the ship will enter service in 2004. It is expected that the work will be done at Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven although NCL insisted that a contract has not been signed.  

The original AMCV design of the ship has been modified to fit NCL's ''Freestyle Cruising" concept, according to a prepared statement. The 2,000-passenger ship will feature eight restaurants and 80 percent of the staterooms will be outside of which 85 percent will have private balconies.

AMCV's contract included two ships and NCL said that it will explore the feasibility of completing the second vessel based on the work in progress and the materials it has purchased as part of the deal with NGSS.

Before the work stopped last June, the first hull was said to be 40 percent complete. Work on the second ship had not started, but 90 percent of the steel and equipment was on order.

Due to work quality and payment disputes between AMCV and Ingalls, work on the first hull stopped in June 2001. AMCV declared bankruptcy in October of 2001.

More New Ships

NCL's parent company, the Star Cruises Group is also in negotiations with Meyer Werft, Mitsubishi and Samsung for what is reported to be a four-ship contract, with two ships going to NCL, the other two to Star's new efforts to penetrate the mainland Chinese market.

The NCL ships are reportedly in the 100,000-ton range with a maximum passenger capacity of 4,000.

Deliveries to NCL would presumably be in 2005 and 2006.

If this scenario plays out, NCL would boast a 12-ship fleet by 2006 (assuming the Norway is retired before then) and would be able to carry more than 1.3 million passengers a year (not counting Orient Lines) compared to an estimated 816,000 at the end of 2002. That would make NCL the third largest cruise company in North America behind Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises, but ahead of P&O Princess Cruises, if the merger/takeover plans do not come to fruition.

Neither Star nor NCL could be reached for comment at press time.

Hawaii

NCL has also conducted what it calls exploratory "discussions with Senator Daniel Inouye's office to understand his criteria for supporting a broadening of the cruise options available in Hawaii." The objective of these discussions is presumably focused on granting NCL an exemption to the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which would allow NCL to put a foreign-flag ship in inter-island Hawaiian service.

According to Senator Inouye's office, issues that must be addressed include full U.S. crew and adherence to American law by a U.S. subsidiary.

While NCL has not been willing to comment on its expectations as far as Hawaii is concerned, the company has stated that it is committed to continuing its existing itineraries calling in Fanning Island where it said it has invested millions of dollars in infrastructure.