Norwegian Cruise Line has embarked on a major expansion course that would require $700 million to $800 million over the next few years and that may be only the beginning.

First, NCL recently made a bid to buy the hull of the Costa Olympia for $29 million. While the deal has not been finalized, it may cost NCL another $200 million to complete the 77,000-ton, 2,000-passenger vessel.

More recently, NCL also made a bid to the Kvaerner Group to acquire the 1,056-passenger Royal Majesty for $110 million in cash, plus shares worth $80 million in NCL. Under the agreement NCL will also take over the operation of the 820-passenger Crown Dynasty and commission a new vessel from Kvaerner Masa-Yards, which could easily cost another $300 million.

In addition, NCL is committed to stretching both of the 1,246-passenger sister ships, the Dreamward and the Windward, which would cost in the area of $100 million or more.

While NCL President Hans Golteus confumed the plans, he would not comment on the financing, although company executives have previously said that NCL is planning an initial public offering (IPO) in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Kvaerner becomes a 20 percent shareholder in NCL which leads to another scenario. Since Kvaerner also owns Cunard Line, could a merger between Cunard and NCL be in the cards?

Golteus said that NCL would continue to seek new homeports and new itineraries for its ships and that the 800- to 1,000-passenger range of the Royal Majesty and Crown Dynasty was ideal to explore new programs.

"Our edge is to be different than the other cruise lines," Golteus said. "This size of ship also affords us more opportunities and less risk to explore new programs," he added.

He also said that since the company began its focus on one brand name that the whole world has become its playground, and therefore the line would not disregard new programs in th e Far East or Europe.