As previously suggested, Star Cruises is transferring one of its Libra-class 91,000-ton, 2,300-passenger vessels, the Superstar Scorpio, to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). The ship is under construction at Meyer Werft for delivery in 2002.
"Our intention is to introduce one new ship every year," said Colin Veitch, president and CEO of NCL. "Transferring the second Libra-class ship allows us to do that in 2002 and we still have time to think about 2003."
In 2001, NCL will take delivery of the second Sky-class ship, the Norwegian Sun, under construction at Lloyd Werft. NCL also has an option on a third Sky-class ship.
Meanwhile, NCL has also introduced sweeping and exciting changes to its cruise product.
The Libra-class NCL ship will feature a new style of cruising, referred to by NCL as Freestyle Cruising, which will also be introduced progressively aboard its other newbuildings and some of its existing ships over the next two years, according to Veitch.
At the top of the list may be the open seating in the main dining rooms. The two main dining rooms will also offer different menus. In addition will be a round the-clock buffet-style restaurant with bistro service in the evening. The new ships will also boast five a la carte specialty restaurants.
"Our passengers will choose when, where, with whom, and of course what they eat, just as they would at a good resort," Veitch said.
The main dining rooms will also stay open much longer than on other ships. No one is going to ask passengers to leave in order to make up the room for the next seating.
Another unique feature of the newbuild will be a so-called fantasy-world top deck complex of multi-room villas with private gardens featuring open-air dining, massage, Jacuzzis, and totally private sunning and relaxing areas.
There will be 36 suites, 372 standard staterooms with balconies, and an entire deck of 107 mini-suites with balconies.
NCL will also staff up to the top-end resort ratio of one crew member per cabin. With more crew the ship can provide a higher level of service and keep the public rooms and restaurants open longer, Veitch said.
And notably, with more crew the ship can dedicate people to operating a more flexible and passenger-friendly check-out and disembarkation procedure. Veitch hinted that the new ship may have a check-out time like a resort or hotel whereby passengers can disembark at their leisure rather than being herded off the ship on the last morning.
With 2,300 passengers, the new ship will have a crew of 1,150.
The changes have come fast. Veitch has hardly been aboard at NCL for more than a couple of months.
In Australia, NCL decided to buy out its partner in Norwegian Capricorn Line and will close the line down following the Summer Olympic Games. It was not profitable, according to Veitch.
But he expects Orient Lines to continue as a separate brand.
Internally, several management changes have taken place:
Svenn Dahl, senior vice president of operations, is retiring, and his responsibilities will be assumed by Sigve Bru, senior vice president of marine operations.
Werner Euteufel, vice president of hotel operations, left some time ago and his job has been taken over by Frank Schmitt. who most recently was number two in the hotel department at Star, Veitch explained.
Jim Green has taken over as vice president of casino operations. Green was number two in the casino operations at Star.
New ship deployments have already been announced and were reported in Cruise Indusfly News (CIN) March 15.
Changes are also underway in marine operations where so-called black boxes will be installed on the ships· bridges - and in procedural systems, whereby there will be two officers on duty plus crew on the bridge at any time. The hotel departments are of course working on the product changes. Marketing is changing emphasis to more direct marketing while a new reservation system is being developed on the IT side, according to Veitch.
"We also expect to be the first cruise line to offer agents the opportunity to host our booking engine on their sites," Veitch added.
Already there are certain synergies with Star that are benefiting NCL. "In newbuildings and marine operations, we are now global," Veitch said. "In purchasing we are local and global."
Looking 10 years out Veitch expects NCL to be twice the size it is today and sees an NCL fleet of all new ships including the orwegian Dream and the Norwegian Wind.
Will he build post-Panamax? Not in the foreseeable future. "We need the flexibility," Veitch said, adding "but never say never."
Veitch's goal is to capture a 10 percent market share. "That means we have to grow just to keep up with the growth in the market," he said.