NCL under Colin Veitch

Feb. 2000: Colin Veitch named president and CEO of NCL.
May 2000: NCL introduces Freestyle Cruising concept.
Dec. 2001: Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star, the first ships designed for Freestyle Cruising, christened together.
Feb. 2003: NCL receives an exemption to flag foreign-constructed ships under the U.S. flag: Two ships under American Classic Voyages' Project America and one of NCL's vessels.
May 2003: The Norwegian Dawn pioneers year-round cruising from New York.
Jan. 2004: The Pride of America sinks after being flooded while under construction.
July 2004: The interisland, U.S. flag Hawaii program is launched with the Pride of Aloha, previously the Norwegian Sky.
Jan. 2008: Apollo Management invests $1 billion in NCL and becomes become co-owner with Star Cruises.
Feb. 2008: The Pride of Hawaii leaves NCL America fleet and enters service in Europe as the Norwegian Jade. Later, the Pride of Aloha is deployed to the Caribbean as the Norwegian Sky.
March 2008: Norwegian Gem, the ninth Freestyle Cruising ship, is launched.
Nov. 2008: Veitch steps down as CEO; NCL appoints Sheehan president and CEO.

Colin Veitch stepped down from the helm of NCL last week after eights years marked by bold innovation, risky decisions and plain old bad luck.

Veitch, who was replaced by Kevin Sheehan, NCL's current president and CFO, will assume an advisory role to NCL's board.

The beginning of the end of Veitch's career with NCL came early this year, when Apollo Management invested $1 billion in a 50% ownership of the cruise line.

Veitch stepped down from the NCL board in January, after Apollo and Star Cruises closed the deal. In June he resigned his position as executive director at Star Cruises, and in August, he handed his president title to Sheehan.

Known for his sharp tongue and quick wit, Veitch joked at the Seatrade convention in Miami earlier this year that Apollo's investment in NCL was like "a day-and-night, permanent colonoscopy without anesthetic, after which everything sounds like fun."

Veitch's legacy at NCL will be marked by the money-losing venture to bring U.S.-flagged cruising back to Hawaii, but NCL was already struggling when he was tapped by Star to revitalize the cruise line in 2000.

"People tend to forget that he was handed a somewhat dented and tarnished baton," said former cruise industry executive Rod McLeod. "Turning around something the size of NCL is not easy.  He was caught in the middle of the land of two giants [Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises] and was bold and innovative, a strategic necessity.

"He did all the innovative moves that the big guys could easily watch and then copy them if they worked."

Veitch arrived at NCL from Princess Cruises, where he held a senior-level position. 

He was the architect of Freestyle Cruising, making NCL the first major line to do away with traditional two-seating dining and to install several alternative restaurants on its ships. The concept was adopted and modified by nearly every other line.  

Under Veitch, NCL took on nine new cruise ships, in an ambitious fleet renewal program. The line became the first to homeport a ship in New York year-round, with a seven-day, New York-Bahamas itinerary. After 9/11, NCL introduced "homeland cruising," placing ships in homeports that included Houston, Baltimore, Honolulu and New Orleans.

Perhaps most famously, Veitch led the very controversial initiative to revive U.S.-flagged, large ship cruising by forming NCL America, a U.S.-crewed, interisland Hawaii cruise company, in 2004.

The program, born with the aid of government intervention, made NCL America the only cruise line allowed to operate interisland cruises on U.S.-flagged ships that had been built abroad.

At its peak, NCL America had three cruise ships, two specifically built for the brand, sailing the islands. But it didn't take long for the U.S. crew to earn itself a litany of complaints or for the endeavor to drag NCL's earnings into the red.

Earlier this year, NCL removed two of those ships from the Hawaii market; NCL America now operates one ship, the Pride of America.

Veitch's last innovation was NCL's next generation of cruise ships, the F3 class, which were designed without a Lido deck cafe or a main theater, and which feature curved "wave" cabins. 

However, the future of the F3 class is currently in limbo. NCL has been involved in a public dispute with the ships' builder, STX France Cruise (formerly Aker Yards France), and rumors have surfaced that the order could either be cancelled or cut down to one ship. NCL executives have consistently declined to discuss the dispute.

Veitch endured some tragedy during his tenure, such as the boiler explosion on the Norway in May 2003, which killed eight crewmembers.

And he also suffered some bad luck. Few will forget the sinking of the Pride of America while it was still under construction in a German shipyard, less than six months before it was supposed to launch NCL America's Hawaii operations. Or the freakish, rogue wave that smashed into the Norwegian Dawn on its way to New York, knocking out cabin windows and causing minor injuries. 


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