Cruise lines gearing up for newbuild entrances

Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, the Norwegian Gem, began sea trials in Europe this week, in preparation for inaugural events and Mediterranean sailings in October and November, NCL said.

The 93,530-ton ship left the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, on Sept. 15 and transited the River Ems to Eemshaven, Netherlands, from where it began its week-long sea trials.

The Norwegian Gem is slated to arrive in Boston on Dec.13 and its christening ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 18 in New York, NCL said.

Further north, Royal Caribbean International's next newbuild, the Independence of the Seas, was floated out this week at Aker Yards shipyard in Turku, Finland.

The Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's third Freedom-class vessel, will debut in Southampton, England, in May 2008, the cruise line said, adding that the vessel will be the largest ship ever home-ported in Europe.

According to Royal Caribbean, the 160,000-ton vessel's hull is complete and the ship was moved from dry dock to wet dock in order to begin finishing work.

On hand during the float-out ceremony to turn a valve releasing 87 million gallons of water into the wet dock area were Royal Caribbean executives Harri Kulovaara, executive vice president of maritime, Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of sales, and Captain Hernan Zini. Also in attendance were Juha Heikinheimo, president of Aker Yards Cruise and Ferries, and Jykri Heinamaa, the Turku Yard Director.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Johanna Jainchill at [email protected].

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