NCL Creates Unit for Sailings 'Down Under'


MIAMI -- Norwegian Cruise Line launched Norwegian Capricorn Line, a regional line that will offer year-round cruises in Australia and New Zealand starting in December. The joint-venture company will be owned 50% by Norwegian Cruise Line and 50% by a group of Australian partners headed by former Cunard executive Sarina Bratton.

Norwegian Capricorn Line will charter and reposition the Norwegian Star, an 800-passenger ship that NCL currently operates on seven-night Caribbean cruises from Houston. In Houston, NCL will replace the Norwegian Star with the Norwegian Sea, which can accommodate 1,534 passengers, nearly doubling NCL's capacity out of Houston.

Hans Golteus, president and chief operating officer of NCL, said the Australian cruise market is "virtually untapped," and represents "tremendous potential" for the new company. Eventually, Norwegian Capricorn Line wants to expand its offerings to include Asia/Pacific, Golteus added. The Australia cruises will be marketed to Australians as well as to passengers from the U.S. and Europe, officials said.

Before it repositions to Australia, the Norwegian Star will undergo a three-week drydock for technical and interior improvements. The ship is the subject of a lawsuit by passengers, who said they experienced electrical, air-conditioning and/or plumbing problems on their sailings. Its final cruise out of Houston will be on Oct. 4.

In Australia, the ship will offer itineraries of seven to 14 nights. Summer cruises will include Tasmania and New Zealand, while winter itineraries will feature the Queensland coast, Australia's Top End and the Coral Sea.

The Norwegian Sea, which has been used on 14-night southern Caribbean itineraries from San Juan, Puerto Rico, will offer its last itinerary in that market on Nov. 21, before being redeployed to Houston in December. Its first sailing from Houston is slated for Dec. 13. Because of the ship's larger size, Calica, Mexico, will be dropped from the itinerary, but otherwise the Norwegian Sea will operate the same routing as did the Norwegian Star, including port calls in Cancun and Cozumel, Mexico, and in Roatan, Honduras.

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