Norwegian name change signals new marketing message

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NEW YORK -- What's in a name? A lot, when your company has cruised the western coast of Norway for more than 100 years as Bergen Line, and is now sailing into the next century under the operating name Norwegian Coastal Voyage. Under any name, the company's cruising grounds are the same, filled with colorful ports and hamlets, fjords and glaciers.

Norwegian Coastal Voyage is the new name for the former Bergen line. The difference, according to president Rosalyn Gershell, is the company's new way of marketing its product.

"We changed the cruise line name to Norwegian Coastal Voyage/Bergen Line Services in the North American market to more closely identify who we are and what we do," said Gershell, "[placing] greater emphasis on seeing Norway our way and marketing the destination [itself]."

With the name change comes a shift in focus toward the company's brand of expedition cruises that offers a mix of natural attractions, soft adventure and cultural encounters during stops at more than 30 ports of call, Gershell said.

A full program of shore excursions is now available, including visits to Tromso's Polar Museum, the Lofoten Islands with their art colonies and fishing industry, the reindeer lands of the North Cape and the Svartisen Glacier, where passengers can opt for a small-boat ride to the glacier's face.

Newly available this year, April through September, is an exploration of the Geirangerfjord -- wild, steep, high and deep -- on northbound sailings from Bergen.

Gershell says the Norwegian Coastal Voyage is for the repeat cruise client, and passengers on board are "upscale, well-educated and informed, sensitive to nature, and enjoy a relaxed way of life."

She called the line's North American passenger base "the Eddie Bauer-LL Bean set, if you will."

The Norwegian Coastal Voyage operates year-round on a 1,250-mile stretch of Norway's western coast, offering seven-day northbound sailings from Bergen, six-day southbound cruises from Kirkenes above the Arctic Circle and 12-day roundtrip sailings.

More than half of the 11 ships in the Norwegian Coastal Voyage fleet have been built since 1993. Passenger capacities range from 170 to 490, and Gershell said the ships feature "Mother Nature" and on-board entertainment.

"There is a lot of of conviviality, but not much glitz," she said. Norwegian Coastal Voyage vessels also double as cargo vessels, carrying milk and vegetables to remote communities.

The ships also offer regional transportation for Norwegians taking children to their christenings and newlyweds on their honeymoons.

Most Norwegian Coastal Voyage ships are comfortable and informal and include a lounge, a dining room, a 24-hour cafeteria and a souvenir and sundries shop.

The line's six newer vessels also feature a children's playroom, conference facilities, a basic fitness room, washing machines, a sauna and elevators and cabins for disabled passengers.

Outside cabins on the new ships are furnished with two lower berths that fold up during the day to create a small sitting room. These staterooms also include private bathrooms with showers and hairdryers, a radio and individual air and heating controls.

The new ships also have junior suites and two large suites with a comfortable sitting area, a TV and a separate bedroom with a queen-sized bed.

The company's Bergen Line Services unit handles other products marketed by Norwegian Coastal Voyage, including Silja Line, Gota Canal Cruises and cruises to Spitsbergen and Greenland.

Gershell said Norwegian Coastal Voyage is maintaining fares at 1997 levels through April. In May through October, fares will increase by 4% over last year. Beginning in May, rates for outside cabins will range from $844 to $1,770 per person, double, for the seven-day northbound voyage from Bergen; from $715 to $1,498 for the six-day southbound sailing starting in Kirkenes, and $1,295 to $2,720 for the 12-day roundtrip.

All fares include three meals daily and all port taxes. Discounts for passengers ages 67 and older range from $90 to $220 for most of the year.

For additional information and reservations, contact Norwegian Coastal Voyages at (800) 323-7436 or (212) 319-1300; fax (212) 319-1390, or on the Web at www.coastalvoyage.com.

Brochure requests should be directed to a 24-hour line at (800) 666-2374.

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