Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings will spend $525 million over the next few years mostly to elevate the quality of its existing fleet to the standards set by its newest vessels.

The investments include $400 million earmarked for Norwegian Cruise Line and $125 million for the luxury Regent Seven Seas brand.

The programs reflect CEO Frank Del Rio's conviction that investing in older ships can be just as effective in raising revenue yields as building new ships.

At Norwegian, the $400 million initiative will include upgrades for "guest-facing" amenities such as restaurants, bars, lobbies, lounges, corridors and pool decks on nine ships by 2017.

The improvements have already been made to the Norwegian Epic and Gem and will impact every ship by 2017 except the Norwegian Jewel, which will wait until 2018 for its refurbishment.

Brand President Andy Stuart said drydocks would be longer than in the past to accommodate the improvements. For example, the drydock for the Pride of America that starts Feb. 20 will last three weeks.

"This is a major, major investment in this ship, and we're hitting just about every guest-facing venue during the Pride of America refurbishment," he said.

Stuart said the changes represent a new standard of excellence for the brand and will be collectively known as the "Norwegian Edge."

In addition to the drydock upgrades, the program includes a deeper emphasis on cuisine at Norwegian and improvements to its private destinations Harvest Caye in Belize and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.

Norwegian recently postponed the opening of Harvest Caye by nine months, and Stuart said the destination would be grander than originally planned. "We're putting a lot more into it than was originally conceived," he said.

Plans to upgrade the Regent Seven Seas fleet were prompted by the July delivery of the Seven Seas Explorer, a luxury flagship that will be the line's first newbuild since 2003.

"It was important to us to make sure the original three ships weren't too far separated [from the Explorer]," Regent President Jason Montague said.

First up will be the 1999-built Seven Seas Navigator, which will go into drydock for 12 days in Marseille, France, at the end of March.

One change will be to eliminate the Connoisseur Lounge, which started as a cigar bar but has become a cigarette smoking venue, said Franco Semeraro, senior vice president for hotel operations at Regent.

Regent will move the Navigator's library to that spot, freeing space for a Coffee Connection cafe where the library is now. Other areas getting upgrades will include the reception area, the Navigator Lounge and the La Veranda and Compass Rose restaurants.

The biggest push will be to redo the suites, Franco said. "There are 250 suites we have to touch" in 12 days, he added.

The Navigator is scheduled to emerge from drydock April 13. It will be followed by the Seven Seas Voyager in late 2016 and the Seven Seas Mariner in the spring of 2017.


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