NEW YORK -- With a precedent-setting dual christening in Miami last
month, Norwegian Cruise Line put its first ships designed under the
company's Freestyle Cruising system into service.
The ships will characterize the NCL product orientation for the
future, said Colin Veitch, NCL's president. "Norwegian Sun and
Norwegian Star are the what we're offering in the marketplace. They
aren't better or worse than the traditional cruise model, but they
are different," he said. "Our strategy is to grow our fleet with
Both the Sun and the Star offer the Freestyle system's meal-time
flexibility and relaxed onboard dress code and atmosphere. The
program also offers expanded dining options with 10 restaurants
aboard both ships. The Norwegian Star will be based year-round in
Hawaii; Norwegian Sun will offer western Caribbean cruises
beginning this fall.
Additionally, NCL's introduction of the 78,309-ton Norwegian Sun
and the 91,000-ton Norwegian Star is coinciding with a post-Sept.
11 booking surge, said Veitch. He said the Sun is 85% booked, and
the Star is 95% booked for the first quarter of 2002.
"The last couple of weeks, we are ahead of last year's bookings
in dollar terms," said Veitch. NCL also has more occupancy booked
this year compared with the same period in 2000. Although rates are
still near historic lows and "pricing remains aggressive," said
Veitch, "things are not as 'gloom and doom' as some would have it,
and the new ships help."
The NCL chief thanked the city of Miami, the travel agent
community and the ships' builders, whom he said all played a role
in NCL's expansion. Dato K.T. Lim, chairman of Star Cruises, NCL's
Singapore-based parent, called the debut of the ships "a
celebration of rebirth for NCL." Veitch said the new ships and the
resurging bookings point to the cruise segment's strong
fundamentals. "There is no business base to this segment; no one
takes a cruise because they have to. But we are still the only
travel segment whose bookings are growing."