tar Cruises' purchase of Norwegian
Cruise Line in early 2000 infused what had been a struggling
operator with a much-needed shot of vitality.
A year and a half later, Star's takeover is resulting in a
series of new ships for NCL.
NCL took delivery of the 78,309-ton Norwegian Sun in a ceremony
at the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany, last month,
and introduced the vessel with a two-day cruise across the North
Sea to Southampton, England.
Norwegian Sun is the sister vessel to Norwegian Sky, which NCL
introduced in 1999.
"It's a sister ship, not a twin sister, but a step up," said
Colin Veitch, NCL's president and chief executive officer.
The 1,960-passenger ship will be followed by the 91,000-ton,
2,240-passenger Norwegian Star, under construction at Germany's
Meyer Werft shipyard. Another ship, the 2,240-passenger Norwegian
Dawn, will debut in December 2002.
The building program will give NCL four megaships and, more
importantly, modern tonnage in a mass market dominated by large,
feature-rich new ships. "With new ships, the benefits are built
in," said Veitch.
The Sun also is "the first NCL
ship that's given us the opportunity to blend the experience of
Star Cruises into the American style of NCL," said Andy Stuart,
senior vice president of marketing and sales.
It also is the line's first purpose-built ship for the Freestyle
Cruising program. As such, it features more dining options than
have ever been offered on a cruise ship, officials claim.
"Freestyle Cruising is a complete change of the cruise product
that centers on dining," said Stuart. "It is a perspective brought
to us by hoteliers."
Hotel and land-based resort guests, said Stuart, would never
expect to be told where and when to eat and with whom.
And neither should cruise passengers, according to Veitch.
Said Veitch, "The [cruise] market will only grow to a certain
size if everyone does the same thing. We are trying to broaden the
It's virtually impossible to discuss the Norwegian Sun without
mention of its array of restaurants. There are nine venues offering
10 separate menus.
This means passengers on a seven-day cruise can dine in a
different restaurant every night.
NCL also has upgraded the quality of the cuisine and placed
additional waitstaff at each eatery to step up service levels, said
Like many first-run ships, the Sun's staff displayed a
noticeable degree of unfamiliarity with the ship and each other.
But this is likely to fade as personnel gains crucial experience
from daily operations.
Nevertheless, the Sun's menu of restaurants is impressive. The
Four Seasons restaurant seats 564 and is one of two main
restaurants serving traditional fare. The Seven Seas restaurant,
the other main eatery, focuses on contemporary cuisine and seats
Il Adagio is a formal Italian eatery that's somewhat more
intimate than the main restaurants. Le Bistro, on Sun's Sports
deck, offers French-Mediterranean cuisine.
Ginza is another specialty venue, with sushi the featured
attraction. East Meets West, which NCL calls
"California/Hawaii/Asian fusion," features a live lobster tank, and
Las Ramblas is a colorful tapas bar with lounge seating.
Pacific Heights might be the first cruise-ship restaurant
dedicated solely to "healthy living, spa and fitness cuisines."
Also on Pool Deck is the Garden Cafe, the ship's 24-hour lido
restaurant, serving hamburgers and hot dogs, soups and salads and
food stations featuring paella, crepes, meat and fish.
Under Freestyle Cruising, passengers can opt for open seating
dinner in one of the ship's two main restaurants from 5:30 p.m. to
midnight. The Sun also has a 24-hour room service menu.
The diverse restaurants add an element of adventure to what is
already a very contemporary and lively vessel.
NCL made the intriguing decision to adorn traditionally white
exterior bulkheads and some interior areas with brightly colored
prints, making the ship feel something like a relaxed but slightly
The staterooms are above average. Light cherry wood-toned
furnishings in a deco/nautical style blend well with brightly
patterned upholstery and bedding. The cabin artwork is
unpretentious and contemporary. Bathrooms feature marble sinks atop
Of the ship's 1,000 staterooms, there are 432 standard balcony
cabins (measuring 172 square feet), 30 minisuites with balconies
(267 square feet), and four owner's suites (502 square feet).
The Sun's wide assortment of facilities and amenities make the
vessel a true megaship. There's a two-story main show lounge that
also doubles as a late-night dance club. The lighting is a bit
bright for that particular purpose, but certainly adequate.
Norwegian Sun also offers a large casino, an Internet cafe with
24 computer terminals, a health spa and salon operated by Mandara
Spa (Body Waves), a wine bar, a cigar club, an observation lounge,
a conference room, a library, a chapel, a card room and a duty-free