Why is it that, just like London buses, you wait for ages for news of new cruise ships and then more than one turns up at the same time?
One this occasion, Norwegian Cruise Line is hitting the headlines with plans for a significant hike in capacity.
The line, which created the so-called flexible Freestyle cruising experience with no fixed dining times or formal evenings announced plans to add its biggest ship to the fleet and take an option on another.
The vessels will be in addition to a pair of 4,000-passenger Breakaway-class vessels currently under construction.
The 146,600-ton Norwegian Breakaway is due for delivery in late April 2013 and Norwegian Getaway in mid-January 2014. One will be based in New York and the other in Miami.
The unnamed 163,000-ton newcomer, due to enter service in 2015, will be larger than these and its current big ship Norwegian Epic. If confirmed, the sister ship will join the fleet in 2017.
Norwegian says the newly announced €700 million vessel – dubbed ‘Breakaway Plus’ – will incorporate many of those vessels’ design elements and innovations.
The US company currently operates a fleet of 11 ships, so if the three new-builds, plus a possible fourth, are added Norwegian will be up the amongst the giants of the industry.
To put this into context, Royal Caribbean International currently runs 22 ships and premium sister company Celebrity Cruises has 11.
This puts UK market leader P&O Cruises in the relative shade with seven ships, although its eighth and largest is due for delivery in time for spring 2015.
However, none of the P&O Cruises ships – even the latest one on order – comes close in terms of size compared to the mega vessels joining the Norwegian fleet.
Size isn’t everything
The saying goes that size isn’t everything, but Norwegian seems to have ignored this with ambitions to go larger and larger with its new vessels.
To give you an idea of the enormity of the Breakaway Plus concept, the ship will be bigger than Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, which operates from Southampton in the summer and is popular with British passengers, but below the size of the world’s two biggest cruise ships, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.
However, the new Norwegian ships will be similar in size to a new class of ship ordered by Royal Caribbean. The Project Sunshine cruise ships will be 158,000-tons and carry about 4,100 passengers when theya re delivered in autumn 2014 and spring 2015.
Coincidentally, both the Sunshine and Breakaway Plus ships are being built at the same place, the Meyer Werft ship yard in Papenburg, Germany.
Norwegian’s chief executive Kevin Sheehan says: “Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway have garnered significant attention in the marketplace with their innovative design, rich stateroom mix and world-class amenities.
“Building on that momentum, along with Meyer Werft’s expertise and efficiency in the design and construction process, we are extending the excitement and anticipation with a new, larger edition Breakaway Plus class ship to further distinguish the Norwegian brand.
“This new order further solidifies our commitment to continued innovation in terms of the guest experience and will incorporate technical and environmental advances as well.”
While he’s keeping tight-lipped about what exactly will be on offer on board, we can take a calculated guess that Breakaway Plus will not be too dissimilar to the Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway offerings.
For example. they will feature a mix of cabins and suites including The Haven by Norwegian ‘ship within a ship’ concept of 42 suites at the top of the ship in an exclusive, private key-card enclave and 22 additional suites located throughout the ship.
Studios, designed and priced for solo travellers which made their debut on Norwegian Epic, are to be included together with a wide range of cabins with ocean views, balcony and mini suites. Spa balcony, mini suites and suites in close proximity to the spa are included.
Norwegian Getaway will sail in the Caribbean from Miami from early 2014 with bookings due to open this week. Sister ship, Norwegian Breakaway, will begin sailing from its year-round home port of New York City in May 2013 following a preview call in Southampton.
I’m the first to admit that in cruise ships terms, biggest doesn’t always equate to best. I’m not a great fan of the curved cabins on Epic yet love Royal Caribbean’s big ships.
However, it seems that in the mainstream cruise sector, setting sail with around 4,000 other passengers is going to be the norm as we enter the second half of the decade.
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