Cruising to success with new ships and more

Huw Kidwell talks with Andy Stuart, CEO and president of Norwegian Cruise Line, about how the company’s mission to provide freedom and flexibility is driving the cruise market

Cruising to success with new ships and more
The race track is Stuart's favourite innovation onboard Norwegian Bliss

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2018 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

2018 was a successful year for Norwegian Cruise Line. The launch of new cruise ship Norwegian Bliss was an achievement in itself, but behind the scenes has also been a hive of activity. Norwegian has formed new technology partnerships, begun constructing a new terminal in Miami and construction work has started on its next new ship, Norwegian Encore, which will be delivered by Germany’s Meyer Werft’s shipyard in the final quarter of 2019. The company also has impressive expansion plans underway in the 2020s when it will welcome six Leonardo-class ships between 2022 and 2027.

President and CEO Andy Stuart is rightly proud of the new multi-record-breaking Norwegian Bliss. “After we took delivery on 19 April 2018, Norwegian Bliss made history everywhere she went,” he says. “Following two successful debuts in New York and Miami, she was the largest cruise ship to cross the Panama Canal. After that historic moment, she made her way to California, where she became the largest ship to cruise out of the Port of Los Angeles. Finally, Norwegian Bliss arrived in her summer home, becoming the largest vessel ever christened in Seattle.”

Enthused with the success of his company and the fact the cruise industry is achieving unprecedented growth, Stuart is confident about the future. “The cruise industry is booming – there is consistent growth which means more opportunity,” he says. “There is also a lot of consumer interest in cruising. As an industry, we are working to keep up with trends and, as a company, our mission is to innovate with purpose.”

Stuart is confident that Norwegian’s investment to enlarge its fleet by the six Leonardo-class ships in the next decade will help it to meet demand. “These 140,000gt ships will each accommodate approximately 3,300 guests,” he says. “The new ships will build upon the highly successful offering of freedom and flexibility found on our most recent Breakaway-Plus Class ships and will feature a host of pioneering designs that will continue our legacy of introducing meaningful innovation to the cruise industry.”

But first, Norwegian’s new Breakaway-Plus class ship, Norwegian Encore, will make her debut in Miami in November 2019. The newbuild will be approximately 167,800gt and will add 4,000 staterooms to the cruise line’s already impressive inventory of guest accommodation.

“Norwegian Encore will be our newest ship to sail the Eastern Caribbean,” says Stuart. “For her inaugural season, Norwegian Encore will depart from Miami every Sunday on seven-day voyages, offering guests an opportunity to take in the vibrant culture and historic sites of San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as the colourful snorkelling off St. Thomas and the picturesque beaches of Tortola.”

Norwegian Encore’s debut will coincide with the opening of Norwegian’s new terminal at PortMiami will further boost the line’s position in the US cruise industry, providing it with a means to welcome passengers with high-end hospitality. “Norwegian has been sailing from Miami for over 50 years, longer than any other cruise line, so building our new terminal at PortMiami was a natural fit,” says Stuart. “The new terminal will be the new ‘pearl’ of Miami, redefining the landscape of the city’s skyline. Innovative lighting, inviting indoor and outdoor waiting areas and other guest-centric elements will enhance the overall guest experience.”

At nearly 166,500 square feet, the facility will easily accommodate ships carrying up to 5,000 passengers and feature various new technologies to support more efficient embarkation and disembarkation, as well as expedited security screening and luggage check-in. “A dedicated lounge and service area will facilitate a warm and welcoming sense of arrival for large groups and charters, and a new parking garage and valet parking area with direct access to the terminal and lounge will provide true integration” says Stuart.

Norwegian is also focusing on using digital technologies to create industry-leading experiences onboard its ships. In May 2018, the company partnered with DeCurtis Corporation to develop a new technology platform project called Cruise Freedom. “Cruise Freedom will enhance the guest experience from the moment guests book their vacation with Norwegian and throughout their cruise,” comments Stuart. “The platform will allow both tech-proficient and less tech-savvy guests to navigate their experience seamlessly.”

Following the successful launch of the new Norwegian app, Norwegian expected to show off phase two of Cruise Freedom on Norwegian Encore when she debuts. “Innovation has always been at the core of Norwegian’s philosophy and with technology ever-advancing, we too are tasked with reaching the forefront of technological advancements,” says Stuart.

Continuing with its focus on technology, Norwegian has joined a growing number of cruise companies that are working to meet passenger expectations for more environmentally friendly and greener cruising. Norwegian takes its environmental responsibility seriously and its Stewardship Report in 2017 points towards increased progress in sustainable sourcing, minimising landfill waste, investing in emerging technologies and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In July 2018, Norwegian took its Sail and Sustain environmental programme a step further. “Norwegian committed to eliminating plastic drinking straws across its 26-ship fleet and private island destinations Great Stirrup Cay and Harvest Caye by August 2018,” says Stuart. “We also joined Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance to help in preventing plastic waste entering the ocean.”

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08 January 2019

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