Norwegian Cruise Line has announced its 2016 deployment schedule revealing that Norwegian Epic, the largest ship in the fleet, will move to the Caribbean for winter 2016 instead of sailing year-round in the Mediterranean.
This move suggests demand in winter 2015 in the Mediterranean isn’t as strong as the cruise line had hoped for. In another blow to the European cruise market, 2016 will not be the year Britain sees a Norwegian cruise ship home-ported at its shores, despite repeated promises from the cruise line over the years.
In November 2016 the 155,000 gross ton Norwegian Epic will sail to Florida and will be home-ported in Port Canaveral for the first time. When it last home-ported in Florida for the winter the ship called PortMiami home. The vessel will sail on three- to six-night itineraries to the Bahamas, Mexico, the Caribbean and NCL’s private island Great Stirrup Cay.
The ship will replace Norwegian Spirit that was originally scheduled to operate from Port Canaveral as per an announcement made back in January. This smaller, older ship will instead sail in Europe offering seven-, 10- and 11-day Eastern and Western Mediterranean itineraries from Barcelona, Spain; Venice, Italy; and Istanbul, Turkey.
The cruise line also announced it will return to sailing from Asia and Australia for the first time since 2002. Norwegian Star will operate south-east Asia, Australia and New Zealand itineraries from Istanbul, Turkey; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Singapore; Hong Kong; Sydney, Australia; and Auckland, New Zealand. Selected itineraries will see inaugural calls to the Persian Gulf and to India, including an overnight call at Mumbai.
During the unveiling of Guy Harvey’s hull artwork on Norwegian Escape last week at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, Andy Stuart, president of Norwegian Cruise Line, told reporters that NCL were examining how best to serve their current focus markets of the USA, UK and Europe within Asia. When questioned he did not rule out basing one of the two ‘Breakaway Plus’-class ships on order for delivery in 2018 and 2019 in the region.
Norwegian Escape will launch in October this year and will operate six- to eight-night sailings to the Caribbean from Miami. She will become the largest cruise ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet at 164,600 gross tons.
(Photo credits to Norwegian Cruise Line)