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Norwegian On The Move Worldwide

We could be wrong about this but we detect the heavy hand of Frank Del Rio in Norwegian’s latest news bulletin.

And that’s good.

For the first time in 13 years, Norwegian is sending a ship to Asia and Australia. For the first time ever, Norwegian is sending a ship to the Persian Gulf and India. For the first time since any of us can remember, Norwegian is going to base a ship in South America for two consecutive winters (having taken the Norwegian Sun to South America a few years ago — on what will always be near the top of our favorite cruises — this item really got our attention).

And finally, for the first time since…April, the Norwegian Epic is returning to North America.

All of this is going to start happening next year, and it smacks of the ambitious and gregarious CEO of Norwegian Holdings, Frank Del Rio, who has been on the job just seven months, and his Norwegian lieutenant, Andy Stuart.

That Norwegian would find its way to Asia was inevitable, because there isn’t going to be a major cruise line without a presence there. That its new itineraries would spread to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and India demonstrates the intent the cruise line has to be a player in those markets.

By ships, here is how it shakes down for the fall and winter of 2016-17…

Norwegian Star will launch its program from Istanbul on October 31, 2016 on a 20-day cruise through the Mediterranean to the Suez Canal and eventually Dubai. After that, its ports on a variety of cruises will include Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bali, Mumbai and Abu Dhabi.

Norwegian Epic will summer in Europe and winter in the Caribbean, from Miami, an about-face for a ship that was going to sail year-round from Barcelona. The first of its 3-4-and-7-day cruises will be in the fall of 2016.

Norwegian Spirit will replace the Epic in Europe for year-round Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, Venice and Istanbul.

Norwegian Sun (ah, memories) will continue to be the workhorse in South America, where in the winter of 2015-16 it will be on cruises of two weeks or longer.

Norwegian Jewel will make two trips each way through the Panama Canal in October 2016 and April 2017.

Norwegian Jade will be home-ported in Tampa, for Caribbean winter cruises, likely returning to Europe in the summer.

By the time all this falls into place, the Norwegian Escape will be here (it hits the water October 25 and crosses the ocean four days later. With the return of the Epic, that means Norwegian’s four biggest ships of its 14-member fleet — Epic, Escape, Breakaway and Getaway — will all be spending their winters in Caribbean waters.

So for as much talk as there is about cruise lines and their expansion to Asia and Australia, the core of this business is still Caribbean cruises.

In the news…

• Carnival, Dr. Seuss host two celebrity book-reading events
• America Cruise Lines doubles capacity on Snake, Columbia Rivers

Today at portsandbows.com: Chef Curtis Stone on Princess fleet

Ruby Princess
3 nights
September 14, 2015
Vancouver, Los Angeles
Inside: $99
Cost per day: $33

Carnival’s Secret Out About fathom

Sitting with a group of cruise media intelligentsia (whenever there’s a group, we like to think it’s “intelligentsia”…or at least “collective intelligence”) last month on an Alaska cruise, we listened attentively to thoughts of fathom. Remembering that the word “fathom” was once used to measure depth of sea water, we quickly jumped into the 21st century, in which the word has a completely different nautical application.

It’s a cruise line.

fathom is the new cruise line attached to mighty Carnival, the corporation that owns 10 of them. It’s not really a cruise line yet, but it will be when the good ship Adonia is re-Adoniabranded next spring. It’s for people who want to go to another country on a cruise ship and to make a difference by generally helping locals…starting with the Dominican Republic.

Since the cost of doing that was going to be as much as twice the price of a usual one-week cruise, the question around the table was this:

“What was Carnival thinking?”

Now, we know.

Carnival was thinking, by inventing cruises to sail under the “social impact travel” banner, that it could navigate the regulations that currently restrict American visitors to Cuba. For example, the most common way the U.S. allows (that’s the U.S. Government, not the Cuban Government) Americans to visit the Caribbean island is “educational or academic programs that include preplanned people-to-people contact.” Another category is “humanitarian efforts.”

So while conventional cruise lines wait for the other shoe to drop, Carnival Corporation jumped first by creating a cruise line that qualifies. And despite what you may be seeing on CNN, these are not Carnival ships that will be going to Cuba next year…only the Adonia, operated by one of Carnival’s other lines, P&O.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that by April 2016 the government will have cleared the path for many ships to cruise Cuba. There are already reports that six (un-named ships) have been approved by the U.S. Treasury. But right now, only the Adonia is cleared to sell its itineraries which, it appears, are going to start at $2,990 — about three times what you might pay for a weekly cruise elsewhere.

In the news…

• Renowned orator on cruise ships, John Maxtone-Graham, dead at 85
• MSC Opera to homeport in Havana in December for 16 Caribbean cruises
• Celebrity partners with Broadway production "An American In Paris"

Today at portsandbows.com: Free air offers from Scenic Cruises

Norwegian Epic
6 nights
September 20, 2015
Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Lisbon, London
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $99

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