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Norwegian, The Frank Del Rio Way

Frank Del RioWhen Frank Del Rio became CEO of the company that owns Norwegian Cruise Line, everybody who has seen him in action knew there would be more action to see. Outgoing, perhaps even flamboyant, gregarious and entertaining, he seems to stand still for nothing unless it’s for the next idea to pop into his head…within minutes, or seconds.

This week, engaging reporters on the new Norwegian Escape, here’s what Del Rio revealed to Cruise Critic’s Brittany Chrusciel…

• Every older ship will go into dry dock in 2016 and 2017, except the Jewel, which is already scheduled for 2018. By our count, that’s nine refurbishing in two years, 10 if Pride of America is part of the deal. Del Rio wants the older ships to become more popular, like the 16-year-old Regent Seven Seas Navigator is for one of his other cruise lines.

• Norwegian will start the migration towards smoke-free casinos, and the Escape will be first to become 50 per cent smoke-free. The last four Norwegian ships launched — the Epic (2010), Breakaway (2013), Getaway (2014) and Escape — have all fielded complaints about “drifting smoke” from the casinos.

Escape• Complimentary dining in the new Jimmy Buffett restaurant, Margaritaville At Sea, may be short-lived. There were long line-ups once the Escape arrived in “Jimmy Country” and when something is that popular it’s only a matter of time until it becomes an additional revenue stream. As an aside, as people who have waited in line to get into several  Margaritavilles, we get it.

What Del Rio is doing, since replacing Kevin Sheehan at the helm, is turning Norwegian into a cruise line that turns more heads.

There’s every indication that he knows exactly how to do it.

In the news…

• Viking orders two more ocean ships — fledgling fleet to be six strong by 2020
• Harmony of the Seas to combine attributes of Oasis and Quantum Class ships
• 'Tangled The Musical' world premiere on Disney Magic in Miami
• MSC Divina arrives in Florida to begin year-round cruises to Caribbean

Today at portsandbows.com: Guess where Liberty of the Seas is going?


Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
7 nights
January 30, 2016
Tampa (return): Key West, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel 
Inside: $560
Cost per day: $90
www.royalcaribbean.com

More Breaks For Single Cruisers

 

Cruise times are changing. They always are. Here’s one of the latest…

Cunard announced a refurbishment of the Queen Mary 2, and with it comes news that 15 single staterooms will be added. The rationale from Cunard is that single rooms are necessary because not only are more people cruising solo, but there are more family groups traveling together that include singles. There are already single staterooms available on fleetmates Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria

There is no single supplement for these cabins. In other words, you pay the same per-person price as you would if two to a cabin.

Other cruise lines have been ahead of that curve for some time. The Epic, with 128 solo cabins (some connecting) was the first in the Norwegian fleet with the highly-popular option for single travelers. There’s also a Studio Lounge, for the exclusive use of passengers who book in the solo cabins. With no single supplement they sell out quickly. Surprisingly, there are fewer single cabins on Norwegian’s latest ships, the Getaway and the Breakaway (59 on each). 

The Escape, being launched in the fall, will have 82. 

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas each have 28 single staterooms, and Ovation of the Seas, also arriving this fall, will apparently also have 28 solo cabins. No single supplements apply.

Costa Cruises has 17 solo cabins on at least two of its ships, Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa. There is a single supplement, although not exorbitant.

Carnival does offer some value-priced solo cruise fares, with some supplements as low as five per cent.

One thing is certain: In the cruise world, singles are being heard.

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity's 'Evenings Around The World'

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
May 1, 2016
Los Angeles, Astoria, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $309
Cost per day: $61
www.ncl.com

Friday File: Norwegian’s Hulls Of A Show

They weren’t always so, well, outlandish. But the more unusual they became, the more the hull art on Norwegian’s ships started to look like a competition where the next one had to be more jaw-dropping or eye-catching than the last. That brings us to the Norwegian Escape, the 14th and newest ship in the fleet, come October 25. Below is the hull art applied this month to the ship’s bow — on both sides — from artist Guy Harvey, followed by the more for your perusal and assessment (the eight ships here are arranged chronologically, from newest to oldest)…

S693_Escape_Guy Harvey_Artwork-Shooting_2015_07_28

Thumbs-up from the artist, accompanied by Norwegian President Andy Stuart at the shipyard where the Escape is being finished.

2014-Getaway

The Getaway is Miami’s ship, a connection that well-known Cuban-American artist David La Batard painted in his impressionistic style.

2013-Breakaway-Peter-Max

In 2013, famous New York artist Peter Max was commissioned to dress up the Breakaway, unmistakably New York’s ship.

2010-Epic

When the Epic arrived in 2010, its hull art was decidedly non-descript, which its critics (we are not among them) say is appropriate.

2007-Gem

While it might take some imagination to figure out the ship’s name by its art, the Gem in 2007 was the flagship, status that lasted three years.

2005-Pride

Cruising exclusively around Hawaii, Pride of America sports all the trappings of flag-waving as the world’s only U.S.-registered cruise ship.

2001-Sun

One of three ships in the fleet that didn’t have hull at birth, the Sun was decorated in its bright colors in 2004, three years after its maiden cruise.

2002-Dawn

This is where it all began, with the new Norwegian Dawn in 2004, when she was christened in Manhattan by actress Kim Cattrall.

In the news…

• Norwegian Cruise Holdings signs unprecedented 15-year lease with Port of Seattle
• No changes yet in Mariner of the Seas departure from Tianjin port after explosions
• Cruise Lines International Association President/CEO resigns after five weeks

Today at portsandbows.com: First Carnival readings of new Seuss book

Costa Mediterranea
7 nights
November 13, 2015
Venice (return): Trieste, Split, Kotor, Argostoli, Corfu, Dubrovnik
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $79
www.costacruise.com

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
www.princess.com

Kevin Sheehan No Undercover Boss Now

As our colleague Phil Reimer always says — and he is The Expert, after all — corporate news about cruising is usually as interesting to people on cruises ships as what the captain had for breakfast.

SheehanThe Kevin Sheehan story, we think, is different.

On Friday, Sheehan resigned/was fired/left as the head of Norwegian Cruise Lines. The “s” on “Line” has applied since Norwegian purchased Regent Seven Seas and Oceania. It’s always been a complicated or complex relationship because Apollo Management owned half of Norwegian and all of Oceania, but the long and short of it is that Sheehan’s replacement is Frank Del Rio, co-founder of Oceania.

But that’s probably not what should interest you (and us).

This should…

It was Kevin Sheehan who elevated Norwegian from being just another player to a high-profile member in the club of major cruise lines, albeit a junior member. He spent seven years at Norwegian, becoming CEO in 2010, when he had to stickhandle through the mess created by a ship the industry — but not the passengers — have often ridiculed as a misfit, the Epic.

Once the economy showed signs of recovery, Sheehan turned Norwegian into an entertainment icon at sea, and became part of a show not at sea when he appeared on Sheehan-UndercoverUndercover Boss, which at least gave the impression he was very hands-on and very much the public face of Norwegian Cruises. He also embarked on a four-ship expansion that will be something of a legacy, once the third (Escape) and fourth (Bliss) arrive in his absence. At least two of the four Breakaway and Breakaway Plus ships have his signature pub (O’Sheehan’s) so you could say his footprint remains on Norwegian, but nowhere is it more obvious than on the Breakaway.

It was the first cruise ship to be anchored in New York for year-round sailings, and it was always presented as “New York’s ship.” Sheehan, you should know, is a New Yorker. Under Breakawayhis direction, the Breakaway has a “New York” Boardwalk, New York godmothers (The Rockettes), Broadway entertainment (Rock of Ages), a New York hull artist (Peter Max) who painted a New York skyline, and a famous New York chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, whose restaurant adorns the ship’s eateries.

The Breakaway was the blueprint for the Getaway, which has everything Miami, which is Sheehan’s other home.

Or was until Friday.

So if you like what you see on the newest Norwegian ships, you probably have Kevin Sheehan to thank for it.

Now the questions that remain are: (1) Will he surface with another cruise line that likes what he did? and (2) Will O’Sheehan’s still be called O’Sheehan’s?

Today at portsandbows.com: More on Norwegian's news

Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas
10 nights
March 30, 2015
Baltimore (return): Labadee, San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten  
Inside: $682
Cost per day: $68
www.royalcaribbean.com

 

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