Just a few weeks after Norwegian Bliss set off on its maiden Alaska season, Norwegian Cruise Line announced that its sister ship Norwegian Joy would be joining it there next year. Joy was purpose-built for the Chinese market and started cruising out of Shanghai in 2017, but it seems the love affair with China is over – several international cruise lines are pulling out or deploying smaller ships in the region.
NCL will spend about US$50 million making Joy more like Bliss before it arrives in Alaska in April 2019. Joy already has the popular go-karting racetrack but its casino and shopping space will be down-sized, bars added in place of tea rooms and the gym enlarged. In the ship reshuffle, Norwegian Jewel will continue to cruise in Alaska and Australia, Norwegian Pearl will move to Europe and Norwegian Spirit will be refurbished and sent to China in 2020.
Norwegian Jewel, which will be refurbished in October, will cruise from Singapore to Sydney on November 12, visiting Bali, Komodo, Darwin, Cairns, Airlie Beach, Brisbane and Newcastle along the way. Jewel will cruise to the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Asia from Sydney until February during its third season Down Under; the 2400-passenger Norwegian Jade will cruise in South East Asia out of Singapore and Hong Kong for the 2019-2020 season.
NCL said that the deployment of Norwegian Jewel and Jade to Australia and South East Asia is aimed to take full advantage of the flourishing source market in Australia, which remains the world's highest-penetrated cruise market and one of its most desirable destinations.
Meanwhile, the 16-strong fleet continues to grow – NCL has seven ships on order that will be delivered between now and 2027. The next one to arrive will be the 4000-passenger Norwegian Encore, the fourth ship in NCL's Breakaway-Plus class (along with Bliss, Joy and Escape). It is scheduled to cruise to the Caribbean out of Miami from November 2019.
The first of the new Leonardo Class ships is due in 2022. They will be smaller than the Breakaway Plus model, at 140,000 gross tonnes and accommodating about 3300 passengers, and will be designed for maximum energy efficiency.
"Following the Breakaway Plus Class, the most successful class in our company's history, the highly anticipated Leonardo Class will fuel future growth with exciting and innovative offerings," says Andy Stuart, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line. NCL says it will reveal details of "first at sea" features for the Leonardo Class at a later date.
THE PORT Liverpool, UK
WHO GOES THERE Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Cunard, CMV, Disney, Fred.Olsen, HAL, Hapag-Lloyd, Princess, NCL, Oceania, RSSC, Seabourn and Viking.
WHY WE LOVE IT Liverpool has an exceptionally rich maritime history. It was a major trade and migration port from the 18th to early 20th centuries, had a flourishing shipbuilding industry and was home to the illustrious Cunard line for 128 years. Much of the waterfront area now has UNESCO World Heritage Status – Albert Dock alone features more Grade 1 listed buildings than anywhere else in the country. And, of course, Liverpool is world-famous as the home town of the Beatles.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Ships dock at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal on Pier Head, about 10 to 30 minutes' walk from The Beatles Story – a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Fab Four – and the heritage buildings of Albert Dock. Catch a ferry across the Mersey from Pier Head; 50-minute River Explorer Cruise tickets can be combined with attractions such as sci-fi centre Spaceport and the U-Boat Story exhibition. There's lots to do in the city but if you want to get out of town, there are half and full-day trips to places such as Port Sunlight Village, built in the 19th century for the workers at the Sunlight Soap factory; the seaside town of Southport, which has a traditional pier; or the 16th-century Tudor manor Speke House.
MUST SEE Among the National Museums Liverpool group are the International Slavery Museum, Merseyside Maritime Museum and two art galleries. Tate Liverpool, for contemporary British and international art; views from the tower at Liverpool Cathedral, the biggest cathedral in Britain.
MUST EAT Liverpool has everything from basic cafes to cool cocktail bars, with a good mix of fine-dining, seafood, fish-and-chip, kebab and burger venues in between. Try a Scouse pie from the award-winning bakery Homebaked Anfield.
NEED TO KNOW Locals are nicknamed Scousers, supposedly after a fish stew popular with sailors; Liverpudlians were also referred to as Liverpolitans in Victorian times.
When Viking Jupiter arrives in 2019, Viking will be the world's biggest small-ship ocean line. Ten more ships are planned, bringing Viking's ocean fleet to 16 ships by 2027.
The expedition river cruise company Pandaw announced it was positioning one of its ships on the Lower Ganges in December and is already expanding its presence in India. The company's founder, Paul Strachan, says "Pandaw will place two further river cruise ships in the country, sailing two new routes for us – the Upper Ganges, all the way to Varanasi, and the Brahmaputra, one of Asia's major rivers. We are also planning to take our seagoing vessel, the Andaman Explorer, to the region." The 28-passenger RV Katha Pandaw will be refurbished before it starts its Upper Ganges cruises in October 2019; the 60-passenger RV Indochina Pandaw will sail its first seven-night cruise on the Brahmaputra, also in October 2019. See pandaw.com
Celebrity Revolution begins
Celebrity Cruises is spending more than $US500 million on the redesign of its fleet after the much-heralded Celebrity Edge makes its debut in December. The "Celebrity Revolution" involves more than 500 architects, designers and engineers, and interior designer Kelly Hoppen will bring the same elegant, understated style she brought to Celebrity Edge to all nine Celebrity ships. The quirky Qsine restaurant will be added across the fleet and renovated to include the virtual Le Petit Chef experience; Oceanview Café will be redesigned with a marketplace-inspired design offering a selection of international dishes; and Celebrity Edge's Retreat, an exclusive sun-deck for suite guests, will also be installed fleetwide. Celebrity Solstice is returning to Australia in October for its eighth summer season and is due for its makeover in 2021. See celebritycruises.com