Norwegian Spirit to make Australian debut following $145 million upgrade

After a 500-day pause, Norwegian Cruise Line began its return to the seas when Norwegian Jade set sail on July 25 last year from Athens, Greece. Ten months later, NCL's entire fleet of 17 is back in the water after incrementally relaunching ships around the world, culminating with the final piece of the puzzle, Norwegian Spirit, departing May 7 from Papeete, Tahiti for a 12-day Pacific cruise.

Norwegian Spirit is set to cruise Australian waters for the first time, kicking off her local season December 22 from Sydney, visiting ports around Australia and New Zealand, in a season that marks NCL's return to Australia after an almost three-year absence.

And when she does, she'll be showing off a $US100 million ($145 million) renovation.

NCL's Ben Angell says the Norwegian Spirit debut will showcase the most extensive and expensive revitalisation in the company's 55-year history.

"Designed to be different, her bow-to-stern makeover has created an adult-centric oasis at sea," he says.

That entails 14 new public spaces, including table-top Japanese cooking at Teppanyaki, French cuisine at Le Bistro and fine dining Italian at Onda by Scarpetta, Scarpetta being a chain of fashionable restaurants found in New York City, and other US locations as well as London.

A smaller ship at 268 metres long and 10 decks tall with capacity for 2018 guests, Norwegian Spirit still manages to pack in a total of 14 drinking and dining venues and a now doubled-in-size Mandara Spa complete with Thermal Suite including steam room, sauna, shower experience and luxurious heated-tile loungers; a "luxe Ibiza-inspired adults-only pool retreat called Spice H20 that transforms into a cocktail lounge and open-air nightclub in the evenings" (as NCL explains); and the Bliss Ultra Lounge, where guests can dance the night away. See ncl.com

IN OTHER NEWS

POLES APART

After debuting in January this year in Antarctica, Viking's first Polar Class 6 ship, Viking Octantis is in North America's Great Lakes for the northern summer season and has proved so popular, additional itineraries have been added. Sister polar-class ship, Viking Polaris, launches in August. Each caters for 378 guests in 189 staterooms and feature industry-first design, including an in-ship marina. See vikingcruises.com.au/expeditions

CHEERS TO THE ROBOTS

The first Singapore season for Royal Caribbean International's Spectrum of the Seas has been extended to run a full year through until April 2023. Home-ported in Singapore since mid-last month, The Quantum Ultra Class ship, featuring recreational bells and whistles such as a bungee trampoline adventure and a bar tended by robots, is offering three- and four-night Singapore round-trip Ocean Getaways – no ports of call, just time at sea on the 5000-odd-passenger ship. See royalcaribbean.com

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BOOK A ROYAL ROOM

The Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) cruise ship-turned-hotel is set to become part of Accor's MGallery collection, the hotel giant's family of unique, landmark properties. Retired by Cunard in 2018, the QE2 opened as a hotel at Dubai's Port Rashid in 2018. Accor takes over operations this month and will oversee a refresh to create a 447-room floating haven featuring a total nine bars, cafes and restaurants. See mgallery.accor.com

A RARE PEARL

Ponant's 32-passenger, three-masted sailing yacht, Le Ponant will cruise the Kimberley in Western Australia in 2023 in partnership with Australian pearl jeweller, Paspaley Group, which sees itineraries include a scenic flight onboard one of Paspaley's vintage Grumman Mallard flying boats and access to Paspaley's pearl operations in Kuri Bay. See au.ponant.com