New boat and service for Norwegian

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that a 91,000-ton vessel on order at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany will enter service in October 2002.The as-yet-unnamed ship will be NCL’s largest, accommodating 2,300passengers and 1,150 crew, and built at the maximum size to fit throughthe Panama Canal.

“This will be NCL’s first ‘purpose built’ ship for what we are calling Freestyle Cruising, an innovative style of cruising which NCL will introduce progressively over the next two years,” says Colin Veitch, of NCL.

NCL’s goal is to challenge the conventional model of the cruise “product” to broaden its appeal not only among seasoned cruisers but also to a new and younger audience: one that is accustomed to a more relaxed, resort-style vacation. According to NCL, these are tourists with three priorities: complete flexibility, non-intrusive service of the highest standard, and the ability to stay connected even when getting away from it all.

One big change is in the food and food service. Freestyle Cruising will offer passengers something unique (and long overdue) in big-ship cruising: open seating in the main dining rooms. The two main dining rooms will each offer a differe menu, and there will additionally be a round-the- clock buffet-style restaurant with bistro service in the evenings, The new ship will also have “a la carte” specialty dining in five small gourmet and ethnic restaurants and NCL is claiming food standards as “varied and high quality” as the best shoreside restaurants.

“Our passengers will choose when, where, with whom, and of course what they eat, just as they would at a good resort,” says Veitch. “The main dining rooms will stay open much longer than on other ships and passengers can stay there enjoying a bottle of wine and talking with friends for as long as they like after their meal. No-one is going to ask them to leave in order to make up the room for the next seating.”

And the best part is, as many cruise veterans can sadly attest, is that you don’t get stuck at the same table for a week with Bill and Elsie from Omaha, who never tire of telling you all about their Chihuahua’s antics.