NCL Considers California Homeport

Idea disclosed during New York christening of the line's Norwegian Dawn

By: Anne Kalosh

Norwegian Cruise Line, which has expanded its Homeland Cruising program to include 12 North American homeports in 2003, is considering basing a ship in California.

“Homeland Cruising is here to stay,” said Andy Stuart, senior vice president of marketing and sales. “We’re now looking at how we can deliver Homeland Cruising in more ports.”

The California deployment could begin in 2004, at the earliest, Stuart said. NCL is due to release 2004 itineraries this month or next.

Stuart made his comments during recent inaugural festivities for the Norwegian Dawn in New York. At 92,250 tons and carrying 2,224 passengers in double occupancy, the vessel is a sister to the Norwegian Star, based in Honolulu. Although the ships are similar in layout and both offer 10 restaurants as part of the Freestyle Cruising concept, Norwegian Dawn’s decor is more sophisticated.

In addition, the line said, improvements were made in the design and location of the public rooms.

The Dawn has three main restaurants and seven alternate dining venues, three of which charge a service fee.

New on Norwegian Dawn is Cagney’s, a 1930s-style steakhouse offering certified Angus beefsteaks plus lamb, lobster, veal and other dishes. The by-reservation dinner venue seats 112 in a dark-wood setting. The cover charge is $17.50, the same fee charged by Bamboo and Le Bistro.

The 72-seat Le Bistro displays original oil paintings by Renoir, Matisse, Van Gogh and Monet all on loan from the chairman of Star Cruises, NCL’s Malaysian parent.

Bamboo, an Asian-fusion complex, encompasses an a la carte dining area, a sushi bar and a Teppanyaki room.

In addition to the art in Le Bistro, Dawn’s “wow” factors include paintings on the hull, staircase landings decorated with huge Warhol pop-art portraits of Mao and two enormous Garden Villas with three bedrooms and private gardens.

New features include a casino (which the Star does not have), children’s facilities with a dinosaur-themed pool and the Mandara Spa with a large indoor pool.

Passengers who bring laptops can get online anywhere in the ship using wireless access cards.

Norwegian Dawn has seven-day itineraries from Miami to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. In May, the ship will be repositioned to New York for seven-day cruises to the Bahamas.

“West Coast agents are going to be primarily interested in the Caribbean itineraries,” Stuart said. “They are going to have an awful lot of clients who’ve sailed on Norwegian Star from Hawaii. There’s a great database of people who are now looking for something different and also new customers.”