Great Stirrup Cay, a private island in the Bahamas, will have updated food and drink options, new family features and a special area for Haven guests. // © 2016 Norwegian Cruise Line
Feature image (above): Atrium Cafe onboard Norwegian Epic, the first ship in the fleet that received refurbishments // © 2016 Norwegian Cruise Line
“Just wait until you see what we’re planning,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., at dinner in Miami the night before the company rolled out the announcement of Norwegian Edge, a program to raise the quality and standards of the Norwegian Cruise Line experience.
The $400 million Norwegian Edge initiative supports a broad refurbishment of the entire fleet, along with new plans for the company’s two private islands, a new culinary program and more. And much of the change is generated in the wake of the new Norwegian Escape ship and its features.
The refurbishments actually began in October with Norwegian Epic, followed by Norwegian Gem in November. Now, all of the previous ships, except Norwegian Jewel, will be completed by the end of 2017; Jewel will follow early in 2018. The program includes the high-revenue-producing Pride of America ship in Hawaii, which will have a three-week drydock starting Feb. 20, sailing from San Francisco on March 15 in its new incarnation.
“This is not just a bit of carpet changed,” said president and COO Andy Stuart, noting a refurbishment that involves rethought public rooms and a completely different look to the ship interiors, as well as a new level of training for staff, investment in the private islands with a special area for Haven guests and completely new menus.
The recent launch of Norwegian Escape has had a domino effect.
“You can’t have them all the same as Escape, but they can all have the feel of a new ship,” Stuart said of the rest of the line’s fleet.
Every onboard menu was changed for Escape, and these changes are being rolled out across the remainder of the fleet. Upgraded complimentary dining selections are being provided in the main dining room, along with new a la carte items. The new specialty menus launched on Escape are appearing in Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro and La Cucina, with dishes from Le Bistro’s bouillabaisse to La Cucina’s osso buco alla Milanese. Norwegian Breakaway already has the expanded menus; they are being brought onboard Norwegian Getaway on Feb. 14, Norwegian Epic on March 6, Pride of America on March 15, Norwegian Gem on April 1 and Norwegian Dawn in June. Partnerships with culinary experts will be expanded, as well. The culinary staff will be receiving expanded training through programs in three new training and development centers, as well as certification by the American Culinary Federation.
The appearance and mood of public spaces is also changing. For example, La Cucina has gone from rustic to elegant, and Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club is becoming the Beatles-themed Cavern Club. Gone are the beds in Bliss Lounge, which has become more upscale in mood, and even the teen center is being transformed.
On the land side, Harvest Caye, Norwegian’s private island in Belize, is going beyond its original plan to have a large pool, an exclusive beach, luxury cabanas, a shallow lagoon for watersports and a private area for Haven guests. The spend is expected to be more than $20 million, with the opening date rescheduled for mid-November. Great Stirrup Cay, which is getting strong guest approval after its 2014 upgrade, is adding more food and drink options, new family features and a Haven section.
Stuart says the company intends to protect early value pricing, adding that Norwegian is “not involved in a race to the bottom; the best value is offered early. We want price to be the last question people ask.”