It’s not often that you get to witness the birth of something that will grow to almost 150,000 tons. But in late April, at Aker Yards in the tiny seaside town of Saint-Nazaire, France, Travel Agent was on hand for the keel-laying of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship.
“The F3 ships are the most innovative and important project in NCL’s history,” says Colin Veitch, NCL’s president and CEO. “These ships will further deconstruct the traditional cruise ship experience with innovations in design, accommodations, luxury and entertainment to create a cutting-edge resort vacation experience unlike any other at sea.”
An artist's rendering of what an F3 stateroom will look like.
Cabin mock-ups are the first innovation to be revealed, and the F3 cabins throw away the rulebook. The most distinctive design element is its curved walls and lines, creating a modern, chic look. Clever division of the shower stall and the water closet maximizes living space. Gone is the bathroom “box within a box,” says Veitch. “We’re taking the walls away.” Additionally, the staterooms feature concealed contour LED lighting and backlit domed ceilings, as well as a sophisticated earth-tone palette accented with a splash of color and rich, dark wood.
The new ship design will offer 60 percent more guest space than NCL’s largest ships to date, which will be used to provide guests with an even wider range of on-board activities, amenities and stateroom options. The ship’s cabin mix will feature an unprecedented 100 percent of outside staterooms with private balconies. In total, each new ship will have more than 1,400 balcony staterooms.
In the meantime, NCL is embarking on major enhancements to its current on-board product. The new ships will not be released until 2010, but guests can whet their appetites with the upgrades, revisions and changes NCL is introducing with Freestyle 2.0. Significant investments began in March 2008 and are underway for every ship in the fleet, which will include major upgrades to the total dining experience; stateroom upgrades across all categories; increased quality and variety of on-board activities for guests of all ages; and services and amenities for Balcony, Suite and Villa staterooms. Project leaders expect the Freestyle 2.0 enhancements to be complete on all ships by June 2008.
The Garden Villa Master Bedroom on the Norwegian Jade.
Travel Agent test-cruised Freestyle 2.0 on the Norwegian Jade and found it to be a sublime experience. Balcony, Mini-Suites, Suites and Villa guests have a dedicated check-in and disembarkation, as well as a distinctive platinum-colored keycard, which enables ship-wide recognition. The stateroom experience features upgraded mattresses, memory foam mattress toppers, upgraded linens, duvets and pillows as well as Euro pillows, with the spa-inspired Elemis products featured in all bathrooms.
Freestyle Dining offers guests a worldwide culinary experience. The ship’s 10 distinct restaurants offer authentic fare and ambience, each unique to the establishment. All restaurants offer open seating and flexible, extended hours. Don’t miss the “Lobster Galore” dish in each specialty restaurant every night of the cruise and once in the main dining room per cruise. Cover charges apply in most of the restaurants, anywhere from $10 to $25 per person, but you can still find plenty of ways to eat well in the general dining rooms. Room service is available 24 hours a day and offers a new and expanded service menu that includes soup, salads, pizza, assorted sandwiches, a kid’s menu and desserts.
“The variety of restaurants draws people away from the main dining room, and the cover charges moderate demand from restaurant to restaurant. They can alleviate problems in crowding,” says Veitch, adding, “alternatives have become a part of our product.”
In between dining excursions, guests will notice enhancements in the pool areas, with cold towels and Evian spritzes available from crew members on the deck, as well as designated quiet zones. Don’t feel like getting up from your chaise lounge to go to the bar? Simply raise your chair’s drink flag, and have a wait staff member come to you.
For guests traveling with children, be sure to take advantage of the expanded Kid’s Crew and more teen activities being offered. Ages two and up are offered a supervised, active program and tweens and teens can enjoy a cinema equipped with Wii, PlayStation and X-Box. Scavenger hunts, games, crafts, movies and more are all part of the fun. For children under the age of two, NCL offers the “Under Two Zoo,” a well-equipped play area. Parents can check out toys if they desire.
Education and Entertainment
Guests can take advantage of the educational programs offered by the NCL-U classes, although certain age restrictions and cover charges can apply to some classes. Topics include digital age and technology; food, wine and spirits; comedy (hosted by The Second City troupe); and destination education. Guests can choose from a number of seminars including digital photography tips, 30-minute Italian meals, mojito making, tequila tasting and French pastry making.
New entertainment offerings aboard Norwegian Jade were recently announced as part of the ship’s year-round deployment in Europe. Four new off-Broadway musicals, the legendary Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, an expanded The Second City comedy show and a classical dance production by Twyla Tharp all raise the bar for cruise ship entertainment everywhere.
“We’re offering an engaging and vibrant daytime and nighttime lineup for our guests,” says Veitch. A few items of note: Smokey Joe’s Café, The Songs of Leiber & Stoller; SHOUT! The Mod Musical; And The World Goes Round: The Songs of Kander & Ebb; and The Second City International Cabaret. In addition, White Hot Nights and Monte Carlo Night are two new themed-party offerings.
At the helm of the “new wave” of cruising is Andy Stuart, NCL’s newly named executive vice president and chief product officer. “From the introduction of the first Caribbean cruise more than 41 years ago to the launch of Freestyle Cruising in 2000 and beyond, NCL has always blazed a trail of innovation,” says Veitch. To view images of the new wave staterooms, log onto www.ncl.com/pressroom. For the latest updates on the F3 ships, log onto www.F3.ncl.com.