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NCL puts best foot forward via synergies, international growth and fleetwide refurb

NCL puts best foot forward via synergies, international growth and fleetwide refurb

In the 11 months since Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings completed the $3bn acquisition of Prestige Cruises International, top executives across all three brands: Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Sea Cruises and Oceania Cruises, have been working hard at taking the best aspects of each and combining them and adding them into each other's ships to create three highly complementary brands, according to Harry Sommer, evp international business development at NCLH.

Talking on board Norwegian Escape yesterday, Sommer said: 'synergies is an over-used word but since the coming together we have already achieved positive financial and operational results.' Latest financials are due to be announced next week.

He described Regent as 'best known for its service and focus on value, not price' whilst Oceania is 'applauded for its incredible destinations and food' and Norwegian Cruise Line 'for its freedom and flexibility'.

Norwegian Cruise Line president and coo, Andy Stuart said, 'Norwegian Escape has taken us to the next level: there is a richness in the fixtures and fittings and we are proud that every menu in the ship's 28 dining venues is new, including signature restaurants that are already featured in the rest of the fleet.' He said these will rolled out across the entire fleet in January. 'Our biggest challenge now is to communicate how the product has improved', he added.

'A lot of investment is going into growing international markets', commented Francis Riley, svp sales and operations international at Norwegian. He said NCL carries passengers from 212 countries. Two million passengers sailed with NCL in 2015 and within the next five years that figure will grow to over 2.8m.

'North America will grow but it will be Europe doing most of the heavy lifting,' Riley remarked.

Of international sourcing, Europeans represent 70% of guests. 'We have been doing a lot of tailoring for the European market including adding a new md, Christian Boll and new director of marketing, Stefanie Hegener in our Wiesbaden office in Germany and in the UK opened up a new office in Southampton in addition to a customer services office in Malta.'

He also highlighted Norwegian Epic has just undergone a major refurb and will be one of four ships operating in Europe next year.

Norwegian will add a fifth turnaround port to the European roster in 2016 with the addition of Marseille as well as traditional homeports of Barcelona, Civitavecchia, Venice and Copenhagen.

Outside Europe, the international drive to grow major source markets continues, said Riley. 'In 2015 alone we have added new offices in Sydney, we opened a new office in Sao Paolo in February, a third office in China in Shangahi (joining Hong Kong and Beijing) and it's not going to stop there,' he remarked.

On the fleet side, 10 Norwegian Cruise Line ships will undergo major refurbishments in 2016 and '17, said Sommer. An 11th, Norwegian Jewel, will have work done in Q1 2018, he added.

'Many of the elements you see on Escape will be added across the fleet, so effectively if you take out the newbuild Escape, the recently refurbed Epic and the previous two new deliveries Breakaway and Getaway, the rest of the fleet will be like brand=new ships by the time we have finished the upgrades,' Sommer concluded, declining to say the cost of the refubishment programme.

Finally he touched on the next Breakaway Plus class ship due for delivery in 2017, which is going to be deployed in China. He called it 'the largest and most innovative ship ever built exclusively for China'.

Sommer confided during the past few days meetings were held on board Escape with shipyard personnel from Meyer Werft and designers 'to talk through our plans for the China customisation of the sister ship.'

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