NCL HOMEPORTS A
SECOND CRUISE SHIP
IN NEW YORK
THE DEPLOYMENT OF NORWEGIAN
SPIRIT TO NEW YORK INDICATES
THAT NCL’S GAMBLE ON WINTER
CRUISES FROM NEW YORK
IS PAYING OFF
RICHARD H. WAGNER
(Originally published in The Log, Navy
League of the United States, New York
Council, Winter 2005)
Since the end of the ocean liner era in the early 1970s, the berths of Manhattan's Passenger Ship Terminal
have lain virtually abandoned during the winter months. However, this state-of-affairs may be drawing to a
close. On 18 November, NCL Corporation assigned NORWEGIAN SPIRIT to year-round duty in New
York. By so doing, NCL confirmed the success of the experiment it began in 2003 when NORWEGIAN
DAWN started cruising out of New York year-round.
"I am pleased to welcome the NORWEGIAN SPIRIT to New York City," said Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg. "The addition of NORWEGIAN SPIRIT helps foster the tremendous growth the cruise industry
is experiencing in the City, where last year alone the industry supported more than 3,000 jobs and contributed
more than $600 million to the local economy. With New York City as her home port, I am confident
NORWEGIAN SPIRIT will experience the same level of success as NORWEGIAN DAWN has sailing out
of New York harbor."
"NCL's deployment of NORWEGIAN DAWN year round out of New York has helped make the city
NCL's leading home port in the mainland United States," commented Colin Veitch, President and CEO of
NCL. "Demand has been remarkably strong, and our partners have been clamoring for an expansion. We are
thrilled to be able to deliver, and look forward to offering a variety of Bermuda, Bahamas and Caribbean
itineraries just a short cab ride away for New Yorkers."
NCL is the number three cruise ship operator following after industry leader Carnival Corp. and RCL Inc.
To remain competitive, NCL has aggressively pursued opportunities that other cruise lines had for various
reasons not attempted to exploit. For example, NCL recently found a way to overcome the legal barriers that
had prevented the major cruise lines from entering the Hawaii market in a meaningful way. (See The LOG ,
Summer 2005, at 24).
Winter cruises out of New York have a straight forward appeal. Snow-weary New Yorkers can drive to the
Passenger Ship Terminal, board the ship, and without the hassles of air travel, be transported in luxury to the
sunny Caribbean. Considering how many New Yorkers take a winter break in the islands, there clearly is a
market that would be interested in such cruises.
But, there is a problem. Before you get to the Caribbean, you must sail through the Atlantic with its
nor'easters and coastal blizzards. Since, until recently, the top speed of most cruise ships was 15 knots, this
could mean two days of rolling and pitching before reaching calm waters. Moreover, many cruise ships
designed for puttering around on tranquil seas were too fragile to brave the storms off Cape Hatteras.
Over time, cruise ships have become faster and stronger. As a result, passengers cruising down the Eastern
Seaboard are likely only to experience one day of bad weather before reaching calmer seas. Also, the faster
a ship is, the more likely it is to be able to sail around a storm. In addition, the Poseidon Adventure
notwithstanding, a modern cruise ship is unlikely to founder. Indeed, NCL points out that NORWEGIAN
SPIRIT survived a typhoon in September 2002 south of Hong Kong in which winds reached 137 mph and
the sea was 47 feet high. Moreover, as John Hillin, USCG Sector NY Prevention Department Port Safety
and Security Branch of the Inspections Division , notes “over the years there have been many new safety
standards applied by International law specifically geared toward protecting all ships and its crew.”
This does not mean that bad weather is no longer an issue. Last April, while en route to New York,
NORWEGIAN DAWN encountered a storm off of Georgia. Reportedly, the storm included a 70-foot wave
that smashed windows, caused water damage to some 60 cabins, and resulted in injuries to four passengers.
The ship diverted to Charleston, South Carolina for repairs and an inspection by the Coast Guard. However,
as seen by the fact that this incident occurred in the Spring, bad weather is not a problem unique to winter
To ameliorate concerns over the weather issue, NCL offers a "Winter Weather Guarantee". NCL's website
states: "The winter weather in the Northeastern United States is invariably cold, which is why a cruise to the
warm weather is so appealing! Only rarely is it stormy. We do not expect our schedule into and out of New
York to be adversely affected by winter weather. However, there is always the possibly of an occasional
weather system causing strong winds and rough seas. In this case, NCL would intend to delay sailing until
conditions allow for departure."
The success of the NORWEGIAN DAWN experiment apparently has led at least one other cruise line to
sample the waters. Shortly after the 81,000 ton NORDAM is delivered to Holland America Line in February
2006, she will do a series of late winter Caribbean cruises out of New York. Various Holland America ships
will be cruising out of New York at least through December 2006.
The Coast Guard’s safety examinations do not vary according to the season or weather predictions. The
Coast Guard does have heavy weather contingency plans but those are not specific to cruise ships. Rather,
the plans envision sending alerts to all vessels operating/wishing to operate in the Port and even closing the
Port if conditions warrant. Furthermore, these plans are primarily used in connection with hurricanes rather
than winter weather.
The Log had the opportunity to tour NORWEGIAN SPIRIT during the World Ship Society Port of New
York Branch's 40th Anniversary luncheon on 19 November. She is approximately the same size as the
QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 but looks nothing like a traditional passenger ship. Rather, she looks like a modern
cruise ship with rows of balconies along the sides, a square stern, and a short bow. Like other NCL ships,
the SPIRIT has a mural painted on the white hull - - porpoises and a sea goddess riding through the waves.
The SPIRIT was built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, and was delivered to her owners
in September 1998. During most of her career, she sailed for NCL's affiliate Star Cruises under the name
SUPER STAR LEO, calling at ports in Asia and the Pacific. Even though she recently completed a refit to
ready her for the American market, the interior décor still retains an Asian flavor.
We entered the ship on the lifeboat deck and were taken into a multi-story atrium with glass elevators
ascending up numerous decks. Such architectural features seem to a requirement on all modern cruise ships.
A welcome surprise, however, was that the room was decorated in a tasteful subdued manner, rather than in
Las Vegas glitz. Indeed, the ship's decoration throughout is restrained, looking like that of a modern up-scale
hotel. Everywhere was scrupulously clean.
For many people, food is an important part of cruising. NCL prides itself on what it calls "Freestyle cruising"
which means that passengers are not assigned to a specific table in a certain restaurant but are free to eat in
any of the ship's eight restaurants. However, passengers are encouraged to make reservations for some of the
restaurants and there is an additional charge for some of the specialty restaurants. While this arrangement
allows passengers to have a variety of different dining experiences during the cruise, there are trade-offs.
There are no officer-hosted tables on the SPIRIT and the traditional ocean voyage camaraderie with ones
tablemates that often develops when one dines with the same group of people during a voyage is lost. Of
course, freestyle cruising does make it easier to avoid that obnoxious couple that sat with you on the first night
of the cruise.
The World Ship Society luncheon was in one of the ship's main restaurants, the Garden Restaurant. It runs
the width of the ship and along each side in a U-shape. Still, it does not give the impression of being a large
room. The service was friendly although a communication problem resulted in a considerable delay in serving
two of the people at our table with the soup course. The food was tasty and presented in an inventive manner
which is all that can really be expected from a kitchen that is mass-producing meals for hundreds of people.
The buffet (i.e., cafeteria), most of the bars, and the specialty restaurants are arranged along corridors running
the length of the ship submarine-style opposite floor to ceiling windows. A similar design was used for the
food court on QUEEN MARY 2. Still, after all is said and done, a food court is a food court.
SPIRIT does have some nice public rooms. At the stern end, there is an impressive multi-story theater used
for shows and lectures that seats over 900. Located high on the ship just over the bridge, the Galaxy of the
Stars bar is spacious and offers a good view over the bow. Indeed, NCL has installed a traditional ship's
wheel and computer displays showing the ship's course for those who want to imagine that they are driving.
The real bridge is a vast glass-enclosed space that encompasses the bridge wings. The controls are housed in
several widely-separated consoles that make the room look more like a post-modern office than a passenger
Four diesel engines can generate 79,968hp. Two fixed blade propellers give the SPIRIT a maximum speed of
The SPIRIT accommodates 1,966 passengers and features 18 suites and nearly 600 ocean-view staterooms,
of which more than 65 percent offer private balconies. The staterooms appear to be clean and well-furnished
although somewhat small by American standards. As noted earlier, SPIRIT began life in Asia where smaller
hotel rooms are the norm.
SPIRIT has an international crew of 965, haling from more than 50 countries. They seem young and eager to
please. The officers are European, mostly from Scandinavia. The ship is registered in the Bahamas.