CRUISE INDUSTRY

Norwegian Getaway brings Miami flair to PortMiami

 

hsampson@MiamiHerald.com

The newest ship to sail from Miami should feel right at home.

Norwegian Getaway, which arrived Thursday morning and awaits a christening Friday, sports a tropical hull designed by Miami artist David “LEBO" Le Batard, Art Deco flourishes in the ice bar, and a venue dedicated to mojitos. Pitbull — Mr. 305 himself — will perform at the inaugural festivities, and his vodka line, Voli, will be served on the ship.

Don’t forget the godmothers: the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.

“We want to own this market,” said Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan. “This is the biggest ship ever to home port year-round out of Miami.”

The 3,969-passenger ship is the sister to Norwegian Breakaway, which launched last year in New York City. That ship similarly takes after its home port, with landmarks painted on the hull, Radio City Music Hall Rockettes as godmothers, and even New York hot-dog stands.

Getaway features free eateries — Flamingo Bar & Grill and Tropicana Room — that serve Latin dishes. Specialty restaurant Ocean Blue will offer Florida grouper. The Sunset Bar drew inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, and murals on the top deck depict the colorful lifeguard towers on South Beach.

The end result is “a floating billboard of our great destination,” said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. The group met with Norwegian to talk about theme ideas during the ship’s planning phase.

“From the moment folks board that ship ... it will be all Miami all the time, and for that we are truly grateful,” Aedo said.

Travel agent Ralph Santisteban, of Kendall, said Miami’s popularity as a tourist hot spot is translating to the Getaway, a ship that is generating sales for him.

“With Miami being such a hot tourist destination now, having a ship that will give you the Miami experience out of Miami is a plus,” said Santisteban, who owns a CruiseOne franchise. “It’s basically a continuation of your experience of arriving here.”

Miami cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO of CruiseGuy.com, said he doesn’t believe travelers will choose the ship because of the theme. But he said the new dinner show in a venue called the Illusionarium will likely be a draw, as well as the production of Legally Blonde: The Musical.

On Thursday, employees of the company were boarding Getaway after its morning arrival to see the new vessel. Regular, seven-day Caribbean sailings start Saturday, after a one-night inaugural cruise on Friday.

The ship spent the days around the Super Bowl in New York City, where Getaway was transformed into the Bud Light Hotel (and generated plenty of publicity).

“We are a little bit smaller than the other big corporations and we have to be a little more thoughtful about finding ways to get the brand out there,” Sheehan said.

Under an agreement between PortMiami and the cruise line, Norwegian will keep Getaway in Miami for a minimum of three years. The company has guaranteed the port a million passenger movements for the current fiscal year. At the time of the agreement a couple years ago, the port gave the line a $1.4 million incentive to use for marketing.

“It was just an opportunity that we had to, as a port, jump all over,” said Hydi Webb, manager of business development.

Late last year, Miami-Dade County commissioners also approved an agreement between the port and cruise line that would bring Norwegian’s next new ship, launching in 2015, to Miami as well.

Under the agreement, the port will pay Norwegian $3 million for marketing costs before the 4,200-passenger ship arrives. The cruise line has not officially announced where its next ship, Norwegian Escape, will be based.

Getaway, which cost Norwegian $852 million, is the latest large ship to home port in Miami all year. It follows MSC Divina, a 3,502-passenger vessel from the European cruise line that started sailing from PortMiami in November, and Carnival Breeze, which launched in 2012. Carnival Cruise Lines brought the 3,690-passenger ship to Miami later that year.

The year-round presence of the recent arrivals means PortMiami has some life during the summer months, when many cruise operators move capacity to Europe.

“The main impact that these ships are going to have is going to be during the summer,” Chiron said. As opposed to only having a couple cruise lines to choose from, he said travelers will have “a lot of options, a lot of opportunities in the summer.”

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