Norwegian to base next new ship in Miami

Norwegian Cruise Line will base its second new ship in a row in Miami, the cruise line confirmed Wednesday.

News that the 4,200-passenger ship would sail from Miami trickled out in December, when the Miami-Dade County Commission approved a resolution allowing PortMiami to pay Norwegian $3 million for marketing costs before the vessel arrives.

But the Miami-based cruise operator did not confirm the deployment until Wednesday during a press conference at the annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference in Miami Beach. Also at the event, Norwegian announced that wildlife artist and conservation champion Guy Harvey will design the hull art for the ship.

“I’ve done murals, but to be offered a canvas of this scale was just absolutely incredible,” said Harvey, who lives in the Cayman Islands and headquarters his business in South Florida. “This is effectively a 1,000-foot-long mural.”

Harvey is well known in South Florida for clothing that bears his designs, giant murals at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Nova Southeastern University and the Guy Harvey Research Institute, a collaboration with NSU’s Oceanographic Center. His design for the Norwegian Escape features a massive sailfish, turtle, stingrays and other creatures.

Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Kevin Sheehan said Harvey was the right choice because of his work with ocean conservation. The cruise line will partner with Harvey’s foundation on conservation efforts.

Norwegian Escape is scheduled to debut in October 2015 and start sailing seven-day Eastern Caribbean itineraries from Miami on Nov. 14 of next year.

The Miami-based cruise operator launched Norwegian Getaway, a 3,969-passenger ship, last month. When the Escape arrives, the Getaway will sail Western Caribbean itineraries. Norwegian Epic, which spent the winter season in Miami, will instead remain in Europe all year.

Also Wednesday at the event, held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, discussions centered on some hot topics in the cruise industry: on-board entertainment and the European market.

Tony Peisley, a cruise industry analyst based in Britain who moderated the entertainment discussion, said he’s been covering the business for about 40 years.

“For the first 30 years, it was probably the part of the product that was developed the least,” he said.

Mark Tamis, senior vice president of guest operations for Carnival Cruise Lines, said the biggest leap for the Doral-based company has been adding dozens of branded entertainment experiences. He highlighted two: Carnival Live, a concert series that costs passengers $20-$40 and Seuss at Sea, a children’s program with characters from the Dr. Seuss books.

“It’s about that emotional connection, it’s about making memories,” Tamis said.

Jim Urry, vice president of entertainment and port adventures at Disney Cruise Line, said the company integrates technology in ways that are invisible to guests, such as creating “living art” on the walls and a “magical porthole” that shows a view of the water to inside stateroom passengers.

Royal Caribbean International’s vice president of entertainment, Nick Weir, described a brand new space the company has designed for the new Quantum of the Seas called Two70. The aft lounge with 270-degree views will transform to a performance space at night with high-definition video projected on the windows.

Another panel, focused on the state of the industry in Europe, tackled the difficult economic conditions in the region as well as recent violence in Ukraine.

Robert Ashdown, secretary general for the Cruise Lines International Association in Europe, said he expects the situation in Crimea to be contained, but said the broader activity could have implications for the increasingly popular Black Sea destination.

“If there were any restrictions on guests going into Russia, that would be detrimental,” he said.

David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, said the industry has managed to grow significantly over the course of five difficult years that included economic recession and the wreck of the Costa Concordia in Italy. But that growth, he said, has come at the expense of cruise prices.

“My optimism is about the fact that we are turning the corner,” he said. “That’s the really positive bit. If we sit here and just wait for it to come, it won’t. We have got to work very, very hard at growing volumes in the market and growing prices.”

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