Norwegian Cruise Line Celebrates 50th Anniversary

At the end of 2016 Norwegian Cruise Line celebrated their 50th Anniversary. Being the first company to offer luxury cruising, innovation has defined Norwegian over the years. Nevertheless, there were times when that pioneering spirit pushed the boundaries too far, leaving some choices with no pay off. While it hasn’t always been clear sailing for Norwegian, they still managed to celebrate their 50th as the number 3 cruise line.

Breaking Ground

Norwegian continued on their journey as innovative leaders in 1977. Purchasing and transforming a private Bahamian island into an exclusive port, Norwegian demonstrated their forward thinking assertiveness. In 2010, Norwegian took the hotel-within-a-hotel concept popularised in Las Vegas and introduced the private ship-within-a-ship concept. However, the biggest game-changer came with the freestyle cruise. For decades, cruises offered set dining and entertainment schedules, with early and late seating times at assigned tables. In 2000, Norwegian decided to change course and allow guests to dine when they wanted and with whomever they wanted. To accommodate, they added additional restaurants and replaced twice-nightly shows with genre entertainment. This concept alone, completely revolutionised luxury cruises.

Challenges

Norwegian has also faced many challenges over the years. Challenges include the purchase of two cruise lines that proved to be unprofitable, and a failed attempt to install inter-island cruising in Hawaii. But perhaps one of the biggest missteps came in the 1970s. Norwegian purchased the SS France (later rechristened the SS Norway) for $18 million in the late 1970’s. With the capacity for nearly 2,000 passengers, the ship was a rarity at the time. However, Norwegian also needed to pour $100 million into renovations. A costly investment that prevented the line from building a new ship until 1988. Norwegian’s fleet was aging and failing, and they were facing tough competition from other lines offering fresh new ships. Company management was also unstable and by the mid-1990s, Norwegian was drowning in debt and on the edge of bankruptcy.

Full Steam Ahead

Norwegian got back on course by restructuring their debt and management team. The acquisition of Norwegian by Star Cruises (Genting Hong Kong Limited), also gave them a much needed financial boost. They managed to anchor their Hawaiian endeavour by altering their approach, and in 2010 launched Epic. A 4,100 passenger boat, Epic exemplifies everything Norwegian stands for—prestigious quality, great service, and a luxury experience. Norwegian went public in 2013 and paid more than $3 billion to acquire Prestige Cruises International in 2014. With a current fleet of 14 ships, servicing over 2 million passengers a year, Norwegian looks set to continue on their current course.