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Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line has its origins in a company named Klosters Rederi, yes, from Norway. This company, headed by Knut Kloster, had ordered a car ferry for service between the South coast of England and Spain, via Lissabon and Gibraltar. The ferry, built in 1966, was named Sunward, a name chosen because the English could go 'to the sun' in Spain with the new ship. The company targeted for lorrydrivers as well as holidaymakers and the ship therefore had a lot more to offer the passengers then other ferries. But there were some problems, because Spain was a fascist country headed by General Franco, and because Franco had closed the border between the British colony of Gibraltar and Spain, the route could not be operated as planned. So Kloster had a ship but no route, but this was changed when he was approached by a man named Edward Stephan from Florida, who had been owner of the just defunct Pan American Cruise Line. He had used a ship, the old Egyptian ferry Nili, that he had chartered out to a man named Ted Arison. Because Pan American had gone bankrupt and the ship was laid-up, Arison was in desperate need for another ship because he had a lot of passengers that wanted to sail his popular Miami-Haïti-Jamaica service.

Norway seen at the Pointe de Floride quay at Le Havre at the 13th of september 2001. She was the first megaship sailing the Caribbean, starting cruises in 1980.

Stephan and Kloster did not agree on the terms, but Kloster got also in touch with Arison, and they decided to combine forces and so the co-operation between Stephan, who later co-founded Royal Caribbean, and Arison ended and was replaced by the new venture, called Norwegian Caribbean Line. In this new venture, Kloster was the CEO and Arison took care of the promotion and passengers. The Sunward was replaced to Caribbean cruiseservice and became an instant succes. Her first cruise from Miami, a place formerly known for it's high crimerate and fishingfleet, started at the 19th of december 1966. For cruise-historians, this date is recognized as the start of the modern cruise-industry. Within some years, new ships had been ordered in Germany, that were designed as true cruiseliners to the same profile as the Sunward, yet bigger. At that moment, NCL was the leading cruiseline in the Caribbean. In 1971, it became clear that Arison and Kloster had different ideas about how to run the line as well as finances, so the two parted and Arison left the company. But don't worry about him, he set up a company of his own and his story can be found here. He ended up quite well, actually...

A fierce competition started to unveal in the Caribbean, after Norwegian Caribbean Lines, Carnival Cruise Lines (that was of course Arisons new toy), Royal Viking Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and several others all wanted a piece of the pie. Most of these new companies were Norwegian owned or had a Norwegian background, but the only one to use the name of the home country was Kloster. In 1979, he hit the jackpot when he bought the former transatlantic liner and at the time the largest passengership in the world, the former France. The ship had been in lay-up since 1974 and Kloster saw a huge potential to outdo his rivals. In 1980, the ship was only to have one name, and she entered service as Norwaya vessel that was three times as large as any cruiseship then in Caribbean service. It was thought that the giant ships of the transatlantic age were unsuitable for the new role that they had to play, but Norway was an instant succes and she paved the way for large purpose-built cruiseliners. So Norway really started it all, and Kloster was the big man in Miami at the time. 

Freestyle cruising, a new way of cruising introduced by Norwegian Cruise Line in 2001, aboard their first freestyle-designed ship the Norwegian Sun. The goal of this is to have the passenger really enjoying their holiday by offering a lot of dining options, very relaxing atmosphere and to let them really do what they like at times they like to do it. NCL threw overboard the somewhat traditional 'rules' of cruising because they found that these rules spoiled the true holidayfeeling from the passengers.

Four years later, Kloster aquired another company, also from Norway, the very upmarket Royal Viking Line. He did not merge it into his own company, it stayed independent. At least, for the time being. In 1990, also the Royal Cruise Line was bought, including their one-ship operation. But financially, it was a different story. Klosters rivals had all built large, new ships to compete with the succes of Norway and Kloster was not longer unique with his great, but old ship. Financial cracks began to appear and he had to close and sell Royal Cruise Line and Royal Viking Line to keep NCL afloat. In 1997, the company adopted a new name, although the initials were still the same. They became Norwegian Cruise Line. Also in the late 1990's, the company was bought by a joined venture between Star Cruises from Malaysia and Carnival Cruise Lines, the company started up by Ted Arison. Carnival was way better financially equipped and so finally, Kloster lost the battle. In 2000, Carnival backed out and Star Cruises became the sole owner. But financially, NCL was still not a success although a lot of new ships and a totally new theme, Freestyle Cruising, had been introduced. In 2007, Star Cruises sold 50% of its shares in NCL to Apollo Management, together with the management of the company. Under Apollo management, it seems NCL is finally getting their financials right again the last years and with one of the most modern fleets in the world after losing older tonnage, NCL is back on track. With the new fiancial backing, NCL started a big fleet expansion with very large ships. When the first of those, the 155.000 ton Norwegian Epic entered service, she was the 6th largest cruiseship ever built. She was followed by the 145.000 ton two-ship Breakaway-class and a still larger class of four ships is about to enter service within the next years, known as the Breakaway-+ class, with one extra added deck to the original duo. 

On the 2nd of september 2014, it was announced that Norwegian Cruise Line had bought the Prestige Cruises holding, including its two lines Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Both lines will be branded without change under the new ownership. 

Other ships that have sailed for NCL but are placed in other sections on this site are listed below

Starward (1968-1995) is placed under Louis Cruises as Louis Aura

Sunward II (1997-1991) is placed under Cunard Line as Triton

Westward (1991) is placed under Fred. Olsen as Black Watch

Sunward (1991-1993) is placed under Fred. Olsen as Boudicca

Norwegian Crown (1996-2000 and 2003-2006) is placed under Fred. Olsen as Balmoral

Norwegian Dynasty (1997-1999) is placed under Fred. Olsen as Braemar  

For booking information, visit the website of Norwegian Cruise Line.

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