Norwegian Spirit is seen here passing Velsen-Zuid sailing towards the Northsea locks at IJmuiden after her first visit to Amsterdam at the 12th of june in 2019. It was the first time that Norwegian Cruise Lines based a ship for a season in the Dutch capital.
In 1993, the Malaysian company Genting created a cruisecompany for cruises in Eastern Asia under the name of Star Cruises. They aimed at creating a cruiseline in the style of the western lines instead of a traditional Asian-styled company. They planned to sail with larger, modern ships in the Asian market, trying to tap in the huge demography that traditionally did not cruise. Two Baltic ferries were bought out of the remains of Rederi Slite and those were rebuilt into semi-luxury styled cruiseliners with whom services were started in 1994. The company bought several other, mostly smaller cruiselines but they also ordered two larger ships from the Jos L. Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany that were going to be their flagships. With 75.500 tons, these ships would be huge in the Asian market where most companies sailed with smaller and older ships. With the backing of the Genting company, that owned many hotels and casino's in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the Phillipines as well as in Australia, the United Kingdom and America, the company had a good financial position and so it was expected that more modern large ships would follow.
Construction and general statistics
The first of the two megaships was laid down at the German yard at the 5th of october in 1996 as yardnumber 646. She was going to be 268,60 meters long, 32,20 meters wide and her draft reached 7,90 meters. Her exact tonnage-measurement was 75.904. On her 14 decks, the ship could carry 1996 passengers and 965 crewmembers. The ship recieved power from four 14-cylinder diesel engines of Fyra MAN-B&W design that drove two ABB electric propulsion motors attached to two propellershafts driving two five-bladed fixed propellers. She could sail at a maximum of 24 knots, although normally, 21 knots is named as her sailingspeed. The ship was going to be flying the Panamanian flag, homeported in Panama.
At the 11th of july in 1998, the ship was floated out of the buildingdock and was brought over to the Dutch Eemshaven sailing the river Ems from Papenburg at the 9th of august. She sailed her trials from Eemshaven during august and was finally delivered to Star Cruises with a name now, SuperStar Leo, at the following 25th of september. It had been the thirth time that a cruiseship was fitted out at Eemshaven, a port near the Dutch town of Delftzijl which has seen little to none activity before. SuperStar Leo was now also the largest cruiseship that had even been fitted out in The Netherlands. One sistership was also built and entered service one year later as SuperStar Virgo.
As the ship was dedicated to the Asian market, which is very much noticed in the reduction in deckheight compared to other cruiseships. Also the deckchairs are considerably smaller then western cruiseships. This, of course, because Asians mostly are smaller then passengers from the west and for them, this was not an issue. When the ship was quickly brought in ther fleet of Norwegian Cruise Line, as we will see later, this did become inconvenient for her new clientele.
The ship was designed by Tillberg Design and its associated company SMC Design. The main entry is of course through a seven deck high atrium, which is a very spacious opening where-in the upper decks are designed like house-fronts making it almost equal to a town square. A double staircase leads up from the lowest level to the second, where several bars and lounges are located. The ship has many places to dine, the most prominent is the main dining room which has splendid views through several aft-facing floor to ceiling French windows. In the original Star Cruises design, the ship caters well for Asian and Western passengers in the choices offered, although of course there is a lot of room reserved for Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Malay dishes. There also was a German-style biergartenon deck 13, a sushi-bar and a 24-hour Blue Lagoon Café.
The entrance to the Grand Centrum from the outside decks is flanked by a true gateway.
The largest showlounge was the Moulin Rouge lounge, in which the front ros of seats are able to be removed to create extra space for dancing. The Celebrity Disco was designed in colourfull 70's style and another very light and open space with great picture windows is the Galaxy of the Stars & The Observatory. Through a spiral staircase in the Galaxy of the Stars a bridge vieuwing platform can also be entered.
The Sun Deck and upper decks including the largest lido pool was designed in Roman style and the 16-meter pool was surrounded by large Roman columns. For children, a spacious outer deck was also created with the Buccaneer Wet & Wild play area designed with the Caribbean pirates in mind. To show off, a huge sunken galleon with water cannons, a crows nest, swinging ropes and the sounds of crashing waves makes a great admosphere to play. For sports, tennis, volleyball and basketball are all possible to be played.
For smooth sailings, the ship is equipped with retractable fin stabilizers that can reduce the rolling motion of the ship by 85& while sailing at a speed of 18 knots. Two bow thrusters, one stern thruster and two spade rudders are also installed for better manouvrability. The electrical installations are designed so that in any case of single engine-failure, the propulsion, auxiliary systems and hotel operations will stay operational.
SuperStar Leo was firstly homeported in Singapore, from where she sailed short cruises (2 to 5 days) to Malaysia and Thailand. After this first season, she was stationed in Hong Kong from where she departed on her first cruise at the 17th of october 1999 to Vietnam and China. These cruises also were very short, 1 up to 5 days. Mostly people in the East do not have very long holidays and so cruises are mostly shorter then we are used to. It was also in this period that Star Cruises through its mothercompany Genting had bought the financially questionable Norwegian Cruise Line. The intended newer ships SuperStar Libra and SuperStar Scorpio, which were enlarged versions of the SuperStar Leo and SuperStar Virgo, were relocated to Norwegian Cruise Line before they were delivered and in their place Star Cruises took over some smaller ships from the Norwegian fleet. It kind of looked like the Asian market was not ready for more large cruiseships and the NCL fleet was in desperate need of modern tonnage for the international market. In 2003, during the outbreak of the highly contagious SARS-disease, the ship repositioned to Australia from where she sailed untill the outbreak was under control.
A link to America
More changes were on the horizon one year later, in 2004. Norwegian Cruise Line had bought two ships out of the remains of American Classic Voyages. This company had collapsed after they tried to introduce several large American-flagged cruiseliners under the revived banner of United States Lines. These two 72.000-ton ships were built also in the United States at the Litton-Ingalls wharf in Pascagoula, Mississippi. After the failure of the line, Norwegian Cruise Line brought the hull of the first ship over to Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven where she was finished as their Pride of America. It was intended to sail this ship around Hawaii under American flag and for this, NCL America was started up as a seperate branding.
On the 14th of january in 2004 however, an angry stormfront named Hanna passed over the wharf and the Pride of America was seriously damaged and partially sank at her berth. To keep up with the scedule for NCL America, Norwegian acted by quickly rebuilding their Norwegian Sky into Pride Of Aloha before sending her over to Hawaii. The gap in the fleet of Norwegian Cruise Line was also quickly filled in with SuperStar Leo from Star Cruises, that became Norwegian Spirit in just two weeks. She then took over the cruises of Norwegian Sky. Star Cruises had to refund and rebook their own passengers because of the change also.
Of course for Norwegian Cruise Line, the Norwegian Spirit recieved her distinct form of hull-art. In her case a mermaid following two dolphins.
Norwegian Cruise Line
In Norwegian Cruise Line service, the ship has seen many parts of the world. Her first season brought her to Alaska and New England, later she was seen many times around the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. In 2019, Norwegian Spirit was based out of Amsterdam for cruises in northern Europe as the first ship ever homeported in the Dutch capital by Norwegian. At the end of the 2019 season, the ship will be rebuilt inside and enter the Chinese market from 2020 onwards.
Several mishaps did occurr during her years with Norwegian Cruise Line. In 2005, the ship hit a pier in Juneau, Alaska although she only suffered slight damage. Another pier was hit in 2007 in New York and on the 25th of may in 2008 she again collided with pier 90 in the same city, damaging the columns of the parking garage at the pier and her own bow. Then in 2011, the ship surprisingly hit another pier, this time in Mexico while she was 12 hours late into a cruise. This also had to do with the fact of a death aboard earlier. Inbetween all those collisions with piers, in 2006 near Tortola, the ship was hit itself by a freak wave. No major injuries or damage was reported luckily.