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In a world of megaships, Norwegian Cruise Line is going a little smaller with its next order.
The Miami-based cruise line said Thursday it reached an agreement with Itally’s Fincantieri shipyard to buy four new vessels — with the option to add two more — for delivery between 2022 and 2027. Unlike the ships built for the company in the past several years, the new additions will have room for 3,300 passengers.
That’s larger than the operator’s earliest vessels, which held between approximately 2,000 and 2,400 passengers. But it’s smaller than ships that have come online since 2010, whose capacity has ranged from about 4,000 to more than 4,200 passengers.
And even Norwegian’s largest ships are dwarfed by the largest in the world, Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis-class vessels. Those behemoths sail with more than 5,400 passengers. Cruise operators build huge ships for several reasons: They can pack the ship with activities that will attract more customers, add more revenue-generating outlets, and maximize personnel efficiencies.
Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Vanessa Picariello told Skift via email that the smaller size will allow the new vessels to visit a wider array of ports.
“As we continue to expand our global footprint, we are likely to add new homeports as we open up new markets while also adding new ports worldwide to enhance our already award-winning itineraries,” she wrote. “This size vessel provides an optimal balance between deployment flexibility and earnings potential.”
The announcement said the design of the new 140,000-gross-ton ships will also prioritize energy efficiency and a reduced environmental footprint. The contract price is 800 million euros, or about $852 million, each. The order was for one ship a year to be delivered between 2022 and 2025, but the company has the option to order two more for 2026 and 2027 launches.
Norwegian, which operates 14 ships, has released limited information about the new class of ships — for now referred to as “Project Leonardo” — other than size and passenger capacity. Renderings are expected next month, and information about onboard amenities, names, and homeports are all in the distant future.
The line has three vessels already on the way between this year and 2019. Norwegian Joy, due in June, will sail in China for the local market.
The upcoming ships are the first for the line designed under Frank Del Rio, the president and CEO of parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. He stepped into the role two years ago after serving as chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, an upscale company with two cruise lines that was acquired by Norwegian in 2014. He has focused on smaller high-end ships and destination-focused cruises in his career, which includes the founding of Oceania Cruises.
“This new class of ships will continue Norwegian Cruise Line brand’s legacy of introducing meaningful innovation to the cruise industry,” Del Rio said in a statement. “This order continues to highlight our disciplined newbuild program, extends our growth trajectory well into the future, enhances our already attractive earnings profile, and drives expected long-term returns for our shareholders.”