NCL are to return to the UK – Norwegian Jade will be home-ported in Southampton from May 2017. The ship will offer a range of shorter cruises, including 2 nights, 7 nights and 9 nights. Each cruise will also call at Hamburg, where passengers will be embarked & disembarked. The 2-night cruises will simple be from Southampton to Hamburg and back, the 7-night cruises will also call at Amsterdam and Le Havre, and the 9-night cruises will head for the fjords. I’m not completely certain how the itineraries will look for the Hamburg passengers, but presumably the cruises from there will be the same length as from Southampton, and Hamburg passengers will experience the full joy of a day-call at Southampton…
‘Other lines make ex-UK [cruises] to the Mediterranean work but it doesn’t work for us.’
NCL will have 5 ships deployed in Europe in 2017, including Norwegian Getaway which will be based in Copenhagen for cruises in the Baltic. NCL see those cruises as also being very attractive to British passengers – they mention that “the air access from UK regional airports is fantastic to Copenhagen” – to the extent that they expect British passengers to take half the capacity of Getaway. NCL also say that they’ve specifically ruled out longer cruises to the Mediterranean from the UK – “We decided that our customers would probably choose to fly to Barcelona or Venice and get to the Mediterranean the same day. Other lines make ex-UK [cruises] to the Mediterranean work but it doesn’t work for us.”
This will apparently be the end of a 10-year gap in NCL’s UK home-porting. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t fully realised that NCL hadn’t had a ship based in the UK – I thought that there were ships based at Harwich for a while, but perhaps not. We did a short cruise to Amsterdam and back – 2 nights – in 2005 on Norwegian Jewel (earlier sister to Norwegian Jade). It was too short to really get a feel for what NCL offer, and it was also Norwegian Jewel’s first cruise with fare-paying passengers so there were quite a few rough edges to smooth out, but I do remember being impressed with the ‘Freestyle Dining’ concept, and the hardware associated with it – on-line information about the numbers waiting for each restaurant, for example. Looking at the pictures I took, it actually looks like an attractive ship. Perhaps we ought to give NCL another go.