Norwegian Cruise Line History

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has become one of the most notable names in the cruise industry, being the third largest cruise line in the world. This cruise line continues to progress towards record-breaking ships and providing the best possible vacation experience for guests on board.

“Our story began over half a century ago when Norwegian Caribbean Line was founded by Norway’s oldest and most respected shipping company. In 1966 we made a groundbreaking maiden voyage with 550 passengers that changed the way the world viewed holidays at sea. More than just a means of transport, the ship became a destination in itself, offering guests an alternative exciting and affordable to land-based resorts,” says Norwegian Cruise Line of its story.

Norwegian cruise line is one of the most popular brands in the cruise industry. With over 17 ships and six more Prima-class ships slated to launch before the year 2027, NCL is poised to make even more history in the near future.

Norwegian Cruise Line started in the country of its namesake, Norway, in 1966. The line originally started as the “Norwegian Caribbean Line”. The brainchild of the cruise line came from Knut Kloster, Klosters Rederi A/S, one of Norway’s best-known shipping companies, and the man who would eventually found Carnival Cruises, Ted Arison.

After the founding of the Norwegian Caribbean Line, they introduced their first ship, in 1966, The Sunward. At the time, this ship served as both a cruise ship and a car ferry. The Sunward was originally owned by the Arison Shipping Company. Shortly after the founding of Norwegian Caribbean Line, Mr. Arison left the company to eventually form Carnival Cruise Lines.

“As the cruise industry began to gain popularity, Norwegian led the way with the introduction of a fleet of sleek new ‘white ships’ in the late 1960s and early 1970s and continued to grow. ‘increase capacity and expand routes over the next two decades,’ NCL says of their story.

At the time, Norwegian Caribbean Line was the only cruise line to offer weekly itineraries to the Caribbean. In January 1970, the company launched its third ship, the Skyward. This ship was unique at the time and the closest to what we see among modern cruise ships today. This ship was the first of the company to offer services for all passengers, and no or very few car transport services on board. Soon the company began launching year-round fast routes to the Caribbean.

In 1971, the company launched its fourth ship, the Southward. This ship became the first in the fleet to offer 14-day Caribbean cruises. By 1971, the company had become a ship destination for vacationers and resembled what we consider a cruise ship today.

In 1977 the company purchased Great Stirrup Cay and became the first cruise line to purchase a private island exclusively for its passengers.

A decade later, in 1984, Norwegian Caribbean Line purchased Royal Viking Line and decided to expand to other parts of the world, not just sailing in and around the Caribbean. To reflect its desires for more extensive itineraries around the world, the company changed its name to “Norwegian Cruise Line” in 1987.

“Norwegian Caribbean Line became Norwegian Cruise Line in 1987 to reflect an expanded itinerary structure. Throughout the 1990s the company continued to expand its fleet with newer and larger ships built to replace the “white ships “now retired,” NCL says of the transition from Norwegian Caribbean Line to Norwegian Cruise Line.

In the 1990s, NCL launched two new ships, Norwegian Dream and Norwegian Wind. These ships underwent massive reconstructions. NCL made history by introducing industry-first technologies on board, including WiFi capability, then later became the first cruise line to have fleet-wide cell phone services on his ships.

In February 2000, NCL was acquired by Genting Hong Kong Limited (formerly known as Star Cruises Ltd.). NCL was acquired by Genting Hong Kong for approximately $1.8 billion. Also in 2000, Norwegian Cruise Line launched its famous Freestyle Cruising concept. This concept offered passengers more flexibility on board when it came to their vacation and would become something the NCL brand is well known for today.

Following the announcement of their new Freestyle Cruising concept, the first ship specifically designed for Freestyle Cruising was built in 2001. This ship was received with great success, and since then all NCL built ships have been built with this Freestyle Cruising concept in mind.

Freestyle Cruising allows NCL customers the flexibility on board to make their vacation their own. For example, there are no fixed dining times on NCL ships. This means passengers can dine whenever and wherever they want on board.

In August 2007, NCL sold a 50% stake in Norwegian Cruise Line to private equity group Apollo Management, LP and TPG Capital. The stake was sold for a capital investment of $1 billion. The investment was finally closed on January 7, 2008.

In 2013, NCL completed its IPO and was listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. They were traded under the ticker symbol NCLH. The company sold 27.1 million shares for net proceeds of approximately $477.65 million.

A year later, in November 2014, in November, NCL acquired Prestige Cruises International Inc. This cruise line was the parent company that managed cruise lines such as Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. This acquisition occurred in a cash and stock transaction for $3.025 billion, which included the assumption of all debt.

In 2013 and again in 2014, NCL introduced the ships Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway to its fleet. These large ships marked the start of NCL’s move towards developing mega-ships for its fleet. These ships were the first of their kind among NCL ships, including attractions and amenities never before seen on other NCL ships.

Today, Norwegian Cruise Line is a well-known global competitor in the cruise industry. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings now operates Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. With this combined fleet, the company operates 29 ships and transports millions of guests and passengers to approximately 490 destinations worldwide.

Currently, Norwegian Cruise Line operates with over 35,000 crew members, 29 ships in the fleet, with 8 ships on order, carried over 2.7 million passengers in 2019 and has two luxury private islands reserved for guests of NCL.

This cruise line has made history in the past and is set to make headlines in the future, with the release of ships such as Norwegian Viva and more to come in the coming years. Those interested in the history of Norwegian Cruise Line can view a detailed timeline here.

Back To Top