The new Leonardo-class cruise ship coming from Norwegian Cruise Line could be homeported in Southampton, according to comments made by the chief executive of the line’s parent company, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
“We would love to have a new vessel in Southampton, but I’m not going to commit to that,” Frank del Rio said during a roundtable event. “I can see Southampton continue to double as a major cruise hub… and I think it would warrant a new vessel of that size.”
The first of the Leonardo-class cruise ships is due for delivery in 2022, with another three due each year until 2025. They’ll be smaller than the Breakaway-Plus class, carrying 3,300-passengers, but if homeported in Southampton would be much larger than the 2,016-passenger, 20-year-old Norwegian Spirit.
Norwegian Spirit will cruise a series of roundtrip sailings from Southampton in 2019, before repositioning to Asia via Dubai and Cape Town.
It wasn’t clear from Del Rio’s comments whether Southampton was being considered for the first of the Leonardo-class ships, or one of the future ones on order.
But the redevelopment of Ocean Terminal in Southampton to accommodate ships with more passengers will likely be an incentive for the longer-term deployment of Leonardo-class ships out of the port.
During the inaugural cruise of Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Andy Stuart said during a media event that the Leonardo-class had been designed with the Mediterranean in mind, where port capacities are more limited in terms of ship size.
“The Leonardo Class will be a slightly smaller footprint, so that gives you more options in terms of ports. There are some ports which can’t take a big ship like Bliss,” he said. “And there are some ports that from a capacity standpoint we wouldn’t want to go in with a brand-new ship that has 4,200 beds, we’d prefer to start with one with 3,300 beds.”
Those comments were echoed by Del Rio. “Port infrastructure is not keeping up [with the size of new ships] and we don’t want to be competing with our peers for one big berth. So the Mediterranean is a fantastic place to have a Leonardo class ship,” he said.
With its much larger Waterfront than the Breakaway-Plus class, wider deck space and a huge Boardwalk-type design aft that channels MSC’s Seaside-class, the Leonardo-class will also, of course, be a natural fit for the Caribbean.
According to Del Rio, Miami would be a front-runner, with some of Norwegian’s older, smaller ships also sailing out of more US ports. He listed Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, Mobile, Tampa and Port Everglades as examples.