Norwegian Cruise Lines has made a triumphant return to the Australian market, sailing Norwegian Jewel into Sydney Harbour this weekend.

Even before the Jewel’s arrival, her three-month season has already been declared a success. According to the line, all but a few cabins remain on the ship’s Sydney sailings.

She left tonight for a 5-day cruise to Tasmania with every cabin booked and a full complement of 2,376 passengers – the majority Australian guests.

The Haven, an exclusive luxury retreat with its own privileges and butler service which has been booked by the likes of rock stars Bon Jovi and Royalty, is popular with Australians.

Executive Vice President of International Business Development Harry Sommer declared he had “a lump in my throat” when he saw the Jewel at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal after discussing bringing ships to the city for 18 years.  But he said she was proving so popular there are only 100 cabins for a January sailing.

Bookings for the second season have only just opened, but he said he would be “very surprised” if Australia did not have another Norwegian ship in 2019/20. A decision will be announced early next year.

The line has announced the Jewel will have a two-week refit that will see her restaurants, public areas and  The Haven extensively updated as part of a $400 million upgrade of the fleet.

Norwegian’s arrival in Australia adds to the competition for the contemporary  premium cruise market dominated by Princess Cruises and Celebrity. Food and entertainment are Norwegian specialties – so expect new offerings in these important areas.

The Norwegian Jewel’s inaugural five-day Taste of Tassie trip will be  followed by 14 voyages during three months of Australian cruising before sailing to Asia.

There will be a 9-day journey visiting a swathe of burgeoning regional destinations including Eden, Kangaroo Island and Tasmania’s Burnie, departing 14 December 2017.

Norwegian Jewel’s 10 to 16-day Australia and New Zealand itineraries depart between November 2017 and February 2018, with highlights including cruising through New Zealand’s Milford Sound and the spectacular Bay of Islands.

The ship will sail to Singapore on an 18 day adventure. She will offer a range of Asian itineraries including Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and more.

The dry-dock refurbishment, part of a $400 million program to bring the entire Norwegian fleet of 15 vessels up to date, starts in Singapore October 2018.

She’ll emerge a nearly new ship for her Australian season with bow to stern refreshments and a new look across many of the ship’s public spaces.

Built in 2005 and last refurbished in 2014.  But the Edge program is aimed at updating all the interiors.  Our visit to the ship today showed she is in great shape – but her retro look seems almost certain to give way to something more modern.

For her first Sydney season, more lamb has been added to menus, along with Aussie beer and specialty coffee – all proven crowd pleasures in the Australian market.

Burn the Floor, a spectacular dance show created in Australia and now on three other Norwegian ships, will feature in the 1,200 seater, which also has Le Cirque Bijou.

Norwegian Jewel has 15 dining options, including the line’s signature specialty restaurants including Cagney’s Steakhouse serving up Premium Black Angus Beef, Le Bistro, an intimate upscale French bistro and Teppanyaki, which offers authentic Japanese Hibachi.

There are plenty of entertainment and drinking options, including Sugarcane Mojito Bar and The Maltings Whiskey Bar.

The Jewel is family friendly, with basketball, dodgeball, tennis and volleyball and a designated kid’s pool or Splash Academy.

Accommodation options range from inside staterooms to balcony staterooms boasting superb views and private outdoor areas. Interconnecting rooms and multiple-bedroom suites are also available for families.

According to Norwegian, the balcony staterooms have firmed as an Aussie favourite.

The Haven by Norwegian is home to the ship’s most luxurious suites and villas, a private courtyard, whirlpools and dedicated private deck exclusively for Haven guests, as well as dedicated concierge services.

The 2018/2019 season includes a spectacular 19-day transpacific journey from Vancouver to Tokyo (Yokohama) via Alaska and Russia; a 19 day journey to Australia from Singapore with stops in Bali and Komodo Island; a new 13-day South Pacific itinerary and a series of sailings in and around Australia and New Zealand home-porting from Sydney.

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