Exactly fifty years ago, on Monday December 19, 1966, Norwegian Caribbean Line (now Norwegian Cruise Lines) marked the birth of Caribbean cruises.
Norwegian’s first cruise ship, the Sunward, was a converted ferry boat that weighed 8,666 tons and carried only 558 passengers.
After the Sunward’s first sailing on December 19, 1966, people flocked to the new way of cruising to the Caribbean. This provided a new source of income for the travel agents of that time.
“I don’t think we would be talking about cruising today like we are had they not had that idea to be cruising in the Caribbean 50 years ago,” said Brad Anderson, co-owner of Avoya Travel.
Norwegian’s founders Knut Kloster Sr., a Norwegian-born shipping mate (hence the cruise line’s name), and Israel-born businessman Ted Arison set out with big dreams to create a cruise line for the middle-class traveler who wanted to vacation on a ship. (Arison left in 1972 to form Carnival Cruise Line, which is now one of the cruise line’s biggest competitors.)
Norwegian has been a pioneer in innovating cruising since the beginning. From introducing the first Caribbean cruises, to introducing a new way of free-style cruising.
Free-style cruising allows passengers to do what they want, when they want. It was created in 2000 and allows passengers to dine when they want, participate in events when they want, and party when they want. Free-style cruising was first featured on the Norwegian Sky, which is still in service today, sailing 3-4 night cruises to the Bahamas from Florida.
Cruise line competitors Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International jumped on to this style of cruising and unveiled their own versions called Your Choice, My Time, and My Family Time. Princess Cruises introduced Anytime; Celebrity Cruises’ version was called Select, and Holland America Line went with As You Wish.
“It completely revolutionized evenings on cruises,” said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com. “Because they shook up the dining, then they had to shake up the entertainment because all entertainment was tagged to early and late dining.”
All of these innovations have now allowed Norwegian Cruise Lines to rank as the number 3 cruise line in the world. They operate some of the largest cruise ships in the world, and in my opinion, provide the best guest experience.