The redeployment of the Norwegian Sky on a dedicated Bahamas itinerary will have a major effect on our cruise arrivals and positively impact the bottom lines of those businesses that focus on this sector of the industry, Minister of Tourism and Aviation the Hon. Neko Grant said.

It also represents a significant commitment by Norwegian Cruise Lines to The Bahamas, Mr. Grant said at a press conference Tuesday, announcing that the ship will be operating three and four day cruise itineraries from Miami to The Bahamas beginning Friday, July 18.

Mr. Grant explained that the Sky’s itinerary will include Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay twice a week, which amounts to a minimum projection of 96 calls per year; bringing potentially some 182,400 passengers.

“I am pleased to note that a minimum of 42 calls are expected to Grand Bahama Island over the course of the next year,” he said. “It is expected that the Sky will make 21 calls to Grand Bahama Island by the end of this year, an average of one per week, delivering at least 39,900 passengers.”

The Minister said NCL recognises the importance of encouraging the growth of onshore tours and attractions, which are important to the overall experience in the destination, while serving as a revenue-boosting opportunity that cruise lines typically rely on.

“My ministry officials are already meeting with teams in Nassau and Grand Bahama to explore the potential for increased business opportunities for local entrepreneurs.”

The Tourism Minister noted that the country is also expecting increased calls by a number of other NCL vessels, including the Norwegian Sun and the Majesty.

“Government Head Tax projections from NCL Sky are expected to be $7.98 million over the period July 2008 – December 2009.

“Total Head Tax projections from all NCL ships visiting The Bahamas over the next year and a half are estimated at $21.49 million.”

Mr. Grant said the Ministry of Tourism has received feedback in recent years from Bay Street merchants, tour operators, hair braiders, taxi drivers, straw vendors and artisans that suggests NCL’s passengers spend considerably more with them than the average cruise passenger, which means that with an all Bahamas itinerary, “the opportunity to increase cruise passenger spending in The Bahamas is even greater.”

He also explained that more importantly, if Bahamians do their jobs correctly to boost NCL’s passenger spending, the country stand to earn some $22 million from NCL passengers between the period July 2008 and December 2009 with Sky generating almost 50 per cent of this amount.

The addition of Sky brings the number of NCL vessels calling on The Bahamas, inclusive of NCL’s Norwegian Pearl, Dawn, Gem, Majesty and Spirit, to six.

Mr. Grant said together their passengers are expected to spend approximately $39.86 million over the next year and a half.

Vice President, Special Projects, NCL, Colin Murphy explained that the Norwegian Sky, formerly the Pride of Aloha accommodates approximately 2000 passengers and will be the youngest and highest quality ship in the three and four day market.

Mr. Murphy explained that the ship will undergo refurbishment in Miami that will include the full implementation of a Freestyle 2.0 upgrades, currently being implemented across the fleet.

“The Sky has more than 240 balcony staterooms with a choice of six different restaurants, 10 bars and lounges, multiple entertainment venues, two pools, extensive children’s facilities, a sports deck and a variety of spacious public rooms,” Mr. Murphy added.