Planning for Norwegian Getaway began at Norwegian Cruise Line's headquarters in 2010. In May 2012, the first steel was cut for the ship at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. By December 2013, the shipyard had nearly completed its work. However, while the physical plant was nearly ready, the ship still lacked a soul.
“A ship can cost a billion dollars but without the crew operating it and without the guests living in it, it is useless, a very sad story. The ship is nice when you go there in the yard but cold. Its like a house. When no one lives there, there is no ambiance, no atmosphere. You have to breathe in the soul,” explains Sean Wurmhoeringer, Getaway's Hotel Director.
Mr. Wurmhoeringer was one of the senior people selected by Norwegian to spearhead the team that would bring the new ship to life. He has brought many ships into service for Norwegian.
“The most difficult was [Norwegian] Epic.” That ship came after Norwegian's Jewel class ships, which were all built by Meyer Werft and which are very similar in design. Bringing those ships into service “was pretty much copy, cut, paste from one to the next one.”
Norwegian Epic was a totally different concept than her predecessors and was built at the French shipyard Chantiers de l'Atlantique, not the familiar shipyard in Germany.
“Epic was a monster for us. A new shipyard and a ship that we didn't know, We had to learn the ship ourselves. We had to teach the crew about the ship. Just to find your way around, number one. Number two, how is the [passenger] flow going to work with 5,000 people? We had been operating ships with 2,500 people, how do we operate a ship with 5,000 people?”
“On top of that the ship was not ready when we [arrived in] France.” Usually, the crew does not come onto a new cruise ship the day that the cruise line takes ownership of the ship. Rather, the crew starts to assemble at the shipyard during the final stages of construction in order to get things ready for operation, train and coalesce as a team.
“The yard was far behind. In Germany, you get the turnkey three weeks in advance. You can move in with your crew and start training in the galleys etc. On Epic, we could not move in, we could not start the training.”
Despite these difficulties, Epic came to life and arrived in New York to considerable applause. “We learned a lot there.”
Norwegian's next ship was Norwegian Breakaway. For Breakaway, Norwegian returned to Meyer Werft with whom Norwegian had worked so many times in the past. In addition, although the design is different, many of the concepts developed for Epic underlie Breakaway.
“The Breakaway compared to the Epic was a piece of cake. There were a few tricks here and there but nothing compared to the Epic. We learned more on the Breakaway.”
As a result, bringing Getaway, Breakaway's sister ship, into service was much more straightforward.
“We call them the 'Hot Twin Sisters'. They are exactly the same from a construction point of view. We knew pretty much from the Breakaway what to expect.”
In addition, 'when I [arrived at the shipyard] in December, the ship was ready basically. We could move in. We could take over the galleys, the restaurants and do the training. We did so much training onboard. We had this great opportunity to get ahead of the game, getting all the training out of the way. It was a great experience.”
Contributing to Getaway's smooth birth was the fact that many of the people who brought Breakaway to life were involved in bringing Getaway into service. “A lot of the management team was the same. It made sense. Everyone knew what you were talking about because they had experienced it together [before]. A lot of things that usually take a lot of time and effort [went] faster because everybody knew what we were talking about.”
This did not mean that the officers and crew were able to just sit back and relax during Getaway's pre-inaugural cruises in Europe and her transatlantic crossing to New York. (Like Epic and Breakaway, Getaway's first port of call in the New World was New York). Strategies and plans were developed based upon observing how passengers behaved on the ship.
“You observe what is going on and think why is this happening - - why do people come this way, why are people lining up at a restaurant at 7:15. Where are they coming from, what are they doing? What forces them to go there now? Why are they not in the show? We figured out step by step how to adjust and we did.”
“We planned ahead [for the ship's entry into regular service] and then we put it in place. The key is to do the homework. If you don't do the homework, you get stuck.”
The Getaway team has continued to do its homework even now that the ship has arrived in her homeport of Miami and is doing her regular cruise schedule. The senior managers in the hotel department do not spend a nine-to-five day day in their offices. They work well into the evening and spend much of their time patrolling the ship's public areas to see what is happening. “There are always opportunities to make a difference here or there .”
Cruise ship interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Getaway - Hotel Director Sean Wurmhoeringer