Norwegian Cruise Line just can’t get a break – again.

As the ship prepared to set sail on its one-night preview cruise from Rotterdam to Southampton, the word has gone forth: Norwegian Epic, the newest and greatest in the NCL fleet, will be delayed in docking in Southampton by over seven hours due to a malfunctioning propeller shaft.

Staff at NCL’s corporate headquarters in Miami are probably hoping when they wake up tomorrow, this will all have been a bad dream.  Speaking of dreams, the whole saga is a little reminiscent of the problem-riddled Norwegian Dream, which gamely plodded on, one accident or technical failure after another, before being sold in 2008.  Or almost sold – the ship still lies at anchor off Piraeus, awaiting a buyer.

After surviving a contract dispute between the line and shipyard STX Europe that saw plans for the Epic‘s planned twin vessel scrapped, Norwegian Epic has endured a string of bad luck.  First there was the engine that had to be replaced following the first set of sea trials in February.  The ship was then the victim of three suspicious fires in May and June, all of which are being investigated by French authorities.  Throughout all of this, the line and shipyard have somehow managed to keep the whole show on track: Epic’s handover on June 17th went off without a hitch.

Just four days later – a mechanical problem with the ships propulsion that affects her first one-night press cruise and subsequent events in Southampton.  The line stated that the transatlantic crossing currently scheduled for this Thursday will go ahead as planned, and repairs to the propeller shaft will take place while the ship is tied up in Southampton.

Passengers on today’s two-night inaugural cruise from Southampton are advised that embarkation will begin at 8:30pm on June 22nd.  The approximate time of sailing was not given in the notice posted on the company Facebook page.

The larger story here is perhaps the debate that’s raging by armchair cruisers across message boards all over the internet.  Initial press events are taking place on the other side of the world, and first reports have been few and far between.  Paul Motter writes in his Cruisemates blog that press invitations for any of the inaugural voyages were scarce, excluding many journalists and bloggers keen on experiencing the ship for themselves in order to better inform their readers.

Will Norwegian Epic set sail for New York on Thursday?  Right now, the line says a resounding “yes” – but we’ll keep our fingers crossed anyway.


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