Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO Harry Sommer Teases New Dining Concepts

There’s a lot to love about a cruise vacation, but at the top of the list for most people is the fabulous dining options found on today’s vessels. Restaurants catering to all palates are a staple on modern cruise ships from the outstandingly elegant to the casual and delicious and everything in between. Cruise lines have worked hard over the years to cultivate dining options which bring together flavors and styles from all over the world all on one ship so guests can enjoy a unique culinary experience each day of their cruise. 

Norwegian Cruise Line President & CEO Harry Sommer joined Porthole Cruise Magazine founder and Editor-in-Chief Bill Panoff for a discussion of NCL’s approach to the dining experience and he even teased a major announcement coming in the next few months about the future of NCL’s culinary concepts. Then, we got an update on the upcoming Leonardo-class ships scheduled for arrival in 2022 and when he thinks cruising will be completely back to normal. Check out the full interview below! 

New Cuisine Concepts on the Way for NCL 

Cruises haven’t been sailing, but that doesn’t mean the team at Norwegian Cruise Line have been sitting on their hands. Instead, they’ve been looking at their operations from top to bottom in order to provide the best possible guest experience. When it comes to food, Sommer said there are innovations in the works that the Porthole Cruise audience can get excited about.


“I was in the office yesterday talking to our head of food and beverage and our head of hotel operations talking about some of the dining concepts and some of the exciting things we’re going to do. It’s going to be absolutely incredible. [Porthole readers] will be very excited about what we have to announce probably in a couple of months when we’re ready to start sharing details,” he said.

Cruising’s Positive Mid-to-Long Term Outlook 

As a whole, Sommer explained why he was excited about the outlook for the industry in the mid-to-long term. 


“I’m excited. I’m excited mid-to-long term about the industry. I think some of the innovations we’re putting in place will make the experience better – more seamless, more touchless experiences, more quick interactions. We’re going to be upgrading our mobile app, our onboard experience, these things that we’ve taken the time to upgrade, our menus not just in The Haven, in Bistro and a few other restaurants are going to be longstanding. We’re committed to having a fantastic product,” he said. 

When asked about the upcoming Project Leonardo ships NCL has been teasing for a while now, Sommer explained how the new ships were always designed with more space and fewer guests than other new ships of the modern era of cruising. 

“I don’t want to say it’s one of those things we got right accidentally, but we had good foresight. The Leo project was always designed to be a class of ship that had fewer guests and higher space ratio than the previous class of ship. I think when we first announced that a couple of years back, people thought that we were going left when everyone else was going right. There were a lot of other cruise lines that were getting ships that were bigger and bigger and bigger. We went a little smaller which was unique. In hindsight, that really worked out well,” he said. 

We don’t know much about Project Leonardo yet as the first ship is still more than a year away, but we do know the capacity will be maxed at 3,300 guests and they’re being built at a cost of $850 million each! Sommer assured us that despite COVID-19, the Project Leonardo-class ships are on schedule and will be delivered on time. 

When Will Cruising Return to Normal?

While many are excited about the possibility of COVID-19 vaccinations helping to restart the cruise industry, Sommer cautioned that a return to normal operation will be an evolving process due to the unpredictability of the pandemic. 


“On day one when we restart, even if our guests are fully vaccinated, will there likely be some differences on board the ship? I think there likely will be, but I think it’s going to be an evolution over time. I don’t want to put a time frame on it, I think one of these things that the pandemic has taught us is that it’s a little bit unpredictable but certainly we’re going to get to the other side of this. There will be a time in the future when things go back to the old and great ways,” he said.  

Watch the full interview with Norwegian Cruise Line President & CEO Harry Sommer below!