New York City Looks at Using NCL Cruise Ship as Migrant Shelter

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Following the example set in European countries over the last few months, New York City is now looking to use a cruise ship to house migrants. Norwegian Cruise Line has confirmed the company is in talks with the city mayor. 

Over the last months, the Netherlands used a chartered cruise ship from Holland America Line to house Ukrainian refugees, which was considered a success by all involved parties. 

Norwegian Cruise Line in Discussion with NYC to House Migrants

Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed this week it is in discussion with New York City’s Mayor to charter one of its ships. New York City is looking at the possibility of tackling the problems it experiences with finding suitable housing for migrants in the city by chartering a cruise ship. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams brought up the idea of using a cruise ship a few weeks ago but has since declined to reveal any details on its plans. 

New York City Mayor, Eric Adams: “When we get an announcement of any type of deal, we will make it public with a level of transparency. And so any premature announcement of a deal that was reached, they know more than I do.”

Norwegian Breakaway in New York
Photo Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky /

According to the New York Post, the mayor would want to house migrants onboard one of the Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ships and dock the vessel at Staten Island.

The lease would be for a minimum of six months, and the vessel would simultaneously be used as a processing center before migrants would enter the city’s shelter systems. 

Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed the ongoing talks with the city government; a spokesperson told Newsnation the following:

“The chartering of cruise ships to companies, government entities, and other organizations for various uses is a standard business practice across our industry. While we can confirm that New York City has approached us about a potential charter of a cruise vessel, no agreement has been reached, and we cannot speculate about the outcome of any ongoing business discussions.”

In addition to a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, New York’s City Hall is also negotiating using an Estonian Tallink cruise ferry. This vessel was intended to be used in the Netherlands, but the local authorities binned that plan due to a lack of available space in the ports. 

Cruise Ships Become Attractive Alternative

While many will question why a cruise company would want to charter out a cruise ship to be used as migrant housing, it is a financially very attractive alternative for the cruise lines. 

Without burning vast amounts of fuel sailing across the ocean, cruise lines can significantly save fuel costs. If the ship also uses shore power, costs go down even further.

Cruise Ships in New York
Cruise Ships in New York (Photo Copyright: Emrys Thakkar)

Without the need to provide twice-daily turndowns, a la carte dinners, and other cruise-related services, the companies can also save on crewing costs. They can do all that while charging a premium to the local governments, which would still be less expensive than building up a tent city to house migrants. 

The best example we saw earlier this year. The Dutch city of Rotterdam chartered the Holland America Line Cruise ship Volendam. Onboard the city housed several thousand Ukrainian refugees who fled their country due to the war with Russia. 

Which ship would be available for use by New York City is unclear. All ships in the fleet are operational with guests. Using one ship for migrant housing would mean canceling a significant amount of bookings.

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