Norwegian Cruise Line has announced fleet-wide upgrades following a $1 billion cash injection from private equity group Apollo Management.

Improvements will be made to dining, cabins and activities by summer 2008. The announcement was made at the christening of Norwegian Gem in New York City at the end of last year.

An extra $50 million will be spent on food and restaurant amenities in the next two years, which equates to an increase of 20% per passenger per day. Most of this will be spent on refitting the ships with Action Station restaurants, replacing traditional buffets with multiple points of service that aim to dispense with trays and queues.

Guests will be greeted with champagne on arrival whatever their cabin grade and there will be signature dishes at each restaurant. Room service will be available from all restaurant menus and reservation technology will be improved.

Among planned enhancements to the cabins, amenities, mattresses and towels will be upgraded balcony cabins and mini-suites will receive a 24-hour telephone concierge service and priority embarkation while suites and villas are to have concierge and butler service, in-room welcome champagne, a private breakfast and lunch area and outdoor butlers in the courtyard villas.

NCL president and chief executive Colin Veitch said Freestyle 2.0 had been driven by agent feedback.

“We don’t want to rest on our laurels – we have achieved the milestone of offering the youngest fleet in the cruise industry and will now focus our attention on delivering the next generation of Freestyle Cruising – a significant enhancement to the guest experience across the fleet.”

Many Freestyle 2.0 features are in place on Norwegian Gem, which sailed its inaugural US cruise this week. Soft refits will be rolled out across the fleet this summer and the Action Station restaurants will be fitted as each ship goes into dry dock.

Apollo Management will own 50% of NCL under the terms of the agreement, announced in August. Veitch said the $1 billion will be used to reduce debt and to help pay for the ships on order for 2010.