Norwegian Cruise Line kicks off its peak ‘wave’ booking season early today (December 7) with discounts of up to £400 per cabin on all sailings of six nights or more including peak holiday periods.

The price promotion, which runs until the end of February, comes as the line seeks to fill 40% more capacity in Europe with four ships in summer 2012 against a backdrop of doubts over the European economy.

Vice president and general manager international Francis Riley admitted that the only certainty about 2012 was uncertainty but the company was aiming to build on improved but undisclosed 2011 sales from the UK – its biggest European market.

He also revealed plans for a further 10% rise in overall European capacity for summer 2013 with 25% larger ship Norwegian Star replacing Norwegian Sun on Baltic fly-cruise itineraries out of Copenhagen.

This represents 21,000 extra beds across the season in Europe as Norwegian Sun is redeployed to run Alaska cruises from Vancouver.

Saying he was “cautiously optimistic” about prospects for next year, Riley conceded: “There are a lot of concerns with unemployment, the fluctuating price of oil and unrest in the Middle East which all bodes not that well for 2012.”

Wave season prices lead in at £849 per person for a seven-night western Mediterranean sailing on the line’s biggest ship Norwegian Epic from Barcelona in October 2012.

Despite the promotional discounts, Riley claimed Norwegian was making efforts to raise its prices in line with competitors such as Royal Caribbean International.

“As a company we are not getting the right price for the product, we are looking to drive up prices,” he said.

“We would like to see prices up there with where our competitors sit.”

Next year’s fresh rise in Air Passenger Duty would be “sucked in by wholesalers who package Norwegian cruises with other travel components”, Riley said.