Germany-based shipbuilder Meyer Werft has officially marked the start of construction on Norwegian Cruise Line’s first Breakaway Plus-class cruise ship the Norwegian Escape.

During the keel laying ceremony, the first of its 86 blocks, the 400t block 35/41, was also lifted into the covered building dock.

Meyer Werft managing partner Bernard Mey said: "We are proud to begin the construction of Norwegian Cruise Line’s first Breakaway Plus vessel and continue our long-standing partnership."

"The vessel’s hull design by Guy Harvey features an underwater scene of marine wildlife."

The 334.6m-long vessel will have a gross tonnage of 164,600t and the capacity to accommodate more than 4,200 passengers and 1,700 crew members.

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan said: "Norwegian Escape will be our largest and most innovative ship to date, building on the phenomenal success of Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway."

The vessel’s hull design by Guy Harvey features an underwater scene of marine wildlife. The ship will cruise to destinations that include St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas.

Delivery of Norwegian Escape is expected to take place in October 2015.

Meyer Werft has been contracted to build a total of four Breakaway Plus-class cruise ships. The second ship, Norwegian Bliss, is slated for delivery in the spring of 2017. The third and fourth ships are scheduled to be handed over in mid 2018 and the fourth quarter of 2019 respectively.