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New Ships, More Perks

January 27, 2009 By: Susan Young Home-Based Travel Agent
 


Agents know the process of launching new ships is highly cyclical. Some years are lean, others robust. Right now, the good news is that a slew of new ships are entering service at a steady flow. At least 12 new ships—most serving a North American clientele—will enter service this year with another dozen launching next year. Eight more will be delivered in 2011, another five in 2012.

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The new Seabourn Odyssey

But can new ships help agents beat the economic doom and gloom seen daily on television? “The new builds and the buzz that goes with them does spark the ‘Ooh, I want to be in on that’ nerve,” believes Jami Sales, managing director, UncommonCruises.com. “I’d suggest that all agents get themselves pumped up about the excitement of these new vessels. Then pick up the phone and let clients know that something very exciting is going on—and that you want to be sure they know about it.”

Christened in November 2008, Celebrity Solstice and Ruby Princess are already wowing guests and the trade. “Celebrity Solstice is a spectacular ship that far exceeded my already high expectations,” says Jack Mannix, CTC, president and CEO, Ensemble Travel. “It has a very ‘hip’ feel to it and there are a number of very creative and innovative things about it that I think all consumers will love—not to mention the younger Generation Y people who are becoming a more important target group in selling cruises.”

The 122,000-ton Celebrity Solstice has 1,425 staterooms; 130 of those are new AquaClass staterooms creating a more relaxed, intimate shipboard atmosphere with dedicated amenities and perks. AquaClass guests dine in Blu, a dedicated restaurant. They enjoy in-stateroom amenities like fluffy robes, light dimmers, a holder with lavender oil and scent reeds, a tall jetted bodywash shower, a carafe of infused iced tea and more. AquaClass guests also receive complimentary access to the spa’s relaxation room and Persian Garden.

Clients will be fascinated by the ship’s top-deck Lawn Club and enjoy its AquaSpa and Solarium with thin streams of leaping water and hanging loungers for two. Celebrity Solstice also boasts multiple alternative dining venues including Murano, Tuscan Grille, Blu (for AquaClass and suite guests only) and Silk Harvest, a new Asian, family-style restaurant. This premium vessel operates seven-night roundtrips this winter from Port Everglades, FL, and then 10- to 12-night European voyages next summer from Rome.

Ruby Princess, the last of Princess’ popular Grand Class ships to be delivered, has a number of new onboard services and features. These include new entertainment shows, new enrichment programs and a new Ultimate Ship Tour ($150 fee) with behind-the-scenes access to normally off-limits areas of the ship. In addition, the line has debuted a new complimentary Wheelhouse Bar pub lunch on sea days and breakfast at Sabatini’s for suite guests.

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The Solarium on Celebrity Solstice protects guests from the weather while letting them enjoy the vi

At press time, the 133,500-ton MSC Fantasia was slated to debut in late December 2008. Operated by MSC Cruises, this 3,959-passenger ship is a post-Panamax vessel—meaning it’s too large to fit through the Panama Canal. The MSC Fantasia will sail throughout the year in the Mediterranean.

MSC Fantasia features the Aurea Spa well-being center with a Balinese approach. The ship’s Acqua Park features 150 illuminated fountains. Guests will chow down in five dining venues, including a Tex-Mex alternative restaurant. One interesting entertainment option is a 4-D cinema.

One “first” for MSC with this new ship is the MSC Yacht Club, an exclusive area to serve guests in 99 spacious VIP suites. With rich wood, Italian marble and illuminated Swarovski crystal stairs, the enclave includes a library, swimming pool and private lounge with a transparent ceiling for letting in light and star gazing. These VIP suites also feature pampering butler and concierge service.

Big and Small

New ships targeted at the U.S. market this year range from the 3,000-gross-ton American Independence for American Cruise Lines to the soon-to-be largest ship in the world, the 225,000-gross-ton, $1.24-billion Oasis of the Seas for Royal Caribbean International.

Joining the fleet in August, the 104-passenger American Independence, an American-flagged vessel, will sail itineraries featuring New England, the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Florida Keys, including the Dry Tortugas. Accommodations will range from 264 square feet to 350 square feet.

Eighty percent of the ship’s staterooms and suites will boast private balconies, and every stateroom will have large picture windows that open. Guests will enjoy open seating in the ship’s dining room; an exercise facility; several lounges; and in-room satellite TV, DVD players and Internet access.

Expect plenty of marketplace buzz as the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas prepares to enter service. If the previous Freedom-class ship launches for Royal Caribbean were any indication, the launch of Oasis is likely to be the highlight of the year for agents in terms of creating consumer demand in the marketplace.

Spanning 16 decks, Oasis of the Seas will offer 2,700 staterooms. She features a new neighborhood concept of seven distinct themed areas, including Central Park; Boardwalk; the Royal Promenade; the Pool and Sports Zone; Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center; Entertainment Place; and Youth Zone.

Oasis of the Seas will also boast its share of “firsts,” including the debut of the first zipline adventure at sea and the first amphitheater at sea. The ship will sail roundtrip Caribbean voyages from Port Everglades.

Slated for a March delivery, Pearl Seas Cruises’ new 8,700-ton Pearl Mist is an all-suite ship that will field a country-club-casual onboard ambience. The ship’s spacious accommodations range from 320 to 640 square feet.

All suites will have sitting areas; individual climate control; flat-screen satellite TVs; DVD players; wireless in-room Internet access; full-sized bathrooms with walk-in showers; bedrooms with twin or king-bed configurations; luxurious bed linens; in-room safes; room service; and large picture windows that open. Two-room suites and wheelchair-accessible suites are available.
The ship’s inaugural sailing season will feature cruises to the Canadian Maritimes, Atlantic Canada and the Great Lakes, as well as to the Caribbean.

This spring Costa Cruises will introduce the 92,700-ton Costa Luminosa in April and the 114,500-ton Costa Pacifica in May; both vessels will be christened in Genoa, Italy, on June 5, and sail on European itineraries. Costa Luminosa will have the highest percentage (among the Costa fleet) of cabins with balconies—68 percent, or 772 out of a total of 1,130. Suites and balconies will also be more spacious than those on other Costa ships. Onboard features include a robust spa and fitness center, and an 18-hole golf simulator.

Several intimate luxury vessels will also debut this year as well. Seabourn Cruise Line’s  32,000-ton Seabourn Odyssey will begin sailing in June. The 450-passenger vessel will have more types of suites, more verandas, more entertainment venues and enhanced spa and recreational facilities. Luxury line Silversea Cruises will launch the 36,000-ton Silver Spirit in December. As Silversea’s largest vessel, the 540-passenger ship will feature 270 all oceanview suites, a new supper club, a new Asian-themed restaurant and an expanded spa facility. It will feature more Silver Suites, with 26 planned, as well as more veranda suites, bringing the total to 222. There will also be six Grand Suites and two Owner’s Suites. All but 12 suites will have verandas.

And on the contemporary cruising front, Carnival Cruise Lines’ 130,000-ton Carnival Dream will become reality on September 21. Carrying 3,646 passengers, the vessel—the largest in Carnival’s fleet—will usher in a new class of ship.

Carnival Dream’s new entertainment concept, Ocean Plaza, will field an indoor/outdoor café and live music venue. Agents can also expect a huge Carnival WaterWorks aqua park; “scenic whirlpools” that extend over the ship’s beam; and a variety of new stateroom categories, including some catering to families.

Looking to 2010

For 2010, Norwegian Cruise Line had previously announced it would launch two 150,000-ton F3 ships. However, a cost dispute (focused on one ship) between NCL and the shipyard was publicly confirmed last fall in a statement by STX Europe, formerly Aker Yard France. When asked for an update at press time, NCL declined comment.

Among other ships set for a 2010 launch, clients might choose from the 122,000-ton Celebrity Eclipse; the 92,700-ton Costa Deliziosa; the 92,000-ton Queen Elizabeth from Cunard Line; Holland America Line’s 86,000-ton Nieuw Amsterdam; the 65,000-ton Marina from Oceania Cruises; Royal Caribbean’s second Oasis-class ship, Allure of the Seas; and the 32,000-ton Seabourn Sojourn.

“Not only will the media frenzy [about all these new ships] pique the interest of consumers, it keeps agents excited and enthusiastic about selling during these uncertain times,” says Anita Pagliasso, president, Ticket to Travel, San Jose, CA. “Everyone needs to stay the course and take advantage of this type of media coverage and run with it for marketing purposes.”


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