Class of 2017: What New Cruise Ships Will Entice North American Travelers?

Kaiseki will be one of the eight restaurants on Silversea Cruises' Silver Muse, launching in April. The Japanese-styled venue is an evolution of Seishin on Silver Spirit.

Nine new ships will launch this year, according to Seatrade’s latest Order Book. Sounds like a lot, eh? But let’s put it in a bit more perspective.  

Globalization Rules

By the numbers, three of those new ships are targeted at the Chinese/Asian market, including Norwegian Joy, Majestic Princess and World Dream. 

So unless clients wish to sail with mostly Asian/Chinese guests on a ship where the primary language is an Asian language, agents can cross those ships off the list.

That still leaves six other new ships under construction. But two of those -- AIDAperla and TUI’s Mein Schiff 6 -- are destined for European cruise lines catering to German speaking guests.

Certainly, while not appealing greatly to American or Canadian travelers, those five new ships demonstrate the cruise industry’s globalization, as more consumers in far-flung regions across the globe discover the value and fun attributes of a cruise vacation. 

Quality Products Create Buzz

So what’s left on the new-build side for American guests? The key, say agents, is to not get hung up on numbers, but instead focus on the quality, innovation and diversity of products.

Five new vessels of interest to North Americans have potential for generating great marketplace buzz. So let’s run down the Class of 2017.

Design Innovations: Two of the new ships are being built for MSC Cruises – the new MSC Meraviglia and the new MSC Seaside

Pierfranceso Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, tells Travel Agent that it's going to be a busy year: "In 2017, we will have five ships under construction -- two Meraviglia-class, one Meraviglia Plus-class, and two Seaside-class ships -- and we have two christenings coming up in the course of 2017.”

The 167,600-grt MSC Meraviglia, which begins service in June 2017, will mark a milestone for the company, says Vago, as it's “the first of our next-generation smart ships.” While there will be many Europeans sailing, the vessel is likely to also draw North American clients eager for a European style experience in the Mediterranean.  

Likely to have stronger appeal for North Americans is the 160,000-grt MSC Seaside, which will have more outdoor space for passengers than any MSC Cruises ship. It’s also the line’s first ship designed for warm-weather cruising and will homeport year-round in Miami

“A unique waterfront promenade wraps right around [the 1,060-foot-long ship], offering a panoply of places to shop, eat and sunbathe while panoramic lifts provide breathtaking sea views,” Vago said. 

Drew Daly, general manager of network engagement and performance, CruiseOne, Cruises Inc. and Dream Vacations, viewed MSC Seaside during a recent Italian shipyard trip. 

"MSC Seaside is going to attract more cruisers to experience the MSC brand with state-of-the-art technology being rolled out along with more specialty dining options," says Daly. "It will definitely appeal more to a North American consumer." 

Notable? "The ship was designed for the Caribbean with an aft section that resembles South Beach-style condominium living," says Daly. He believes that as the ship's arrival date into Miami nears, agents will reap the rewards of sizable media attention and a new product in the marketplace.  

Lap of Ultra-Luxury: The new 596-passenger Silver Muse from ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises is expected to offer the best of the line's other ultra-luxury vessels plus refinements and new features. It will become the largest ship in the line's fleet.

Launching in April in the Mediterranean, it will offer eight restaurants including the new Atlantide, the exotic Kaiseki and a new poolside pizzeria.

Accommodations-wise, it will have the most suites in the fleet. In particular, clients who love the popular Silver Suite configuration should be happy, as Silver Muse will have 34 of those and also a new two-bedroom Silver Suite configuration.

Mary Jean Thompson, luxury travel advisor, a Virtuoso agent with TravelDesigns by Campbell, Dallas, TX, says that many of her clients are excited that Mark Conroy, who previously served with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, is back in luxury cruising as Silversea's managing director, the Americas, with a new executive team.  

As for Silver Muse, "it's a beautiful new ultra-luxury ship soon to be christened" and will be about "redefining ultra-luxury ocean travel. My clients love the small ship experience."

Building an Empire: Viking Ocean Cruises has taken the oceangoing world by storm, much as it did in launching numerous river vessels over the past few years. Its third new ship, the 930-passenger Viking Sky, was just delivered and a fourth new sister ship, Viking Sun, has floated out and will begin service later this year.

Thompson, who's been onboard Viking Sun, describes the Viking approach as state-of-the-art and intimate. She also says the line's ship design reflects "understated elegance with the most impressive artwork at sea." 

The line has a loyal clientele, thanks to its highly inclusive fares, Scandinavian touches, and a modern, yet comfortable design. "Clients who have cruised on Viking River Cruises are excited to experience the larger ship – and, so far, clients are loving it," says Thompson. 

Newly Launched Ships Add to the Mix: Innovative ships that just debuted in 2016 and early 2017 are also getting good buzz. On the premium and contemporary big-ship side, these include such vessels as Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, now sailing from Port Everglades, FL; Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista, which arrived in North America late last year for its inaugural winter season and sails from Miami; and Holland America Line’s Koningsdam, now homeporting for the winter at Port Everglades. 

Adding to the luxury buzz are launches of several other upscale vessels. For example, Seabourn Cruise Line’s ultra-luxury Seabourn Encore was christened earlier this year and is sailing the globe. Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer also launched last year. 

So while the order book has many ships destined for foreign sourced markets, agents say there are plenty of innovative, new options to entice clients.

In other words, don't get caught up in the numbers. Simply consider the added capacity to sell, value of media publicity in enticing clients to book and new opportunities for drawing in first-time cruisers as well as repeat cruisers to a new ship. 

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