Cruising isn’t one size fits all. Increasingly, the products attract their own audiences and repeaters. That’s created an arena for new products. Virgin Voyages will take to the water early next year with the 2,770-passenger Scarlet Lady. Whatever people think cruising is about, this line clearly will do things differently. Look for an adults-only approach, 78 Mega RockStar Suites (with fun perks such as a dedicated hair and make-up crew available upon request) and cruise fares that include dining at all onboard restaurants, sodas, group fitness classes and more. The ship’s first “master” will be Captain Wendy Williams, the first Canadian woman named captain of a major cruise brand’s ship.
All Virgin Voyages itineraries will feature multiple late-night sail-aways, including one midnight departure. Given recent U.S. government changes in Cuba travel regulations, Cuba was eliminated. Now, the new brand will offer four-, five- and some special seven-night holiday sailings, all roundtrip from PortMiami and calling at Bimini, the Bahamas, home to the Beach Club, a private club for use by Virgin’s guests. Five-night Riviera Maya sailings also will call at Cozumel and Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, while four-night “Fire and Sunset Soirees” will call at Key West, FL. Seven-night holiday season sailings will stop at San Juan, Puerto Rico and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
One new ultra-luxury brand launching early next year is Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, which just ordered its second yacht for construction at the H. J. Barreras Shipyard in Vigo, Spain; the first will be delivered later this year and its inaugural voyage will be in February. Guests can expect Ritz-Carlton service, an all-inclusive product and such onboard spaces as a restaurant by Sven Elverfeld of Aqua (a three-Michelin star restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg, Germany); a Ritz-Carlton Spa; children’s programming; and a Panorama Lounge and champagne bar with entertainment. The yacht will sail within the Mediterranean, Caribbean and northern Europe.
Cruise companies have also branched out in new ways. Known for its river cruises, CroisiEurope will launch its new oceangoing La Belle des Océans in October. Through late December, the vessel will sail 11-day voyages between Singapore and Phuket, Thailand. That will be followed by cruises in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean, before the ship heads to Quebec for summer 2020.
On April 8, Viking and China Merchants Shekou, representing China Merchants Group, said they’d signed a memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture designed to create a new cruise line for the Chinese cruise market. Look for this partnership to cover everything from product development to sales and marketing. Further, China Merchants Group’s shipbuilding subsidiaries will design the new ocean ships.
Some lines also have new owners. Victory Cruise Lines, now owned by American Queen Steamboat Company, is sailing the Great Lakes this summer and next with the 202-passenger Victory I and Victory II. Next summer, both will be back on the Great Lakes. Several new itineraries will debut next summer including the nine-day “North America’s Coastal Connection” itinerary from Port Colborne (Niagara Falls), Ontario to Chicago, IL, visiting Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago, plus Mackinac Island on Lake Huron.
A Robust Pipeline of New Ships
Is there any signal of a slow down in new ship orders? Definitely not, as the portfolio of new ships launching through 2027 is mind-boggling — at least 114 new ships are on the Seatrade Order Book, representing $66.3 billion in new tonnage. Many new ships of major lines were delivered earlier this year, among them Viking’s 930-passenger Viking Jupiter, the line’s sixth ocean ship. Viking plans 10 additional oceangoing vessels for delivery starting in 2021, bringing the line’s fleet to 16 ships by 2027.
Twelve more new ships are yet to launch this year. Among them are Costa Cruises’ new LNG ship, Costa Smeralda; the new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection mega-yacht (first cruises in 2020); several expedition ships including Hurtigruten’s new Roald Amundsen and others; and a new West Coast home-ported ship, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Panorama, which will sail from Long Beach, CA.
The biggest new ship set to launch this fall is MSC Cruises’ 4,900-passenger MSC Grandiosa. This Meraviglia-Plus class vessel offers even more public space than her sister ship. Cirque du Soleil at Sea has created two new shows exclusive for the ship. And if guests choose the Aurea Experience, they can enjoy flexible dining and unlimited drinks in a dedicated restaurant.
Other big ships launching later this year are Norwegian Cruise Line’s 3,889-passenger Norwegian Encore and Princess Cruises’ 3,560-passenger Sky Princess. A masted sailing ship, Star Clippers’ Flying Clipper, is also still listed on the order book for launch later this year, but that delivery date has moved forward multiple times.
Twenty-one new ships will launch in 2020. Certainly, the movement into LNG is showing as a big trend for coming years. Two new LNG-powered vessels are Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras and P&O’s Iona as the industry looks to sustainability and cleaner fuel to power it into the future.
Everything Old Is New Again
As new ships debut, cruise lines still wish to assure that their existing tonnage is both fresh and amenity-laden. Many lines have undertaken multi-billion revitalization programs for older ships. That assures that guests have a fresh, brand-specific experience with signature dining, activity spaces or entertainment. As each line has more new ships, as fleets grow, refurbishments to make “everything old new again” is on the rise.
As part of the Norwegian Edge program, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Getaway recently emerged from a two-week dry dock with new, updated venues, social spaces, artwork and accommodations; it’s sailing in northern Europe this summer and will home port in New Orleans this winter. Since 2016, Regent Seven Seas Cruises has invested more than $150 million refurbishing and modernizing its fleet; its 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator recently emerged from a two-week drydock refurbishment.
In June, Celebrity Equinox became the third Celebrity Cruises vessel and the first Solstice-class vessel to be revitalized in the line’s $500 million Celebrity Revolution program; Celebrity Silhouette will be updated by January 31, with five more ships to be modernized by 2023.
Planning took two years and involved 7,000 people for the $200 million dry dock update of the former Carnival Triumph, now sailing as the new Carnival Sunrise from New York; it will reposition to Port Everglades, FL, for the 2019-2020 winter season. Updates were undertaken as part of Carnival Cruise Line’s $2 billion fleetwide enhancement program. More contemporary in feel and with a lighter, brighter look, Carnival Sunrise now has Guy’s Burger Joint and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse; the Chef’s Table fine dining experience; and a WaterWorks aqua park, SportSquare recreation area and the Serenity adults-only retreat. The three-deck theater was transformed into a two-deck Liquid Lounge. The ship also has 115 more staterooms. Check out our Carnival Sunrise slide show here.
Royal Caribbean International’s 3,386-passenger Navigator of the Seas recently emerged from a $115 million dry dock under the $1 billion “Royal Amplified” program. New spaces thrill seekers should love are The Blaster, the longest aqua coaster at sea with more than 800 feet of dips, drops and straightaways that extend over the ship’s side, and Riptide, the industry’s only head-first mat racer waterslide. Also new is To Dry For, a stand-alone blow-dry bar, plus dining and lounge spaces including the Lime and Coconut, a signature bar with a rooftop deck.
Smaller vessels, too, are getting updates. As part of Windstar Cruises’ $250 million Star-Plus Initiative, updates including lengthening of the line’s three motorized ships will begin this October and finish in November 2020. When the work is completed, Star Legend, Star Breeze and Star Pride will each have expanded capacity of 312 passengers and 50 new suites configured with a bed by a window or balcony. A new 1,374-square-foot Grand Owner’s Suite will combine three adjoining suites into a three-bedroom, 3.5-bath suite. Also, bathrooms in existing suites will be renovated and a new infinity pool will be added.