Inside the Cruise Industry's Newest Ships

The stylish and spacious suites on Costa Diadema offer premium services.
The stylish and spacious suites on Costa Diadema offer premium services.

As 2014 draws to a close, agents have two new amenity-laden oceangoing vessels to sell, plus at least four more major oceangoing vessels debuting in 2015, with more to follow. In total, $24 billion in new ship hardware is on order for delivery through 2018.

“New ships always bring excitement and innovation to the marketplace and this past year has been no exception,” emphasizes Libbie Rice, co-president of Ensemble Travel Group, a member-owned consortia of 850 top-tier independent travel agencies. “Personally, having been in the shipyard for a hard-hat tour, I’m looking forward to seeing Quantum of the Seas, but I’m also excited to see Viking Star—a first ocean ship for Viking Cruises—and Regent Explorer,” Rice says. “It’s been a number of years since Regent Seven Seas has launched a new ship.”

Sailing This Month: The new 3,724-passenger Costa Diadema, Costa Cruises’ largest cruise ship ever, launched this month. Guests are now sailing on itineraries that encompass destinations in Italy, France, Spain and the Balearic Islands. Beyond the new hardware, the ship also has new shows including “The Flavors of Italy.”

Vistarama, an innovation engineered especially for Quantum of the Seas, transforms Two70°’s floor-to-ceiling sea view into any scene, real or imagined.
Vistarama, an innovation engineered especially for Quantum of the Seas, transforms Two70°’s floor-to-ceiling sea view into any scene, real or imagined.

Among the new onboard venues is Country Rock Club bar and lounge, the setting for tribute concerts, country line dancing and a spacious dance floor. Costa Diadema’s new Star Laser area is a high-tech space with a Laser Maze; guests can test their skills at completing a course without touching any so-called laser beams.

Perhaps the most anticipated for North American cruisers, though, is Royal Caribbean International’s new 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas, which began its winter inaugural season, sailing roundtrip from Bayonne, NJ, earlier this month. In spring, it will reposition to Shanghai, China, where it will be home-ported year-round as Royal Caribbean makes a big run at more Chinese sourcing. Travel Agent magazine traveled to Meyer Werft in Germany this past summer; agents can read our perspective on Quantum of the Seas’ “Top 10 Features to Love” here.

North Star, a jewel-like glass capsule on Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, rises more than 300 feet above sea level.
North Star, a jewel-like glass capsule on Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, rises more than 300 feet above sea level.

Marni Becker, director of cruise sales for Protravel International, also visited the shipyard to see the ship under construction. “I can’t wait to see the finished product as well as seeing what innovations—especially in the technology sector—are picked up by other cruise lines,” says Becker.

The ship will also have a Bionic Bar with drinks concocted by robots. New high-tech wristbands will replace key cards to open stateroom doors, purchase items in onboard shops and for navigating around the ship. Also, “the new Dynamic Dining program coupled with bumper cars, roller skating, Ripcord by iFly and quality entertainment provides an unprecedented value for a guest’s vacation dollar,” believes Lisa Safran of My Cruise Doctor, a Vacation.com member in Sarasota, FL.

The keel-laying ceremony for the 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista.
The keel-laying ceremony for the 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista.

Navigating into 2015: One of the most anticipated new ship launches for next year is the 930-passenger Viking Star, Viking Ocean Cruises’ first luxury vessel. It sets sail in early 2015. While Viking is known for its river cruises, Torstein Hagen, the line’s chairman, has a long history in the oceangoing cruise industry, most notably with Royal Viking Line, revered by high-end cruisers in the 1980s.

Looking forward to the Viking Star’s debut is Nexion agent Richard Walke, By Land or By Sea Vacations, Atlanta, GA. “It will be interesting to see how well they maintain the atmosphere of river cruising with an ocean cruise product,” Walke notes. “I think the second and third year will be the real test for them.”

Trude Drevland, the mayor of Bergen, Norway, has been named as Viking Star’s godmother. The new Viking product is highly inclusive. All guests will have balcony accommodations; 14 two-room Explorer Suites will range from 757 to 1,163 square feet. The ship will have two pools, one with a retractable dome, another an infinity pool cantilevered off the ship’s stern.

In spring 2015, Royal Caribbean will welcome its second Quantum-class vessel, Anthem of the Seas, while on May 9 small oceangoing luxury line Ponant welcomes the 264-passenger Le Lyrial. What’s different? Expect some larger suites for this fourth Le Boreal-class vessel.

In addition, agents tell Travel Agent they’re excited to see the new 4,200-passenger Norwegian Escape, a bit larger version of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway. Called the “Breakaway Plus” class, the new vessel debuts in late October. It will incorporate The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place, continuing the line’s popular boardwalk-style promenade.

One new feature of Norwegian Escape will be The Private Room at Taste, with its own dining room, lounge and entrance. This new venue is designed specifically for groups of up to 100 guests, giving them their own space.

P&O Cruises, TUI Cruises and AIDA, all of whom serve European cruisers, will also launch new ships in 2015.

Robust Deliveries for 2016: A slew of new oceangoing ships will set sail in 2016. Holland America Line’s newly named 2,650-passenger Koningsdam, a Pinnacle-class ship, launches in February; Viking’s second ocean ship, the 930-passenger Viking Sea sets sail in the spring and its third, the Viking Sky, launches in the summer. A third, 5,400-passenger Oasis-class ship for Royal Caribbean debuts in summer and that line’s third Quantum-class ship, the 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas, also sets sail during fall 2016.

The casino on Costa Diadema.
 
The casino on Costa Diadema.

In addition, the 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista will become Carnival Cruise Lines’ first totally new ship since Carnival Breeze set sail in 2012 (not counting the redesigned Carnival Sunshine, formerly the Carnival Destiny, which debuted in 2013). It will become the 25th ship in the Carnival fleet and will feature the line’s Fun 2.0 Ship features, plus new innovations yet to be announced.

Many travel agents, including Stephanie Serino, an expert cruise agent within Tzell Travel Group, says she’s excited by several new ships, including the 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer, the first new Regent Seven Seas Cruises ship in more than a decade. “They haven’t had a new ship in ages, but the Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager transformed luxury cruising and are still my favorite ships, so I have high hopes,” Serino says.

From Protravel’s standpoint, “in the case of the Seven Seas Explorer, Protravel clients are all about luxury,” says Becker. “From everything I have heard this ship could very well be a home run for agents and clients.”

A yet unnamed 604-passenger Seabourn Cruise Line ship, the luxury line’s largest ever, will also launch in late 2016. Other new oceangoing ships are also on the books for 2017 and 2018 deliveries. “It’s great to see the continuation of new builds as they keep the industry vibrant and create buzz for agents and consumers,” says Ensemble’s Rice. “I’m excited to see them all.”

Nostalgic Possibility

Blue Star Line, funded by Australian billionaire Clive Palmer, the line’s chairman, plans a new 1,680-passenger Titanic II, launching a few years out. While the start-up timing has changed over time, the company has selected CSC Jinling Shipyard in China to build and coordinate the construction.

Now slated to launch possibly in 2018, the ship definitely will exude the “nostalgia factor,” as it’s designed as a replica of the iconic Titanic, a White Star Line ship called “unsinkable” after its launch. Yet, the historic liner sank on its April 1912 maiden voyage with a sizable loss of life after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

The new ship’s maiden voyage will retrace the original journey from Southampton to New York. Palmer has said the line will offer three classes of service on Titanic II—First Class, Second Class and Third Class—just as the ill-fated liner did.

Many people likely will sail once, just to say they’ve “been there, done that,” particularly with the popularity of the 1997 “Titanic” movie. Agents say the big question is whether modern-day guests will book a second or third cruise. That remains to be seen as do other details about the ship.

For more information, visit www.bluestarline.com.au.

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