RISING STAR? ASIAN GIANT TALKING ABOUT A NEWBUILD- UPDATED

Terrace view from the Superstar Virgo

Terrace view from the Superstar Virgo

In a move that will surprise more than a few people, Star Cruises have entered into talks with a major European shipyard- widely believed to be Meyer Werft at Papenburg, Germany- about the possibility of a new build for the Asian market.

if this is true, this will be the first purpose built new vessel for the line since the 1999 built Superstar Virgo. She was preceded a year earlier by a sister, the 70,000 ton Superstar Leo.

It was this stunning pair of sister ships that previewed the Freestyle Dining concept that was transferred so successfully to sister company, Norwegian Cruise Line. Also transferred was the Superstar Leo, sent to Norwegian in 2004, and currently cruising very successfully in Europe as the Asian-themed Norwegian Spirit.

The aftermath of 9/11 saw a rationalisation of the two cruise lines, with Star Cruises choosing to concentrate on smaller, second hand vessels transferred from the Norwegian fleet and modified for the Asian market. Their fleet currently comprises the Superstar Gemini (ex-Norwegian Dream), her twin sister Superstar Aquarius (ex-Norwegian Wind), the Superstar Libra (ex-Norwegian Sea) and the aforementioned Superstar Virgo, very much the queen of the fleet.

Traditionally, Star Cruises has concentrated on the Asian, Chinese and Indian markets, offering short three to five day cruises from a range of hubs that includes Taiwan, Port Kelang, and Hong Kong. The line did make one foray into Mediterranean cruising, sending the Superstar Libra to the region for a season of fly cruises that has not since been repeated.

Interestingly, a request from Norwegian Cruise Line for the Superstar Virgo was turned down by Genting, the parent company of Star Cruises, a few years ago.

Asian styled lobby of the Norwegian Spirit, ex-Superstar Leo

Asian styled lobby of the Norwegian Spirit, ex-Superstar Leo

What has changed significantly is the entry of other mainstream players into the potentially limitless Asian market, notably Costa, Royal Caribbean, Princess and even Celebrity. All of these lines brought in more modern, state of the art tonnage to vie with Star Cruises for its previously unquestioned dominant role in the Far East.

Star has clearly decided to act. The choice of Meyer Werft as a partner is logical; the German company has built most of the recent Norwegian tonnage- including Norwegian Breakaway and the imminent Norwegian Getaway- and it has an enviable record for delivering a quality product, one time and within budget.

What will be interesting to see is whether this will be a single ship order, or whether we are actually looking at tentative orders for one, or perhaps more, siblings. Details of size, facilities and parameters are obviously not out in the public domain yet. But I would expect any new build (s) to be fully competitive on all levels with the current crop of European imports cruising the same waters.

I’ll keep you updated as, if and when these become available. Stay tuned,

UPDATE: Today (October 7th) Star Cruises announced an order for a new,  3,364 passenger cruise ship from Meyer Werft’s Papenburg yard, at a cost of some 707 million euros. No other details are at present available.

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