WHAT’S NEXT? MUSINGS ON THE LUXURY CRUISE SHIP MARKET

Silver Spirit off Lipari, Italy

Silver Spirit off Lipari, Italy

With the arrival in Europe of Oasis Of The Seas for the first time and the imminent launch of her much anticipated sibling, Quantum Of The Seas, plus the looming debut of the new Costa flagship, Costa Diadema, the emphasis of media attention has been firmly focused on the mega ship sector of the market over the last several months.

Hence now might be a good time to recap some of the ongoing developments in the small, luxury sector of the cruise market. For, while it has not been making waves on the same scale as the big ships cited above, there is an interesting series of developments. across several lines, that are worthy of recounting.

Seabourn has a fourth, slightly larger vessel in its Odyssey class coming into service in the second half of 2016. Said to be coming in at around 40,000 tons, this new vessel is currently under construction at the Fincanitieri shipyard in Italy. Every room on this as yet nameless vessel will feature a private balcony.

For the recently re- monickered Ponant, a fourth in their highly successful Boreal class vessels will debut in 2015. Le Lyrial will give the French company a handsome, highly styled quartet of luxury vessels, each around the 10,000 ton mark.

Meanwhile, also at Fincantieri, the new Seven Seas Explorer continues to take shape for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The spectacular new ship, scheduled to debut in 2016, will also be all suite, all balcony, and is currently expected to come in at around 54,000 tons.

And, of course, the first of the Viking Ocean cruise ships- Viking Star– promises to deliver a kind of sublime, ‘back to the future’ traditional luxury cruising when she debuts next April. Two sisters are already firm orders, and a fourth seems likely. With the emphasis placed firmly on a far more traditional, gimmick light type of cruise experience, these ships will certainly add momentum and choice to the upper echelon.

Regent has a new ship coming in 2016

Regent has a new ship coming in 2016

Those are the vessels actually under construction as I write this. Of course, the rumour book also has a healthy amount of tonnage on its pages, too. Among the most prominent of these:

Silversea are reportedly close to ordering another new build, similar is scale to the 2009 built Silver Spirit (look out for a voyage report from that ship in the next few weeks). The new ship is expected in two or three years’ time, so placement of an order can be considered to be imminent.

Even before its acquisition by Norwegian, Oceania Cruises was said to be on the verge of ordering another pair of sister ships in the same class as their hugely successful, 66,000 tons sisters, Marina and Riviera. With the financial clout afforded it by the new ownership, it seems likely that at least one of these ships- and more likely both- will translate into firm orders in the not too distant future.

Lastly, but by now means least, those seriously luxurious scions at Crystal Cruises are hoping to announce an order for a new build before the end of the year. New CEO, Edie Rodriguez, has stated publicly that she will be lobbying the parent company, NYK, for funds for a new build. A third Crystal ship would take the line back up to a three ship fleet-something it definitely needs to be in order to offer year round deployments across the world.

In terms of revamps, Windstar will be massively bolstered by the addition of the two remaining smaller Seabourn yachts to the fleet. This means that the line has effectively doubled in size in just three short years; a quite remarkable achievement.

As ever, stay tuned,

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6 comments

  1. I believe we will also begin to see smaller new builds in the not-so-luxurious segment of the market as well. I sense a strong desire among a lot of people who are now cruising on ships with 3000+ pax to have an experience which is simply less mass-market. They don’t necessarily want more luxe; as in balconies, superfine wine lists, 1:1 crew to pax ratios. They simply want to feel less like they are one of 3000 passengers. Thing is, they are willing to pay a premium for that feeling as well.
    Here in Bermuda, we have watched as the big lines moved from running 1700 pax ships to 4000 pax ships over the last 10 or so years. They did so for obvious reasons; the operating cost per cabin on a large ship is about half what it is on a small one. Thing is, the ticket price has not changed at all. In addition, the number of cabins coming here has doubled. Twice the cabins at half the cost – nice work if you can get it. A lot of the people I speak with would be perfectly willing to pay a 20 to 30% surcharge on the ticket price to make the trip on a smaller, much more ‘traditional’ ship.
    It used to be this demand for mid-market smaller ships was being adequately served by refits and lengthenings of the very smaller ships being sold off by the bigs. That cycle is pretty well over now so new ships in the 1000 to 2000 pax size range will have to be new. Think Viking but not quite so polished.
    The Viking gambit will be key here to giving others (Saga, FOCL, MSC, Louis) the confidence to build new, small ships to offer to the coming wave of customers who just prefer small.

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    • Hi Jan, thank you for this insightful and beautifully expressed reply. I tend to agree with you- I was a big fan of cruising to Bermuda on the smaller ships such as the Norwegian Majesty- in fact, I’m hoping to be on the Veendam next year.

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      • Thanks for the reply, we were very hopeful that HAL would offer another option with the Veendam service 3 years ago. I understand a lot of things combined to tarnish the experiment, some internal, some external. Finally it was rumored that Quebec ( or possibly a group of Maritime provinces) actually offered a 7 figure payment (or revenue guarantee) to secure the run up the St.Lawrence.
        There are only 6 voyages next year and they are all into Hamilton. I am not sure how long she will stay in port but we are hoping it will be for a full 4 days. A fair number of people I have told about the trips are booking. They, like you, really enjoyed the uniquely Bermuda experience of spending enough time in a port to actually feel like you belonged there and yet to do so on a ship of a human scale.
        We feel that there is a lot of pent-up demand for this experience and are actively seeking partners to help us deliver. Ideas, suggestions and support are welcome.
        If you are an HAL fan, let them know, by feedback and bookings, if this is something they should keep doing.

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  2. The Veendam cruises are indeed staying for four full days, which is a big part of the attraction. Also being on Front Street in Hamilton cannot be beat for sheer convenience and ease of access. Now we need to get a similar operation back up and running in St. Georges as well.

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