Innovative designs and unexpected shipboard activities demonstrate how the cruise lines will continue to entice passengers.
The cruise industry has experienced steady growth every year for almost two decades now. These days, about a dozen new ships enter the market each year 2008 is steady on that course, with 10 new ships ready enter the market for U.S. and European cruisers.
Over 26,000 lower berths (beds on the floor) will come on line in 2008. As always with new ships, they are getting bigger. Five of the ships introduced in 2008 will be the largest ships ever for the lines introducing them. Six of the ten new ships are too large to sail through the Panama Canal, and those are going to Celebrity Cruises, British P&O Cruises and Italian MSC Cruises.
As it has been for years now, European cruising is growing even faster than U.S.-based cruising on a percentage basis, though more Americans still cruise every year than Europeans. Six of these 10 new ships for 2008 will be going to Europe-based cruise lines.
The Italian line MSC Cruises, which offers Caribbean sailings to Americans on a regular basis, is set to receive two new ships. One is the MSC Fantasia which is the first of a whole new larger-than-ever class for MSC at 133,500-tons. They will also take delivery on the 90,000-ton MSC Poesia, third in the Musica class.
While 2008 is the year of growth in Europe, some notable new ships coming to U.S. cruise lines will greet our shores this year; and then the expansion focus will shift sharply back to the U.S. market starting in 2009.
U.S.-based cruise lines bringing out respective "bigger than ever" ships in 2008 include Holland America and Celebrity. The other U.S. lines bringing out bigger ships will have to wait until 2009 or beyond, but they are on the schedule.
Celebrity Cruises' 122,000-ton Celebrity Solstice is arguably the most exciting new ship set to debut this year, since it has the only completely new design, from bow to stern, introduced by any cruise line in 2008. It will be Celebrity's first new vessel since Constellation was introduced in 2002 as the fourth in a series of Millennium-class vessels. Read a close-up article on Solstice.
The largest ship debuting in 2008 will be Independence of the Seas, the third in Royal Caribbean International's 158,000-ton Freedom class. This ship will homeport in the U.K. and will be the biggest cruise ship ever to be permanently based in Europe.
The 113,000-ton Carnival Splendor is a slightly larger version of the existing Conquest class. The new Holland America Eurodam, the first of the 86,000-ton Signature-class, is one deck taller and slightly larger than the line's Vista series, and will include the line's first pan-Asian restaurant. Ruby Princess will be the third in a series of 116,000-ton Crown-class ships for Princess Cruises.
The smallest newbuild of 2008 is a yet-to-be-named ship from newcomer Pearl Seas Cruises -- a 210-passenger vessel currently under construction at Canada's Irving Shipbuilding.
At least three of the ships will have spa-category staterooms with access to private deck areas for swimming and sunning: Carnival Splendor will sport spa cabins offering Cloud 9 Spa privileges, and MSC Fantasia will offer its butler-served MSC Yacht Club suites and exclusive-access areas. Most interesting is Celebrity Solstice with its AquaClass cabins providing guests with use of the AquaSpa and an exclusive restaurant called "Blu," designed by Celebrity's new designer of cuisine, Elizabeth Blau.
Other new concepts on the 2008 ships include Cirque Ventura, a circus school aboard the P&O ship Tamarind. Celebrity Solstice will feature a glass-blowing studio at sea in cooperation with the distinguished Corning Glass Museum of New York State. Add these to the fencing classes on Cunard Line's Queen Victoria (which debuted last month) and you have three new shipboard activities we never expected to see.
New Ships for 2008AIDA Cruises AIDAbella (2,030 passengers -- April 2008); shipyard: Meyer Werft
Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Solstice (2,850 passengers -- Fall 2008); shipyard: Meyer Werft
Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Splendor (3,006 passengers -- Spring 2008); shipyard: Fincantieri
Holland America Line Eurodam (2,100 passengers -- Summer 2008); shipyard: Fincantieri
MSC Cruises MSC Poesia (2550 passengers -- March 2008); shipyard: Chantiers de l'Atlantique MSC Fantasia (3887 passengers -- June 2008); shipyard: Chantiers de l'Atlantique
P&O Cruises Ventura (3,100 lower berth -- Spring 2008); shipyard: Fincantieri
Pearl Seas Cruises Unnamed ship (214 passengers -- July 2008); shipyard: Irving Shipbuilding, Halifax, Nova Scotia Unnamed ship (214 passengers -- June 2009); shipyard: Irving Shipbuilding, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess (3,100 passengers -- November 2008); shipyard: Fincantieri
Royal Caribbean International Independence of the Seas (3,600 passengers -- May 2008); shipyard: Kvaerner Masa (Aker Yards)
Most Exciting Ships -- 2009 & Beyond
The cruise industry is expecting a new series of vessel classes beginning in late 2008, the first "sea change" in the look and feel of cruise ships since the late 1990s. The first of the new classes to arrive will be Celebrity Solstice in late 2008, but she is the only one this year. From 2009 through 2012, however, we'll see several new classes of ships, bigger and more exciting, from nearly ever major cruise line.
The most exciting will be the first of Royal Caribbean's Genesis class, set to debut in late 2009. At a staggering 220,000 tons, it will be one-third bigger than the largest cruise ships in the world today -- the Freedom-class ships, also from Royal Caribbean.
Genesis will accommodate 5,400 passengers and will be 1,180 feet long, 154 feet wide and 213 feet above the waterline. The scheduled delivery is autumn 2009 and the contracted cost of 900 million euros will cross the $1 billion mark for a single ship for the first time -- more than $1.2 million at today's exchange rate. (However, ships are paid for at time of delivery and in 2009 the dollar/euro conversion rates could be different.)
In the list of new ships for 2009 and beyond, those that represent classes of ships with substantially new directions in design are highlighted below:
Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Equinox (2,850 passengers -- Summer 2009); shipyard: Meyer Werft Celebrity Eclipse (2,850 passengers -- Summer 2010); shipyard: Meyer Werft Fourth Solstice-class cruise ship (2,850 -- Fall 2011); shipyard: Meyer Werft
All three are sister ships to the new Celebrity Solstice. This class is about 25 percent larger than the current Celebrity ships at 122,000 tons and 2,850 passengers. Since Celebrity contracted for four of these ships in advance, they must be confident the new design will be a hit for their premium passenger audience.
Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Dream (3,608 passengers -- October 2009); shipyard: Fincantieri Carnival Magic (3,652 passengers -- June 2011); shipyard: Fincantieri
Details of the new Carnival Dream class have not been revealed, but we do know that it will be a new design for Carnival unlike the previous Destiny-cum-Conquest classes, which have been essentially identical since 1996.
These ships will be 130,000 tons and will carry more than 3,600 passengers. Carnival promises they will offer the widest variety of dining, activity and entertainment options in their fleet.
Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth (2,092 passengers -- Autumn 2010); shipyard: Fincantieri Monfalcone
Although Cunard is taking the QE2 out of service in 90 days, this new ship will NOT be named the Queen Elizabeth 3. It appears the Queen Elizabeth will be an entirely unique design, not a sister ship to the just debuted Queen Victoria. At 92,000 tons, she will be 2,000 tons larger than Victoria.
Disney Cruise Lines Unnamed ship (1,250 staterooms -- 2011); shipyard: Meyer Werft Unnamed ship (1,250 staterooms -- 2012); shipyard: Meyer Werft
At 122,000 tons each, these new Disney ships will be substantially larger than the current two-ship fleet, Disney Magic and Wonder. Each of those is a mere 83,000 tons. However, the passenger capacity on these new ships will not be substantially larger than the existing ships, so we can assume they will offer an abundance of new passenger amenities and activities. These two ships could end up being some of the most innovative of the next generation.
Norwegian Cruise Line Unnamed ship (4,200 passengers -- 2009); shipyard: Aker Yards in Saint Nazaire Unnamed ship (4,200 passengers -- 2010); shipyard: Aker Yards in Saint Nazaire
NCL's famous introduction of "Freestyle Cruising" in 2000 was meant to be a radical change in the way the cruise experience is perceived. It took a few years to get the entire fleet up to Freestyle standards, but today they are well ahead of the pack in offering a multitude of onboard dining and nightlife options.
With the recent $1 billion investment by private equity group Apollo Management, NCL announced plans to take Freestyle Cruising to the next level with the introduction of Freestyle 2.0. It will further improve the guest experience on its existing ships, including an increased investment in food of $50 million over the next two years, and an upgrading of stateroom bedding and amenities across the fleet.
More important is the introduction of the two new "F3" concept ships (for "Freestyle version 3"). Already under construction in France at a cost of more than $1.1 billion per ship, the first is set to debut in 2010.
When NCL announced its equity infusion from Apollo, it noted the new building project will be cut from three to two new ships. The equity infusion combined with plans to scale back to two ships indicates there will be no sacrifice in quality in these new ships.
Known as the "third" cruise line behind Carnival and Royal Caribbean, NCL tries harder and has been known to come up with many of the industry's most notable innovations. Despite the lack of details, at 150,000+ tons for 4,200 passengers, these vessels will be big and jam-packed with activity; undoubtedly they will be unique and exciting.
Oceania Cruises New class ship (1,260 passengers -- September 2010); shipyard: Fincantieri Sestri Ponente New class ship (1,260 passengers -- July 2011); shipyard: Fincantieri Sestri Ponente
While Oceania often gets the nod as a deluxe cruise line able to compete with luxury lines like Crystal and Seabourn, the truth is their current ships are a bit congested and shiort on enrichment for the kind of passengers they appeal to. The line's new class of ships promises the kind of vessel Oceania deserves to be sailing -- with roomier cabins, more concierge services, expanded onboard enrichment programs and first-class spa service. These new Oceania ships appear to be more like the Crystal experience Oceania originally wanted to emulate.
Also the recipient of equity funding by Apollo, Oceania's fleet soon will be intermingled with that of Regent Seven Seas, which Apollo bought out 100%. Apollo has named Oceania president Frank Del Rio as the overseer of the entire operation, which could turn into the luxury cruise powerhouse of the future.
Royal Caribbean International Project Genesis (5,400 passengers -- autumn 2009); shipyard: Aker Yards Project Genesis (5,400 passengers -- August 2010); shipyard: Aker Yards
We already mentioned Royal Caribbean's Genesis class, set to debut in late 2009. A staggering 220,000 tons and one-third larger than today's biggest cruise ships, the Genesis vessels are the ones everyone will be talking about in 18 months.
Seabourn Cruise Line/The Yachts of Seabourn Seabourn Odyssey (450 passengers -- June 2009); shipyard: T. Mariotti Shipyard -- Genoa, Italy Unnamed (450 passengers -- Summer 2010); shipyard: T. Mariotti Shipyard - Genoa, Italy Unnamed (450 passengers -- Summer 2011); shipyard: T. Mariotti Shipyard - Genoa, Italy
Taking luxury to new heights, these new Seabourn ships may carry just over twice as many passengers as the line's existing vessels (208), but they plan to provide the same personalized service for which the fleet is renowned.
Silversea Cruises Unnamed vessel (540 passengers -- Fall 2009); shipyard: Fincantieri
Like Seabourn, Silversea is also growing, but not nearly by the same percentage. The new ship (with an option for a second one still to be announced) will only be half again as large as the current largest ships in Silversea's fleet. This won't be a sea-change for Silversea, and when you are already the best in the business, that is a good thing.