Tom Brokaw coined the term "The Greatest Generation" for the people who grew up during the Great Depression, fought with the Allies in WWII and then made America the world's beacon of hope. Unfortunately, this generation is on its last legs, with very few veterans remaining.
I don't think it is a coincidence that this same generation invented modern cruising, and especially defined today's luxury cruising standards. Why? Because they grew up with the knowledge of the finer things in life, but most of those things were out of their reach before they grew up. They acquired the good life; it was not handed to them.
Just like that "Greatest Generation" of people, it can also be said that the creation of the world's greatest generation of cruise ships is coming to end. Between 2005 and 2007, before the 2008 economic meltdown, a number of cruise lines announced new builds with brand new stem to stern designs - many of them with innovation beyond our wildest imagination.
All of these new designs were scheduled for delivery in 2009 or later, beginning with Solstice on October 24, 2008. But little did any of us know that these ships would arrive after the world had become a vastly different place from what we expected when they were ordered.
September 17, 2008, was the exact date the current economic meltdown started. Importantly, for the first time in decades and just as they were accepting delivery of some of the most amazing creuise ships ever, 2009 became the first year in cruise industry history when no cruise line ordered a new cruise ship with a new design.
But like the human "Greatest Generation" the cruise industry dreamers persevered with commitments to build the ships already ordered - even though financing anything had become nearly impossible. The undisputed winner in the innovation and the cost categories, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, did not have a single penny of financing in place even as late as six months before the ship was scheduled to begin service - at a final cost of almost $1.4 billion dollars.
But Royal Caribbean persevered in building Oasis and followed up with sister ship Allure, as did Norwegian Cruise Lines with Norwegian Epic, Celebrity with Solstice, Seabourn with Odyssey, Holland America with Eurodam, MSC with Splendida, Carnival with Carnival Dream and Silversea with Silver Spirit.
All of these ships are now in service with Disney Dream arriving just last week, and now it is time to welcome the last of the "Greatest Generation" of new builds in the cruise industry - Oceania Marina.
Now, to be clear, most of these ships have sister ships - some still under construction and scheduled to sail into service in the near future; Disney Fantasy, Celebrity Silhouette and Reflection, Carnival Magic, Seabourn Quest and a sister ship to Oceania's Marina called Riviera.
But Marina will be the last debut of what was a beautiful slate of brand new ship designs conceived before the 2008 economic meltdown.
Oceania announced Marina way back in March of 2006. Almost five years later the ship is now completed and currently sailing the Atlantic Ocean from its shipyard in Genoa, Italy. Its first preview cruise is scheduled to sail from Miami starting February 5th and it will be christened by Mary Hart on February 8.
Like the ships mentioned above, it appears to me that Marina will be a vastly impressive ship; with the largest staterooms at sea (on average), 10 dining venues largely coordinated by culinary icon Jacques Pepin, a spa by Canyon Ranch and stateroom amenities by Ralph Lauren. The suites will offer butler service, 42-inch flat panel televisions and in-suite laptops with wireless Internet access.
After 2009, a very bad year for shipyards with no new ships ordered, in late 2010 Norwegian Cruise Lines and then Princess Cruise Line finally ordered new ships to be delivered starting in 2013. But these new ships will not be like the "Greatest Generation" of cruise ships we just received.
They will expand the number of staterooms onboard but not grow in size proportionately. The next generation of cruise ships is consolidating - packing in more people but not giving them more space per person - the very opposite of say, Oasis of the Seas or Celebrity Solstice, both of which grew in size but also offered more space per person. Royal Caribbean has said on record that it won't be building any more ships like Oasis.
What an amazing transition the last two and a half years have brought. And while we all celebrate the arrival of Marina we will also be closing one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of the cruise industry - the "Greatest Generation" of new builds ever.