Cruise Ship Updates

Aug 23, 2016
2016

As the tide of cruise-ship travel rises, major cruise lines have not been slow to lift new ships into service. This year saw the introduction of Holland America Line’s 2,650-passenger ms Koningsdam, its first new vessel since 2010 and largest ever, with solo and family cabins a fresh option. Royal Caribbean International’s new 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas also set sail straight into the booming China market this year, complete with such novelties as a skydiving simulator, onboard bumper cars and “virtual balconies’’ for inside cabins. Regent Seven Seas Cruises took to the waves with its first new ship since 2003, the 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer, “the most luxurious cruise ship ever,” with the highest space-to-passenger ratio in the industry. Viking Cruises cast a second ship into the ocean-going fray in 2016, the 930-passenger Viking Sea, a vessel that remains true to Viking’s river-plying origins with extensive deck space, including a wrap-around promenade. And come this December, Seabourn is slated to launch its largest ship ever, the all-suite, all-balcony, 604-passenger Seabourn Encore.

The future at sea appears to be even more ambitious and luxury-laden. Holland America means to add a sister ship to this year’s king-sized Koningsdam in August 2018. Royal Caribbean puts two more Quantum-class giants in the water in 2019 and 2020. Viking Cruises expects to have six ocean-going ships in its fleet by 2020. Seabourn plans to christen a second new 604-passenger luxury vessel, the Seabourn Oration, in 2018. Not to be scuttled by future competition, Silversea Cruises will weigh anchor with its largest ship ever, the 596-passenger Silver Muse in April 2017, to be joined by five more same-sized “ultra luxury ocean cruising” ships by 2020.

Next year alone should see the introduction of an armada of new cruise ships both big and small, all with enhanced technologies, amenities and luxuries. Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic will set out with the first of two new 100-passenger ships in 2017. Star Clippers will launch the 300-passenger Flying Clipper — the world’s largest square-rigger — next year, too. Celebrity Cruises has its own entrants in this race to the future: the first two vessels of its Project Edge series, each accommodating nearly 3,000 guests, set to launch in 2018 and 2020. Meanwhile, Princess Cruises will deploy the new 3,650-passenger Majestic Princess to China in April 2017, to be followed by two more liners of the same size in 2019 and 2020.

Other cruise lines are also expanding their fleets in the coming years. Ultra-luxury line Crystal Cruises, for example, will deploy three new all-suite, all-veranda, 1,000-passenger ships starting in 2019, each with one-to-one crew-to-guest ratios and 42 top-deck residences. Crystal will also introduce all-suite river boats with butler service to its fleet for European cruises in 2017 and 2018.

New ships aren’t the only ones making a splash, as Cunard Line’s iconic Queen Mary 2 recently unveiled its remastered appearance, featuring updates to all its staterooms, from the Queens Grill to Britannia Club, as well as the addition of 15 single-traveler staterooms. Other changes include the addition of The Verandah and Carinthia Lounge; updates to the Queens Grill, Princess Grill and King’s Court restaurants; and an enhanced kennel.

At this point there are, perhaps surprisingly, no megaships on the horizon larger than the 5,000-passenger carriers we have today, but there will be the debut of an entirely new cruise line, Virgin Cruises, the brainchild of iconic airline founder Richard Branson. Three 2,860-passenger ships are envisioned, the first for early 2020, and all geared to the needs of a surging new cruise constituency: millennials.

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