Latest ship launches illustrate a shift to Europe

Harmony of the Seas

It seems like U.S. agents are having to wait longer to see brand-new ships, or to send their clients on them, unless they want to fly to Europe.

Nearly all the ships coming out of European shipyards this year will be dedicated in Europe and spend the summer and fall sailing there.

The exception is the Seabourn Encore, which will be even farther away, in Singapore, when it is christened next January.

Once the primary window for ships to be delivered was in the fall, when they could be pressed into service in the Caribbean. That was the case in November when the Norwegian Escape was christened by Pitbull and began a series of cruises from Miami.

But while the Carnival Vista, the Koningsdam and the Harmony of the Seas will all arrive in South Florida in November, and will have occasions for travel agents to tour them or sail on them, they will be six months into their service by the time that happens.

I don’t know when the shift began. Clearly the larger cruise lines have enough ships in their fleets that leaving newbuilds in Europe for the summer doesn’t disrupt their plans for North America.

That may be different from the past, when every ship counted in the strategy to beat the competition.

And it may be good luck that Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Holland America Line have some of their most attractive ships in Europe at a time when that region needs a boost.

Ironically, the next big ship introduction scheduled for North America comes in November 2017 when a European-based cruise line, MSC Cruises, debuts its MSC Seaside in Miami.

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