Majestic Princess Set to Sail from Taiwan in 2018 Deployment Change

The Majestic Princess makes a call to Keelung in June.
Majestic Princess
The new Majestic Princess is poised to move into the Taiwanese market from April to July 2018, after which the 2017-built ship will head to Australia for winter 2018-2019.

According to sources with knowledge of the ship’s deployment, the Majestic will sail three- and four-night voyages from Keelung in all of April and May. A spokesperson for Princess Cruises told Cruise Industry News in a written statement that 2018 itineraries have yet to be confirmed.

Following her Taiwan-based short cruise program, the ship will offer longer cruises to Japan in May, June and July from Keelung. It is not known, however, if they will be mixed in with China-based sailings, or if Princess is continuing to cut capacity in China.

Announced in 2015, the Majestic Princess was built and developed for year-round China operations.

Earlier this year, Princess announced she would re-position seasonally to Australia for 2018-2019.

In addition, the Sapphire Princess, which has been dedicated to the Asia and China markets, will be re-deployed to Europe in 2018.

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The Freedom of Cruise Ship Redeployment

The Freedom of Cruise Ship Redeployment
PHOTO: The wake behind Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista. (photo by Mark Leppert)

When it was uncertain that Cuba would remain open to roundtrip cruises from the United States, it was never a worry that the ships on the route would be incapable of redeployment.

Executives like Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., repeat that in troubled times, cruise ships can go anywhere.

It’s true. A ship originally slated for the Caribbean can easily end up in Alaska or Europe seasonally, but often that’s the plan all along.

What may not be anticipated are geopolitical tensions or fears of terrorism that warrant ships go elsewhere. The latter has been the reason cruise lines have shied away from Turkey in the Mediterranean, for example.

More recently, cruise itineraries from China have stayed clear of South Korea due to heated relations between the two countries.

It was looking for awhile like the Trump administration would cease permissions for cruises to Cuba, but thankfully Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International were allowed to continue and Carnival Cruise Line has since been able to make its inaugural run as well.

If not, the Norwegian Sky, Empress of the Seas and Carnival Paradise, respectively, would just have had to cruise to lands beyond, likely still in the Caribbean.


Photo Credit Dave Jones~Norwegian Sky leaving Miami

In the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, there are plenty of alternative ports to go to when some become off limits, but such is not always the case. For the Chinese cruise market, the loss of South Korea as a destination has limited where local ships can head, particularly on itineraries with short durations.

In those cases, Japan is an option, but port capacity saturation is then a concern.

Once a booming market, cruise lines may have to rethink their long-term Chinese potential. Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess—partially for this reason, as well as consideration of other growth markets—has opted to no longer dedicate itself to China year-round as originally planned. It also now has intentions for Australia-based cruising in 2018 and 2019.

When a cruise ship is built generically for any market, it is easy to deploy anywhere in the world, but when it is purpose-built like the Majestic, it is more challenging to take away.

Whether or not the ship will see any sort of redesign prior to its Australian deployment is still to be determined.

Still, the vast majority of cruise ships are geared towards the American market and can go pretty much anywhere in the world, catering to our sensibilities just fine.

As ships have aged out of their original brands, they have often gone on to later service international clients for different companies. However, now foreign markets are demanding new-builds as much as the American one, leaving older ships somewhat in limbo.

It’s easiest for the most popular fleets to deploy wherever they need to and still have a following, but mature vessels have a harder time of either competing in high-traffic regions or being handed down to other markets.

That’s why it’s always crucial for the cruise industry to be developing new port and destination options for the wide variety of international vessels to service. As long as they exist, there are plenty of places to go around for them all.

Having movable assets is a freedom that most shoreside industries don’t have. Even with its occasional challenges, including tracking complex global conditions, the international cruise fleet has it good compared to, say, a fixed retail shop with poor sales in a failing regional neighborhood.

Norwegian has no plans to reduce China service, Del Rio says

Norwegian Joy
It’s full speed ahead in China for Norwegian Cruise Line.

Despite recent announcements by other lines that ships once scheduled for year-round service in China would move to Australia for part of the year, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings chairman Frank Del Rio said his company has no plans to follow suit.

“I’m glad to see that the others are leaving,” Del Rio said. “That leaves us perhaps the last man standing, and that’d be great. I’ll take all the demand.”

Del Rio’s comments came during a conference call with analysts to discuss first-quarter financial results.

Cruise selling in China has been disrupted since March by the Chinese government’s move to halt travel to South Korea, a protest of a decision by the South Korean government to install a U.S.-made missile defense system.

“The disruption caused travel agents to be distracted from focusing on contracting charters further out into the year, then trying to book, in some cases rebook, [and] find new customers [for those] who no longer wanted to go on sailings that didn’t include Korea,” Del Rio said. “But it’s also had a bit of a chilling effect on overall demand.”

He added that sales for new cruises had started to pick up in the past two weeks. “The South Korea situation, we believe, is a temporary bump in the road, and time will tell,” he said.

Norwegian Cruise Line is scheduled to start sailing the 3,883-passenger Norwegian Joy, its first ship custom-designed for the Chinese market, from Shanghai in late June.

Princess Cruises recently said that its Majestic Princess, also custom-built for the Chinese market, will be deployed to Australia for six months in 2018-19. The move follows the redeployment of the Sapphire Princess from China to Europe in the latter half of 2018.

Because Norwegian is new to the Chinese source market, Del Rio said he’s being cautious about predicting the impact of the Norwegian Joy on the company’s performance in the second half.

“So in many ways, all the good things that I have to say about how our business is operating on the other 24 ships is being somewhat tempered by the potential that could arise in China,” Del Rio said.

A strong Wave

Del Rio said on the call that this year’s Wave was “the best Wave season that we and likely the industry has experienced in quite some time.” As a result, NCLH brands have fewer cabins to sell for the rest of 2017, and it expects higher prices on those bookings than last year.

NCLH, which also includes Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, posted Q1 net income of $61.9 million, compared with $73.2 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 6.8%, to a record $1.15 billion.

Del Rio attributed the net-income decline to higher-than-expected maintenance and repair costs, particularly for the Norwegian Star, which broke down in Australia for five days in February.

Outside of that, CFO Wendy Beck said the results were driven by “strong close-in demand in the Caribbean, coupled with strength in onboard revenue.” Cuba itineraries are now available on all three brands, and “the performance of that itinerary is just astonishing,” Del Rio said. NCLH is also doing better than it planned in Europe this year, which Del Rio attributed to a combination of less inventory to sell than at the same time last year and positive market conditions. “That is resulting in very, very strong sales in Europe at significantly higher prices than the same time last year,” he said.