Cruise Industry Trends for 2019

MSC Bellissima

A record year of newbuilds, new cruise brands, expedition ships and capacity growth will dominate cruise headlines in 2019, while drydocks grow in scale.

Also impressive will be technology gains, with guests benefiting from the latest connectivity and apps that integrate into the cruise experience while cruise lines continue an arms race to save fuel and reduce their environmental footprint. Among challenges, areas are new shipbuilders and emerging markets.

New Ships

Twenty-four new ships will debut in 2019, making it the biggest year ever for new ship introductions.

The Mein Schiff 2 from TUI Cruises will be the first of the 24 new ships delivered, according to projections from the 2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report.

Costa Smeralda

The biggest vessel to enter service this year will be the Costa Smeralda with capacity for 5,224 passengers.

MSC’s Grandiosa, a Meraviglia-plus class ship, is also large and will debut in November with capacity for just under 5,000 guests.

The smallest ship debuting? The 100-guest Magellan Explorer from Antarctica21.

MSC is one of four cruise lines with big ship introduction plans in 2019, with the Grandiosa debuting as well as the Bellissima.

Hanseatic Nature

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will also take delivery of two expedition newbuilds, the Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration.

French luxury line Ponant will get a pair of 180-guest Explorer-class ships, and Costa will take delivery of two megaships.

The Costa Venezia debuts in March from Fincantieri and moves to China for year-round service, while the Smeralda will debut later in the year and sail in Europe.

New Brands

Brands are coming into the cruise industry with newbuild projects and secondhand ships.

Jalesh Cruises will start service in April from Mumbai, offering a short-cruise product for the Indian source market.

In China, CTS (China Travel Service) is expected to start service in the third quarter, which will help boost capacity in the region, which is considerably lower, according to the 2019 China Market Report by Cruise Industry News.

Heading into the future, both The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and Virgin Voyages are bringing their new brands and bold new concepts and their brands into the industry with newbuild projects.

Capacity Growth

New ships on order and set to be delivered in 2019 represent an additional 42,488 berths into the industry, obliterating 2018’s record introduction of approximately 34,000 new berths.

According to the  2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report, the 42,488 berths represent 7.5 per cent additional berths across the industry.

The companies with the biggest plans to fill cabins this year are both European brands. MSC will add 9,388 berths between the Bellissima and Grandiosa, while Costa will add 9,120 berths with the Costa Venezia and Smeralda.

Drydocks Grow in Scale

Refurbishment projects across the industry are only growing in scale, according to the 2019 Drydocking and Refurbishment Report by Cruise Industry News.

Queen Elizabeth in Drydock

The biggest project this year, and the biggest drydock ever to take place will see the Carnival Triumph converted into the Carnival Sunrise over a two-month work period in Cadiz with a budget of $200 million. The ship will debut in Norfolk, Virginia in late April with additional capacity, and a number of new entertainment and food and beverage features.

Elsewhere, Royal Caribbean International’s Navigator of the Seas will be reimagined with a budget of $115 million and then reintroduced into the hot short cruise market in May 2019.

Expedition Boom

The newbuild boom in the expedition market that saw the first of a large number of new ships launching in 2018 shows no signs of slowing down for 2019.

Expedition newbuilds are all over the orderbook this year, with 12 expedition ships set to launch into service.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has the single biggest year, with 460 berths coming online with the Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration.

Ponant Explorer-class Ship

Ponant will mark its second year in a row in which it takes delivery of two ships as well, with the new Le Bougainville being joined by Le Dumont-d’Urville.

The most notable delivery will happen in China, as SunStone will welcome the first of up to 10 expedition newbuilds. The Greg Mortimer will debut in August on a long-term charter contract to Aurora Expeditions.

China Questions

China was set to become the world’s largest cruise market, and may still get there, but 2019 will be about the so-called readjustment period in the region.

Too much supply brought on too fast, a challenged distribution model (chartering), a short-in booking window and lack of product differentiation put a stop to runaway growth in China.

Royal Caribbean Ship in Shenzhen

A readjustment period is now the term, and will give Chinese officials time to work on policies and port development; it will also give way to another new Chinese cruise brand coming late this year.

China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) will buy two cruise ships ahead of building a series of new ships.

The company will take delivery of the Costa Atlantica in late 2019, followed by the Costa Mediterranea a year later.

Shipyard Problems

Delayed deliveries, strikes, ownership changes and other major questions revolve around a new set of shipyards that have aggressively entered the cruise business in recent years.

Facing a collapse in the offshore business, shipyards turned to small, expedition and niche cruise lines to gain business back.

Those yards have been met with a host of challenges ranging from ownership changes to yard strikes as they have found out that building a cruise ship is a highly complex task – mainly attributed to the customized hotel aspect of the project.


While Princess Cruises continues to roll out its OceanMedallion platform, the cruise lines are working hard to upgrade connectivity and provide new apps and digital experiences for passengers.

Royal Caribbean Cruises is utilizing facial recognition to get passengers onboard the ship within 10 minutes of arriving at the terminal; while on the new Celebrity Edge, guests can use an app to turn on and off stateroom lights and even unlock the door.

At MSC Cruises, a personal assistant, Zoe, will debut in every stateroom aboard the Bellissima when the ship is delivered in February.

Passenger-facing apps and connectivity solutions will continue to be hot topics, but behind-the-scenes, a technical arms race will continue to save fuel while lowering environmental impact when it comes to air and water emissions.

Costa Venezia Set for Trieste Christening

Costa Venezia

Costa Cruises announced that the new Costa Venezia will be christened in Trieste on March 1, 2019, before transiting to China.

She is one of seven new ships being delivered to Costa Group by 2023, marking a total investment of some 6 billion euro, the company said.

The Costa Venezia will be the company’s largest ship in China at 135,500 tons, and with capacity for 5,100 guests.

While christening details are still being worked out, Costa said there will be a full city-wide fireworks display, and multiple giant screens for spectators to watch the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The event will be attended by around 1,500 guests from China, South Korea, Japan and several European countries, and they will also have the opportunity to discover Trieste and its surrounding area, as the ship will be moored in the city until March 3, when it will depart for its first cruise.

“We are very happy to be celebrating the naming of Costa Venezia in such a beautiful Italian city as Trieste. Costa was the first company to operate in China in 2006 and over the years we have established ourselves as a leader, offering a product focused on Italian excellence. Costa Venezia will feature other unprecedented innovations, designed specifically to offer Chinese customers a real Italian experience, marking a new era for both Costa and the whole Chinese market, which is among the most promising in the world in terms of future growth,” Mario Zanetti, President of Costa Group Asia.

The Mayor of Trieste Roberto Dipiazza stated: “It is a great pleasure for the city of Trieste to host the naming ceremony of this new ship by Costa. With great pride, both from an institutional and personal point of view, I applaud this new jewel, which is the result of the work of the best talents in shipbuilding and Italian design who reside in our region and city. Our expertise, our values are well rooted in the Costa Group. This new ship, along with the other “queens” that we had the pleasure of admiring in our Gulf, will be another ambassador of Made in Italy in the world. There is a strong bond of mutual respect between Trieste and the Costa Group, that I am sure will continue to strengthen in the future.”

The first Costa Venezia cruise will depart from Trieste on March 3, 2019, and sail to Greece and Croatia. On March 8, the ship will be back in Trieste for the start of its maiden cruise: a 53-day journey as the ship moves to Asia.

The Costa Venezia will be the second Costa ship named in Trieste as in 2011 the Costa Favolosa was named in the port.

Costa China Set to Introduce ‘Game Changer’ New Ship

Mario Zanetti

“It is our first newbuild dedicated to the Chinese market,” said Mario Zanetti, president of Costa Group Asia, referring to the new Costa Venezia, which debuts in Shanghai next May.  “We are creating a strategy for the new ship and it will be a game changer.”

That strategy is offering Italy at Sea to Chinese guests with a flair of local tastes as well, while a dramatic Venetian-themed interior design brings out the best of Italian culture aboard the 4,232-guest ship, as the company has its eye on the current and future needs of the modern Chinese cruise guest.

With the Venezia arriving in Shanghai, it will take the place of the Serena, which will move to Tianjin in place of the Fortuna, which heads back to Europe.

The Atlantica will concentrate on southern homeports, sailing from Shenzhen and Xiamen, said Zanetti, in an interview with Cruise Industry News.

“Those four ports are our backbone and the way to create accessibility, having homeports in the south, east and north,” he said.

Zanetti has helped lead Costa away from full ship charters in the market, helping to diversify risk while working to create value for travel agencies, he said.

Costa Venezia

“At this stage of the industry it’s largely based on the charter, and it’s not adequate for the sustainable development,” he said. “We are shifting models to reduce the risk and reduce the (size of the charters), to create a win-win culture. We are not only talking but working with our agency partners to help them educate the market.”

Earlier this year the company launched various business-to-consumer programs in China, including a roadshow covering the entire country.

Moving away from full ship charters, he said a good number of agents were now involved in each sailing. Adjusting the model from a supply driven market to a consumer-centric market is key for the long-term development of the industry, Zanetti explained.

With other cruise companies making significant adjustments to their business operations in China, Zanetti said the numbers were promising.

“We are talking about a market where the penetration rate is very low,” he said, noting the growing middle class and their demand for leisure and entertainment options.

“We see our peers reducing deployment, but we are focused on being committed to the market to provide a high-quality and Italian cruise holiday experience. We are confirming this by introducing the Costa Venezia and increasing our capacity next year. That expresses our confidence in the growth and potential of this market.”