During this past decade, the cruise ship orderbook grew from 27 ships on order in 2010 to more than 110 ships entering 2020. Not only is the current orderbook a record, but it also contains more different ships than ever before from 9,000 to 100 passengers, from contemporary and mass-market ships to ultra-luxury and expedition vessels.
The expedition market has taken off in the last few years. Traditionally dominated by a handful of operators with older ships, new ships are taking over while also growing the market segment and attracting new players, including most of the major cruise companies.
China has been a roller coaster for the industry. When the market “discovered” cruising, too many operators put too many ships in there too fast which resulted in an adjustment period as the market and its sales model were overwhelmed. Having modified its sales model, the market now seems to be coming back, but operators are more cautious.
Better satellite service and more broadband have accelerated internet and phone services aboard the ships so passengers now essentially can enjoy the same connectivity they can at home. In addition, apps and services like Princess’ Ocean Medallion.
Increasingly stricter environmental regulations have been introduced, requiring ships to operate on low-sulfur fuel or use scrubbers to clean the exhaust gases from heavy fuel oil. These restrictions also extend to ports which may also require low sulfur fuels or that ships turn off their engines and connect to shorepower.
New technologies have also been explored and introduced due not only the environmental regulations but also the cost of fuel, seeking to reduce fuel consumption which in turn also reduces emissions. These technologies include LNG as a new fuel, research into hybrid solutions including fuel cells and batteries, optimized hull and bow shapes, hull coatings, trim optimization, LED lighting, and more.
Women have stepped up the plate and broken the so-called glass ceiling assuming top jobs as presidents and CEOs of cruise brands, as well as senior executives. Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises have women at the helm. Also at sea, women have assumed roles as captains in addition to senior officer positions.
The decade has also seen the dramatic growth of MSC Cruises sailing up to be the third-largest cruise company. In addition, newcomer Viking Ocean has established itself in the premium market and is now also reaching into the expedition segment. Also launched has been the new brand of Virgin Cruises, so far with four ships being built.
Drydockings have evolved from being mainly class inspections, repairs and basic refurbishments to becoming major revitalization projects, including stretchings, sometimes transforming older ships into literally new ships, to the tune of as much as $200 million per project.
All was not positive during the decade, however, the grounding of the Costa Concordia with the resulting loss of life in addition to eventual scrapping of the ship, made a strong if temporary dent in the industry’s safety public perception. Incidents of violation of environmental regulations also took place, resulting in hefty fines.