The world’s largest cruise ship operator Carnival Corporation & plc said it would increase fleet capacity by nearly 10 percent from 2014 through 2016, fueled largely by the addition of four new ships across four brands in less than 18 months.
This week, Carnival Corporation is christening two new ships in the span of three days as its Princess and Costa brands host official naming ceremonies for Regal Princess and Costa Diadema, the latest new vessels to join the company’s fleet of more than 100 ships across nine cruise brands.
Additionally, in 2015, the company’s P&O Cruises UK and AIDA brands will each debut a new ship, giving Carnival Corporation a total of four new ship additions by October of next year.
In addition, Carnival Corporation continues to expand its upgrades and refurbishments to existing ships. In 2015, the company plans upgrades or refurbishments on 17 ships across six of its brands.
The 2015 refurbishment plans include two former Holland America Line ships transferred to P&O Cruises Australia that will undergo complete refurbishment before sailing as Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden starting in November 2015.
The renovated ships will be tailored for Australian and New Zealand passengers.
Carnival Corporation’s four new fleet additions in 18 months are part of the company’s plan to introduce nine new ships across seven of its brands between 2014 and 2017.
AIDA, Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises UK, Princess Cruises and Seabourn are all expected to debut new cruise ships between now and the early part of 2017.
In 2016, Carnival Cruise Lines will debut Carnival Vista, a 133,500-ton ship that will be the largest ever in its fleet — with the ship being unveiled in a sneak preview in New York in January 2015.
Holland America Line will launch its newest ship, the 99,500-ton ms Koningsdam, a new Pinnacle Class ship that can carry 2,650 passengers.
Also in 2016, AIDA will introduce a new sister ship to the 2015 AIDAprima with capacity for 3,250 passengers, while Seabourn will unveil its newest luxury ship, expected to be the biggest ever built by the brand with the ability to serve 604 passengers.
Looking forward to 2017, Princess Cruises is working with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build a 143,000-ton vessel featuring the highly popular design elements introduced by the brand’s two newest ships, and sisters, the Royal Princess and sisters, the Royal Princess and Regal Princess.
Launched by Holland American Line (HAL) in 2010, Nieuw Amsterdam did a wonderful job keeping one foot squarely in the elegant, familiar traditions of HAL while introducing new features designed to attract a bigger demographic.
Now in its fifth year of service, Nieuw Amsterdam has continued to maintain that balance by making additions to the onboard experience that are focused on psychographics rather than age demographics. Instead of developing separate features catering to different generations, HAL has found common denominators that appeal to a comprehensive range of guests — from 30-somethings to World War II veterans. What’s more, new programs, such as the year-old partnership with “Dancing with the Stars,” have been introduced without eliminating any of the daily activities that many guests have come to love.
When I sailed on Nieuw Amsterdam earlier this year, on the sailing that hosted the finals for “Dancing with the Stars,” I was struck by how new the ship felt and the universality of the ship’s appeal. The dancers and fans added a verve and enthusiasm that spread to everyone — even people who did not have a compelling interest in the competition — and the connections between different generations made for new friendships and abundant conversation.
HAL’s traditional standout activities also enriched the line’s passenger base, from ballroom dancing and excellence in dining that spans Cupcake Tea to the most formal meals, plus entertainment such as the just-launched Nashville-themed B.B. King Blues Club, held five nights a week in the Queen’s Lounge.
Here’s an overview of today’s Nieuw Amsterdam:
Rooms have features with widespread appeal and a great deal of flexibility, including closet space that can be adjusted to include hanging items and shelving. All accommodations have Sealy Euro-Top mattresses, hypoallergenic pillows and flat-screen televisions with DVD players. The in-room system has more than 1,000 free movies with titles reflecting a broad variety of guest tastes. Nieuw Amsterdam is also the first HAL ship with keycard-activated lighting, which has been used by hotels as an energy-saving device for some time.
It’s important to check the deck plan within stateroom and suite categories, as size can vary with location, and some have bathtubs and showers or larger space for seating. Thirty accommodations — from Deluxe and Superior Verandah Suites to inside staterooms — are wheelchair accessible.
Onboard dining choices are varied enough for expansive appeal. HAL’s Culinary Council of well-known chefs provides daily recommendations on the dining room fare. Dining options include Pinnacle Grill and the Tamarind restaurant that specializes in Asian food. Meanwhile, HAL’s Master Chef’s Table serves a tasting dinner on selected evenings. Pinnacle Grill also holds a weekly Le Cirque dining presentation; at $49, it is essentially the cost of tax and tip alone at the New York’s Le Cirque restaurant.
HAL expanded the menu at Italian restaurant Canaletto at the beginning of the year, bringing in a trendy small-plates option that has passengers across the generations experimenting and comparing notes at dinner. Canaletto dining now has a $10 surcharge (which was formerly included).
Complimentary 24-hour room service is more extensive than what’s available on many other cruise lines and includes the opportunity to order from the dining room menu during dinner hours.
The two decks of spa staterooms have in-cabin healthy dining menus that appeal to younger cruisers as well as older passengers who are both physically active and health conscious. There is a 22-dish vegetarian menu in the two-story Manhattan Dining Room, which has spa choices and international dishes such as the Dutch uitsmijter (open-faced sandwich with eggs on top) at breakfast.
Three kinds of afternoon tea appear on different days: a whimsical Cupcake Tea; the traditional Dutch High Tea; and an Indonesian Tea Ceremony featuring a variety of teas and desserts.
Exclusivity is another factor appreciated by HAL passengers of all ages. Suite guests can choose to have breakfast separately at Pinnacle Grill, although the menu is the same as that of Manhattan Dining Room. They also have free laundry and dry-cleaning services, priority tender boarding and use of the private Neptune Lounge where snacks and drinks are available throughout the day.
Entertainment is designed to please both new and repeat HAL guests. The three-deck, 890-seat Showroom at Sea showcases production shows and entertainment ranging from comedians to illusionists. When I sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam, it was packed two hours ahead of show time for the “Dancing with the Stars” final competition, accompanied by presentations by dance experts in their 40s.
Younger couples and older guests take full advantage of private nooks on Nieuw Amsterdam, so much so that travelers should make reservations as early as possible for the curtained cabanas placed along a wall of the Lido deck that rent for $35 (on port days) or $50 (on sea days) per day. The fee includes beverages and lunch served privately, and the cabanas come with iPods loaded with musical selections.
The Private Retreat, located on the deck above the Lido, is in even greater demand. Here, cabanas offering outdoor living/dining rooms include light breakfast and lunch and cost $45 to $115 per day, depending on their size. These should be reserved as early as possible after booking the cruise; by the time passengers board the ship, they are already reserved.
The year-old partnership with “Dancing with the Stars” has clearly expanded Nieuw Amsterdam’s guest mix. On this year’s cruise of dance finalists, guests of all ages were dancing in the evenings and attending daytime dance classes — as well as attending seminars on computer tips, photography lessons and demonstrations from celebrity chefs in the Culinary Arts Center.
North American dance studios are now sending “Dancing with the Stars” contestants to the ship year-round to compete. The contestants typically sail with their families — a very good potential target market for travel agents.
Nieuw Amsterdam sails alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises this winter, returning to the Mediterranean in April.
Carnival Corp. said it will transfer two of Holland America Line’s ships, the Ryndam and Statendam, to its P&O Australia subsidiary to capitalize on growth prospects in that country.
The ships will depart the HAL fleet in November 2015.
HAL is scheduled to take delivery of a 2,600-passenger newbuild in 2016, and that will more than replace the capacity of the two smaller, older ships.
Statendam and Ryndam, delivered in 1993 and 1994, respectively, each carry 1,260 passengers at double occupancy.
After the move and the delivery of the newbuild in 2016, HAL would have 14 ships in its fleet, and P&O Australia would have five.
The move fits a trend towards replacing a number of smaller ships with fewer, larger ones. Seabourn, a Carnival Corp.-owned luxury line, last year sold three of its 212 passenger ships to Windstar and is taking delivery of a 604-passenger ship in 2016.
Cruise industry capacity has been expanding rapidly in Australia. For Carnival Corp., growth has gone from two P&O ships 10 years ago to six full-time ships, including three from P&O, two from Princess Cruises and one from Carnival Cruise Lines.
The return of the Sun Princess full-time to Australia next year and the two additional P&O ships will increase that number to nine.
Other companies have made similar moves.
The number of Australians taking a cruise has grown 130% in five years, Carnival said. The total of 800,000 last year is projected to grow to 1 million by 2016.
“Our ability to work among our brands to make strategic deployment decisions is a great example of our focus on leveraging our scale and increased collaboration,” commented Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald. “This is an exciting development on many levels.”