Cruise Industry

Image result for cruise ship Dry docks
Norwegian Breakaway in a Large Dry Dock

As the cruise industry sails into the third decade of the 21st century, the signs of its vitality are everywhere.

New entrants are flocking to the business. Established players have record booking curves. Big networks of cruise vacation advisors are growing. Competition is healthy but not cutthroat. And cruise lines are spending more than ever before to modernize their older ships.

Cruise line executives are optimistic, none more so than 30-year industry veteran Richard Fain, chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

“We expect to end this year with more revenue on the books than ever before, with very high booked load factors at very attractive pricing,” Fain told Wall Street analysts in October. “All of that bodes well for an attractive 2020.”

Perhaps no development demonstrates the vitality of today’s cruise industry more than the growth of expedition cruising. No fewer than nine expedition ships from seven cruise lines are expected to arrive in 2020.

And everyone wants in. Luxury names such as Crystal and Seabourn as well as Viking Ocean Cruises are all preparing to add expedition capacity to their portfolios.

Brands with cachet in other parts of the hospitality business are putting capital into the cruise arena. Virgin is adding ships to its existing plane, train and hotel brands, with Virgin Voyages set to launch in April.

And sprawling Marriott International, through its Ritz-Carlton brand, will rejoin the cruise industry with the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, 25 years after giving up its previous cruising venture, a part interest in Sun Line. Ritz-Carlton’s 298-passenger, ultraluxury vessel, the Evrima, is scheduled to debut in June.

The yacht-like Windstar ships are being stretched and relaunched by owner Xanterra.

The yacht-like Windstar ships are being stretched and relaunched by owner Xanterra.

The supersizing of refurbishments is another demonstration of cruise vitality. Royal Caribbean International just completed a $165 million rejuvenation of the Oasis of the Seas, and Norwegian Cruise Line plans to spend $100 million next year on its 22-year-old Norwegian Spirit.

“This is the most extensive revitalization in our company’s 50-year history,” Norwegian chief sales officer Katina Athanasiou told an audience at CruiseWorld in November.

Continued innovation is another hallmark of vital industries. In August, the 5,282-passenger Carnival Mardi Gras will debut, the first liquefied natural gas-powered cruise ship to sail in North America and the first to have a roller coaster onboard.

The coaster follows hard on the heels of go-kart tracks and sky diving simulators developed by rival lines.
As Carnival Cruise Line gears up to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022, it is still finding new homeports from which to sail. Next year it will deploy the Carnival Miracle to San Francisco, its 19th domestic homeport, where it will offer cruises to Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska.

Cruise selling is also a dynamic contributor to the vitality of the cruise sector. At its recent annual convention in Hollywood, Fla., Cruise Planners celebrated its growth into a powerhouse of 2,500 franchises nationwide.

“From 2015 to 2019, we’ve doubled our sales,” Cruise Planners CEO Michelle Fee said.

Even corners of the cruise industry that were once endangered are prospering. In 2007, Carnival Corp. sold the diminutive Windstar Cruises to Ambassadors International, and the sail-powered line fell into bankruptcy during the Great Recession.

It was rescued in 2011 by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which bought three 212-passenger ships from Seabourn to expand the fleet.

Now those ships themselves are being expanded. Windstar has budgeted $250 million to cut each of the former Seabourn ships in half and insert an 84-foot block of new cabins and public areas into the middle.

The process was started in October with the Star Breeze, which also got new engines and a larger fuel tank. The schedule calls for a similar stretching of the Star Legend and Star Pride to be completed by November.

Cruise Lines Make More Hurricane Adjustments

Navigator of the Seas

The three major cruise lines announced more itinerary changes due to Hurricane Dorian following Thursday’s itinerary change news, and more adjustments are expected to follow on Friday as the storm develops.

Carnival

The Carnival Paradise will now leave Tampa early on August 31, with Carnival asking guests to arrive at the cruise terminal between 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM.

For the Carnival Miracle, with the anticipation of a potential port closure on Sunday, this sailing will now operate as an eight-day sailing, departing on Saturday evening.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has modified more sailings as a result of the impact of Hurricane Dorian.

Guests aboard the Navigator’s August 30 sailing are now returning to Miami on Sept. 4 as opposed to Sept. 2, meaning the ship’s Sept. 2 sailing will leave two days later.

The Empress will see guests get multiple days added to the itinerary. Unable to return to Miami this Sunday, the cruise now will add a call to Roatan, spend two days at sea, call in Nassau and then return to Miami on Sept. 4.

The Mariner will also get two days added to its current itinerary, returning to Port Canaveral on Sept. 4 as opposed to Sept. 2.

Norwegian

The Norwegian Breakaway will extend its port time in Cozumel until Sept. 1, giving guests a chance to disembark and return home or remain onboard if they choose.  Guests who choose to end their cruise in Cozumel will receive a 25% future cruise credit.

The  Norwegian Sun departed from Port Canaveral, Florida Thursday, August 29, 2019, as scheduled. The calls to Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay and Freeport, Bahamas have been cancelled. Instead, the ship will spend a day at sea on Friday, August 30 and will call to Cozumel, Mexico on August 31. She will remain at sea on September 1 and is scheduled to return to Port Canaveral on September 2.

Norwegian Cruise Line Enhances Award-Winning Entertainment Program With SIX: The Musical

SIX with Norwegian Cruise Line
See the British pop musical SIX on the Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Breakaway or Norwegian Getaway. (photo via Norwegian Cruise Line)