New Ship Preview 2005

Several standouts highlight this summer’s cruise season

By: M.T. Schwartzman

The cruise industry’s record-breaking launch of new ships is going through a comparative lull in 2005. Not that anyone’s complaining. Many agents are still catching their breath after last year’s whopping 12 new ship introductions. Though this year’s pace is much less frenetic, it’s worth taking note of several gems coming on line later this year. Topping the list of noteworthy newbuilds is the Carnival Liberty, which debuts on July 20 as the 20th ship in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. She joins the Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory and the Carnival Valor in the Conquest series of 110,000-ton, 2,974-passenger ships. But the Liberty’s big claim to fame is her itinerary. She’ll sail Carnival’s first-ever series of cruises in the Mediterranean. From July to October, Liberty will depart from Rome (Civitavecchia) on a 12-day voyage that calls at Naples, Dubrovnik, Messina, Barcelona, Cannes and Livorno. As an added bonus, the ship will overnight in Venice, so passengers will have extra time to explore the shops on the Piazza San Marco.

After crossing the Atlantic, the Carnival Liberty arrives in Fort Lauderdale to begin a year-round rotation of six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises, which commence on Nov. 12. Six-day itineraries call at Freeport, George Town and Cozumel. Eight-day sailings to the eastern Caribbean feature five ports San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola and Nassau or three “exotic” western Caribbean ports, Limon, Colon and Cozumel. Carnival believes the Liberty’s eclectic itineraries will have widespread interest. “We expect our new Mediterranean voyages will attract both experienced and first-time Carnival guests,” said president and CEO Bob Dickinson.

The line’s six-day Caribbean itinerary also has unique appeal, he added, because it features a Sunday departure and Saturday return “that allows guests an extra day to relax before heading back to work.” The Sunday departure should be attractive to honeymooners, too, he concluded.

Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, plans to introduce its next generation of newbuilds by summer 2005. The Norwegian Jewel, which enters service in August, will be one of the largest vessels that NCL has ever built: 92,000 tons with lower berths for 2,376. Borrowing from (and tweaking) the successful “Freestyle Cruising” design introduced on the Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn, NCL’s newest ship will offer 10 different restaurants plus the usual array of health and recreational facilities. The ship will also feature a new cabin category, Courtyard Villas, which are smaller than Garden Villas and Owner’s Suites, but larger than Penthouse Suites. The new Courtyard Villas will range in size from 444 to 575 square feet, and will be located on the same deck as the Garden Villas. Guests in the Courtyard Villas will have access to a private pool, hot tub, sundeck, butler and concierge service.

Another noteworthy detail about the Jewel is her casino, which will feature the highest table limits at sea. The vessel will also come factory-equipped with WiFi hot spots for wireless Internet service, and passengers will be able to use their own cell phones even after the ship leaves port, thanks to NCL’s new partnership with Wireless Maritime Services.

The Norwegian Jewel will sail two roundtrip European itineraries from London when she enters service. The first is a 13-day Mediterranean sailing with calls in Lisbon, Gibraltar, Florence, Rome, Cannes and Barcelona. The second cruise is a 12-day Baltic sailing with calls in Oslo, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Berlin and Copenhagen. After a transatlantic repositioning cruise, the Jewel sails a series of Canadian and New England “Fall Foliage” itineraries roundtrip from New York before taking up residence in Miami for a winter-long program of 7-day Caribbean cruises. In 2006, NCL will deploy the ship to Alaska, with itineraries to be announced within the next few weeks.

Elsewhere, NCL will have a busy year as it introduces the long-awaited and much-delayed 88,000-ton, 2,114-passenger Pride of America. The ship’s partially completed hull was purchased by NCL from American Classic Voyages in August 2002 and towed to a shipyard in Germany. Although NCL initially planned to use Pride of America to debut its new inter-island Hawaii program in July 2004, things didn’t work out that way. In January 2004, the vessel took on substantial amounts of water during a storm at the shipyard, and sank up to deck three. After the Pride of America was damaged, NCL scrambled to launch its inter-island program with the Pride of Aloha, instead. Now, the Pride of America is finally repaired and ready to go. She’ll enter service in Hawaii by the end of July 2005, offering 3, 4 and 7-day inter-island itineraries. The Pride of America will include numerous firsts for NCL, such as an art gallery, tennis court, and a conservatory, which will feature live birds and live foliage.

The arrival of the Pride of America will firmly establish NCL’s dominant position in the Hawaii market, according to NCL president and CEO Colin Veitch.

“With two NCL America ships sailing inter-island cruises and a Norwegian Cruise Line ship sailing a Hawaii/Fanning Island itinerary, this will be the largest cruise deployment ever for Hawaii,” he said.

Passengers will also have the opportunity to sail on the first newly built, American flagged cruise ship in 50 years.

Asia-bound cruise passengers can look forward to a new choice as well: Starting in November, Oceania Cruises sails the far Pacific in the 30, 277-ton, 684-passenger Nautica (formerly Renaissance Cruises’ R5). While not technically a newbuild, Oceania has invested $15 million to spiff up the Nautica so that she’s a stunner on the seas. Improvements and upgrades have been made to carpeting and bedding throughout the ship. Selected cabin categories will feature CD and DVD players. Spa and pool areas have received new teak decking, and there’s all-new china, cutlery and crystal in the dining venues. The Nautica is scheduled to sail an inaugural season of cruises to Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea. The improvements to Nautica will finalize Oceania’s plans for expansion, at least for the time being.

“She completes our initial vision of a three-ship fleet,” said Tim Rubacky, manager of strategic development and communications, “but that’s not to say we’re not keen to expand beyond that should the opportunity arise.”

And, speaking of expansion, 2006 promises to be another banner year for bigger and better ships. But, let’s get through 2005 first.


In addition to the major North American newbuilds making their debut in 2005, two other vessels are scheduled to come on line as well. On the U.S. East Coast, American Cruise Lines is preparing to launch its third new ship in five years when the American Spirit begins service on May 28. At 92 passengers, the vessel is nearly twice as big as her fleet-mates, the American Eagle (built in 2000) and the American Glory (built in 2002), which both carry 49 guests. In her first season, the American Spirit will travel the East Coast from Maine to Florida on cruises that run six to 14 nights.

Across the pond, meanwhile, P&O Cruises welcomes the 85,000-ton, 1,968-passenger Arcadia. This hull was originally ordered as the fifth vessel in Holland America Line’s Vista Class. It subsequently was transferred to Cunard Line and re-designated as the Queen Victoria. However, the vessel will emerge from the shipyard in April flying the P&O banner to become the largest cruise ship built exclusively for the British market. The vessel’s contemporary design “will raise the quality of the P&O fleet still further,” according to the company, and features such modern amenities as alternative dining and 677 balcony cabins.