They may have the same names and even be sailing the same itineraries, but they may well not be the same ships your client sailed on last year.
With all the attention being paid to the industry’s revolutionary new ships, the cruise lines also are completely reinventing their existing vessels with new features that go far beyond the soft-goods refreshments of yesteryear. Since the majority of the ships that make up cruising fall into this category, it is essential for agents to be able to present the most recent incarnations of the vessels to their clients.
With this new TravelAgeWest.com ongoing feature, we will continually update visitors on the renovations and refurbishments taking place throughout the cruise industry.
Although it is normal for refurbishments to accompany drydocks every two, three or four years, these renewals are far beyond the ordinary freshening up we’ve seen in the past. Ships are receiving new balconies, a different configuration of public spaces, expanded spas, additional restaurants and features that inlcude waterparks and huge poolside LED screens; adults-only areas; facilities for children and teens; new shops; expanded casinos; spa staterooms; jogging tracks; celebrity restaurants; and bars and lounges.
Two factors are driving the drastic renewal of these ships: the slowing newbuild program in the wake of the economic crisis of 2009 and the need for consistency across each fleet. So as a very successful new ship comes out, its best features are translated back to the lines’ other ships, sometimes with a different accent.
The cruise lines are treating these extensive renovations like introductions of new ships. Celebrity Cruises has announced the stages of Solsticizing of its Millennium-class ships, transferring some of the key features that so impressed consumers and agents alike to the company’s earlier ships, and Princess Cruises has kept an online journal of more recent refurbishments.
Other companies have created an umbrella for the whole upgrading process: Holland America Line is bringing another layer of Signature of Excellence upgrades to its fleet; Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fantasy-class ships are being transformed under the auspices of the line’s Evolutions of Fun; while Windstar upgrades its ships within the Degrees of Difference program.
And it isn’t only the accommodations and public rooms that are changing; ships are adding some very pricey and effective green features and back-of-the-house improvements passengers are never likely to see, although they will definitely experience their effects.