Capitalizing on the popularity of its 138,000-ton Voyager-class
vessels, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has ordered an even bigger
version that will become the world’s largest cruise ship.
The 160,000-ton Ultra-Voyager, to be delivered in May 2006 for
the Royal Caribbean International brand, will eclipse even the
150,000-ton Queen Mary 2, scheduled for a December delivery.
“The Voyager-class ships clearly changed the face of cruising,”
RCCL Chairman Richard Fain said in announcing the company’s $720
million order with Kvaerner Masa-Yards in Finland to build the
“The Ultra-Voyager will extend that success and, with a lower
cost per berth capital and operating costs, provides even better
economies of scale,” he said. RCCL also said it has an option on a
second Ultra-Voyager ship for delivery in 2007.
The cruise line’s expansion announcement came the same day
Norwegian Cruise Line announced it also is ordering two new ships,
and marked the first new ship orders in months for the cruise
Industry analysts, however, said they don’t expect the
announcements to signal a return of the cruise industry to the
building frenzy of the late 1990s.
In recent months, cruise lines have slowed expansion to let
demand catch up with capacity. Most recently, Carnival, which had
considered building a 170,000-ton ship, said it had decided against
Still, Robin Farley of UBS Investment Research said in a Sept.
19 research note that “While too much capacity growth may be a
concern for the industry, the Ultra-Voyager delivery takes place
between 2005 and 2007, which is a period of more controlled,
below-average growth for the industry.”
Tim Condor of A.G. Edwards also recently noted that Royal
Caribbean’s Voyager-class ships pull in higher ticket prices.
Vacationers apparently are attracted to and don’t mind spending
to sail on the super-size ships, which broke the more traditional
cruise ship mold in November 1999 with features like a
rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink, in-line skating track and
staterooms that overlook an indoor promenade.
“Over the last two months, our survey indicates that RCCL’s
pricing has continued to outperform Carnival Corp.’s, primarily due
to the Voyager-class product,” Condor wrote in a Sept. 17, 2003
The Ultra-Voyager will be about 15 percent bigger than the
Voyager vessels. The first of that class, Voyager of the Seas, was
followed by three more of the same model over the next three years.
The fifth and final Voyager-class ship, Mariner of the Seas, is due
out in early November.
The Ultra-Voyager will use the Voyager-class for its base
design, saving money in development time and cost usually involved
with a new class, Condor said in reviewing the new ship order.