Princess Cruises' Ocean Princess will join Oceania Cruises' fleet in 2016. // © 2015 Princess Cruises
Feature image (above): The atrium on Koningsdam, Holland America Line's first Pinnacle-class ship. // © 2015 Holland America Line
With a new year upon us, there's no better time to start leveraging new cruise offerings and earning commissions. Travel agents can get a leg up on the competition by informing themselves about new products from Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line (HAL), Carnival Cruise Lines and Oceania Cruises, all announced toward the end of 2014.
Celebrity has signed a letter of intent for its first new class of vessels since the company’s industry-changing Solstice-class ships. The line has ordered two 2,900-guest vessels, developed under the project name “Edge,” from Styx shipyard. Clearly, parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is capitalizing on its ongoing relationship with Styx, which is also building two Oasis-class ships for Royal Caribbean International. Celebrity expects delivery of the first ship in fall 2018, with the second delivered in the early part of 2020.
Celebrity says the new vessels represent a significant leap forward in environmentally-friendly ship design, both in terms of fuel efficiency and use of sustainable materials. Given the design team and shipyard, it is safe to say that the technical features found on Royal’s Quantum of the Seas will feed into Celebrity’s ships, just as the elegance of the Solstice design colored the flavor of Quantum.
Robin Farley, an analyst for UBS Investment Research, pointed out that the order is in line with Royal’s policy of one new ship per year, with the first Edge ship coming out six years after that most recent Celebrity debut in 2012. Farley added that, although no cost per berth has been announced for the Celebrity vessels, information shared by Styx suggests $1.44 billion or $1.56 billion for the two newbuilds, along the same lines as the Oasis-class orders.
In addition, Carnival Corporation & Plc announced orders for two new ships from Fincantieri, one for Carnival Cruise Lines and one for HAL, both sisters to the upcoming largest ships in the two fleets.
Carnival’s 3,954-passenger vessel will be the line’s 26th ship and is scheduled for March 2018. This will be a sister ship to Carnival Vista, which debuts next year.
HAL will launch a second Pinnacle-class ship, a new class of vessels that will debut with the delivery of the Koningsdam in February 2016. The new ship, scheduled for delivery in late November 2018, will accommodate 2,650 guests and 1,025 crew members.
All told, Carnival Corporation has brought more than 30 new ships into the brands of its global fleet since 2007, including its two newest ships. Another 10 vessels are scheduled to be delivered between 2015 and 2018.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) has purchased Ocean Princess from Princess Cruises. Renamed Sirena, she will become part of Oceania Cruises’ fleet in April 2016, and reservations will open in early March. Starting itineraries will be announced in February.
The 684-passenger ship was a former Renaissance Cruises vessel, a sister to Oceania’s Insignia, Regatta and Nautica. A $40 million refurbishment, lasting over a month, will add Oceania features such as the Terrace Cafe grill; Oceania’s specialty dining restaurants, Toscana and Polo Grill; and the popular Baristas.
Oceania’s five ships currently fall into two categories: the three former Renaissance ships and the two built-to-order, Oceania-class vessels (Marina and Riviera). Two of the Renaissance ships — Pacific Princess and P&O Cruises’ Adonia — remain in Carnival Corporation brands.
Two former Renaissance vessels comprise the fleet of Oceania's rival, Azamara Cruises.
“We believe NCLH’s move could force [Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Azamara’s parent company] to make a decision with Azamara: to either bulk up the competitive niche brand versus Oceania or divest the brand/ships,” said Tim Conder, an analyst for Wells Fargo.
Whatever the effects of new ships on competing lines may be, the disciplined newbuild program across the industry seems to be working well. In the next year or two, travel agents will likely see a balance among luxury, premium and contemporary growth and a projected strengthening of pricing in the Caribbean, which has suffered from excessive capacity in recent years.