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At the inaugural for Celebrity Eclipse, agents asked, “Where can Celebrity go after Solstice?” That question has arisen on several of the new landmark ships that have redefined their brands and the industry, and the answer isn’t simple.
Don’t look for big increments in size or for a huge departure from the recognizable ship shape in the foreseeable future. In fact, most designers are saying that the next series of ships are likely to have more innovations in terms of content rather than in form, as ship orders have slowed since before the recession.
The recent generation of cruise ships has helped redefine both cruise brands and the industry. Royal Caribbean continues its innovation with Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and the Solstice-class ships. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) hit the bull’s-eye with its solo staterooms and extraordinary entertainment on Norwegian Epic. Carnival Cruise Lines is moving toward a much closer identification with the Caribbean region in onboard design, and Costa Cruises is evolving into more and more elegant ships. The Yachts of Seabourn’s new, larger ships have converted a somewhat skeptical core clientele and brought an enthusiastic wave of first-timers to the brand, and Oceania Cruises’ new Marina set the stage for the line’s future expansion.
In many cases, regardless of the dazzling new features, the newbuilds are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and will continue to be so. Joe Lanzisero, senior vice president of creative for Walt Disney Imagineering, helped lead the overall design of the Disney Dream and will lead the design of the upcoming Disney Fantasy.
“Essential ship choices were made early on with Magic and Wonder — smart decisions for the brand centered on a classic, timeless style,” Lanzisero said. “That emphasis on art deco and art nouveau is continuing on Dream and Fantasy. They will never feel dated — they are romantic ships.”
Lanzisero said the newbuilds are, at the core, a concept that already worked, aided by 2011 technology.
Many recent ships are blueprints for the future, as well. Compagnie du Ponant’s new L’Austral will be exactly like last year’s Boreal in all but color and spa management. And ships such as Solstice have not only served as prototypes, but have echoed down the fleet as their features are renovated into the former ships (although Reflection in 2012 will have somewhat different dimensions and additional suites).
Odyssey is Seabourn’s pattern for a full series of vessels, and Oceania has announced only two significant changes from Marina for its second new ship, the Riviera: higher ceilings on Deck 14 and a slightly different layout in the spa. Maurice Zarmatti, president and CEO of Costa Cruises North America, said Costa Favolosa will be very much like her sisters, with spa staterooms, a 4-D cinema and Grand Prix simulator.
This ability to get it right the first time is vital in current cruise design, where having a near-perfect prototype means enormous cost savings. In addition, Joe Farcus, who has designed for Carnival Cruise Lines since the line’s first ship, and at Costa Cruises for more than a decade, pointed out that, in tough economic times, there is much less inclination to order radically innovative ships.
Emphasis on Onboard ExperienceIn the wake of Oasis and Allure, size is a big question for future newbuilds. Royal Caribbean’s new ship order for 2014 — with an option for a second one in 2015 — is smaller than Oasis and Allure at 4,100 passengers, a decision that was itinerary-driven.
“I don’t see a clear benefit to larger ships than Oasis at this time,” said Harri Kulovaara, executive vice president, maritime.
Likewise, NCL’s new two-ship order — the first under CEO Kevin Sheehan — is for somewhat smaller ships. Epic is about 9 percent larger than the vessels coming in 2013 and 2014, but the new ships will hold nearly the same number of passengers at 4,000.
Kulovaara sees many of the next steps in ship design relying on content.
“It will be more about how you use your real estate,” he said.
Agents agree. Although Ruth Turpin, owner of Cruises, Etc., in Fort Worth, Texas, is pleased with the new accommodations, she described the best new feature as the enhanced in-suite entertainment on the Odyssey and her sisters, with a huge assortment of movies and CDs available when a passenger wants it.
Tom Baker, president and co-owner of CruiseCenter in Houston, Texas, strongly suggested an all-inclusive rate option; he says clients are finding the vacation experience ruined by being nickel-and-dimed at every turn.
However, the one area most cited by agents as needing improvement is entertainment.
“Clients talk about poor entertainment choices,” Baker noted. “They want more specialty entertainment and Broadway-type shows — but relevant shows such as ‘Wicked,’ for example. Entertainment has to change, and do so radically.”
Baker and many other agents feel that the recent partnerships with Nickelodeon and Dreamworks are steps in the right direction, and several pointed to the Epic as a model of what onboard entertainment should be, with several name-brand acts onboard.
At the recent Cruise Shipping Miami conference, NCL’s Sheehan said that, physically, nearly every line is looking at ways to offer more open deck space.
“Outdoor space has become more and more important in terms of public space,” Sheehan said. “We’re figuring out ways of bringing the guest closer to the sea.”
Seabourn’s president Richard Meadows has pointed out that there will be 14 terraces of open deck available to guests on Seabourn Quest, with a choice of sun and shade, large social spaces and smaller venues. And Princess Cruises president and CEO Alan Buckelew noted that Royal Princess, due for delivery in 2013, will have a top-deck, glass-bottomed walkway where guests can see the ocean 120 feet below, and there will be a sea-view glass-paneled bar.
These features rest on consumer research, which has never been more important in shaping ship design. The changes in style of premium and luxury products are underlined by the differences between Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa and the upcoming Europa 2.
“The target demographic for Europa 2 is 10 years younger,” Hapag-Lloyd’s managing director Sebastian Ahrens said, “around 45 to 50 years old, still in the workforce and wanting to decompress from stressful occupations. They want luxury without a great deal of formality.”
As a result of this demographic research, Europa 2, which debuts in 2013, will have a more casual interior design approach, twice the number of alternative restaurants and significantly extended spa services and fitness programs.
Similarly, MSC Cruises’ research found that the younger luxury customer prizes extraordinary service and exclusivity, but wants the amenities of large ships. The result of this research is the Yacht Club — a select, ship-within-a-ship concept — which has been very popular and will continue on Davina when she debuts next spring.
Carnival Cruise Lines also has worked extensively with focus groups that are guiding the emphasis on a more Caribbean atmosphere and features for future ships. Lania Rittenhouse, vice president of product development, said the new Red Frog Pub, which debuts on Carnival Magic in May, featuring lanai seating, live music, rum, beer and regional snack items for purchase, ranked high with consumer research.
In addition, environmental issues continue to be a major factor in ship design for reasons of fuel economy, compliance with new regulations and conscience. Kulovaara said Royal Caribbean has worked with everything from air-conditioning to solar panels.
“However, there’s no silver bullet that will solve all environmental issues,” he said. “There are a hundred things we need to do, including looking at sources of alternative fuels with distillates — gas rather than diesel. But our ability to do this is not yet fully mature — engines exist, but there are a number of issues. Also, on the consumption side, a lot can be done.”
Ponant’s CCO (chief Commercial officer) Terri Haas pointed out that both L’Austral and Boreal were designed to be very eco-friendly. She said their treated wastewater tested cleaner than the ocean and that Ponant’s ships are designed to sail in Antarctica, where requirements are very stringent and few ships can match the standards.
The new ships will continue to develop better hull coatings that reduce energy expenditure, LED lighting, solar film to lessen the need for air-conditioning and ways to conserve resources. Disney Cruise Line’s newbuilds, for example, are recycling naturally occurring condensation from the ships’ onboard air conditioning units to supply fresh water for onboard laundry facilities and for cleaning the outer decks of the ships, saving gallons of fresh water each day.
Teamwork Is KeyAt the heart of successful ship design is the strong partnership between cruise line executives, designers, architects and the shipyards. Zarmatti said Costa has benefited from the interaction between Joe Farcus and Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and CEO of Costa Crociere. Farcus described Foschi as a very hands-on CEO with a great sense of art and style, who has originated some of Costa’s most successful innovations, like the spa staterooms that spread throughout the industry.
“With Luminosa, Foschi felt we should appeal to top customers, and Favolosa and Fascinosa will continue this direction,” Farcus said.
At Carnival, however, Farcus is doing only portions of the design for the 2012 Carnival Breeze.
“I want to slow down,” Farcus said. “If I had to make a choice, I’d definitely stay with Costa. During our 10 years, we’ve built a great working and personal relationship.”
Likewise, Kulovaara said he appreciates the teamwork at his line.
“I’ve been with Royal Caribbean for 16 years, and I am really blessed to work with a corporation with such a vision and focus on innovation built into the DNA,” Kulovaara said. “The Solstice- and Oasis-class ships are a testimony to the right leadership and great partnerships.”
Whatever the shape of the new cruise ships, Brad Anderson, co-president of Avoya Travel, strongly believes that the role of the agent will come into its own.
“Among these very different vessels, people will want guidance more than ever,” Anderson said. “Agents will have more respect and more of a role in the future than we have ever seen before.”
2011L’Austral (April)Compagnie du Ponant | 264 passengers
Carnival Magic (May) Carnival Cruise Lines | 3,690 passengers
Seabourn Quest (June) Yachts of Seabourn | 450 passengers
Costa Favolosa (July)Costa Cruises | 3,000 passengers
Celebrity Silhouette (July)Celebrity Cruises | 2,850 passengers
2012Disney Fantasy (March)Disney Cruise Line | 2,500 passengers
Riviera (April)Oceania Cruises / 1,260 passengers
Costa Fascinosa (Spring)Costa Cruises | 3,000 passengers
Carnival Breeze (Spring)Carnival Cruise Lines | 3,690 passengers
MSC Davina (Spring)MSC Cruises | 3,500 passengers
Celebrity Reflection (November)Celebrity Cruises | 2,850 passengers
2013Royal Princess (May)Princess Cruises | 3,600 passengers
Unnamed (Spring)Norwegian Cruise Line | 4,000 passengers
Europa 2 (Spring)Hapag-Lloyd Cruises | 516 passengers
2014Unnamed (Spring) Princess Cruises | 3,600 passengers
Unnamed (Spring)Norwegian Cruise Line | 4,000 passengers
Unnamed “Project Sunshine”Royal Caribbean International | 4,100 passengers
Dates Not AnnouncedSeaCloud HussarSeaCloud Cruises | 136 passengers
Pearl MistPearl Seas Cruises | 210 passengers
UnnamedPearl Seas Cruises | 210 passengers