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The news from cruise lines, agents and analysts is heartening this year: Strong demand and good pricing is the word for 2015 in all markets except the Caribbean, which is still a challenge.
New and different cruise opportunities are nourishing the market. As the slowdown in ocean-ship construction continues, each new vessel is an event, and each design is truly distinctive; the trend continues with some very exciting launches in 2015.
In May, Viking Ocean Cruises will debut as a seagoing company with its first ship, the 928-passenger Viking Star. The launch is being met with enormous enthusiasm from agents looking at free shore excursions, overnight stays in port, new restaurants and complimentary Wi-Fi. In April, Ponant’s 264-guest Le Lyrial also comes into service, with bigger suites than its Boreal-class sisters. The 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International’s second Quantum-class ship, will sail out of England from spring until November, when it arrives in Cape Liberty, N.J. Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,200-guest Norwegian Escape, a larger vessel in the Breakaway tradition, will debut at the end of October 2015.
And there are more remarkable ships in the pipeline. Looking to 2016, Holland America Line will introduce the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam, a far larger ship than any the line has had. Seabourn also will bring out its biggest ship ever — 34 percent larger than the Odyssey class, with an additional deck and carrying 604 passengers — replacing the capacity the line loses with the sale of its three smaller ships to Windstar.
Also in 2016, Viking Ocean is scheduled to launch two more 928-passenger ships — Viking Sea and Sky — and Royal Caribbean’s third Oasis-class vessel will debut that summer (carrying 5,400 guests), followed by the line’s third Quantum-class ship, the 4,180-passenger
Ovation of the Seas, that fall. Carnival Cruise Lines’ 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, the company’s first newbuild in four years, and Regent Seven Seas’ long-awaited new ship, the 750-guest Seven Seas Explorer, both will debut in the summer of 2016.
Finally, the 1,680-passenger Titanic II, a replica of the Titanic owned by Australian Clive Palmer, is scheduled for delivery in the third quarter of 2016. There is considerable buzz over the announcement that seniors and third-class passengers will be banned from the casino.
On the RiversCompanies sailing the world’s rivers expect yet another record year in 2015, with a slew of new vessels. Most lines continue to focus on baby boomers, although there are signs of more attention to family groups, including Tauck’s expanded Bridges offerings and AmaWaterways’ new connected rooms for families. And lines like Emerald Waterways and the expanding adventure/exotic luxury river cruise ships are attracting younger cruisers as well as more multigenerational groups.
Additionally, there are new names in the North American market. In February, Amras started up with representation based in Boston, marketing river cruises dedicated to the North American market onboard the Amadeus fleet of vessels owned by Lueftner Cruises, established in Europe in 1977. Haimark Travel is bringing out a string of luxury river vessels in Asia and the Amazon; the brand is marketing its own cruises in addition to chartering out to companies including Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and Avalon Waterways. It is also bringing a seagoing ship to the Great Lakes and the Americas. In Burgundy, CroisiEurope has a veteran representative in the North American market; next year, it launches the Loire Princess, a new design to navigate shallow waters.
On the American rivers, American Cruise Lines will introduce two new ships next year: a 150-passenger vessel on the Mississippi and a ship in the Pacific Northwest for 175 passengers, doubling the company’s fleet in both places. And it is rumored that Viking River Cruises will announce a completely different vessel on the Mississippi.
All the new tonnage and onboard experiences give agents a perfect opportunity to demonstrate their expertise and value to clients. This may require a great deal of research, but cruise lines are anxious to support the message that cruising is renewing itself yet again.