Cruise comment: Time to get excited about new launches

Cruise comment: Time to get excited about new launches

With so many new ships being built, it’s sometimes easy not to appreciate the significance of lines such as Cunard, Azamara Club Cruises and Saga expanding

Nowadays, it’s rare that more than a few weeks go by without a cruise line announcing that it is building a new ship. Incredibly, there are more than 35 vessels expected to enter the market before the end of 2019 – and that’s just in ocean cruise. For that reason, news of new ships doesn’t always carry the excitement it should do, especially when they’re part of an already established class of ship.

That said, there were a few stories last month that really caught our eye.

Firstly: the first new Cunard ship in 12 years. When it enters service in 2022, it will be first time since 1998 that the iconic line has had four ships in simultaneous service; also, at 3,000 guests, it will also be its largest ever ship. The announcement has come following substantial growth in the luxury sector, with many of Cunard’s competitors having built new vessels and boasting younger fleets. How the new ship looks and how Cunard positions itself in the ever-changing market will be fascinating to see.

Then there was the acquisition of P&O Cruises’ Adonia by Azamara Club Cruises. The ship, a firm favourite among cruise guests (and once part of the short-lived Fathom voluntourism line), is a former Renaissance Cruises ship, along with the Azamara Quest and Journey. The line went bust in 2001 and, although other Renaissance ships sail for Oceania and Princess Cruises, Azamara is reuniting the band somewhat. Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, said: “Our loyal guests and travel partners have asked for this expansion for a long time; we are very pleased to deliver this to them.” The ship, which will be named Azamara Pursuit, “is comparable in size to the Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest”, the company said in a statement, meaning it will be able call at smaller ports.

In what turned out to be a busy few weeks in cruise news, Saga also announced its second-ever new-build ship, set to follow Spirit of Discovery.

These launches are significant: Azamara will increase its portfolio by 50 per cent by adding a third ship, while Cunard and Saga will increase theirs by a third (although the new vessels will replace Saga Pearl II and Sapphire). While each of these cruise are each backed by mighty companies, it’s exciting to see operators with small fleets expand their offering.

As Carnival Corporation boss Arnold Donald pointed out at the recent Abta Convention, every market in the world is underpenetrated when it comes to cruise, with it representing around just two per cent of total global travel. Cruise is expanding in all sectors – from luxury to river ships, adventure lines to family, small ships to large.

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