This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
The second half of 2016 was an eventful time both for cruise lines and shipyards. Carnival Corporation placed an order for a further three 180,000gt LNG-powered ships. They include two from Meyer Turku for delivery to Carnival Cruise Line in 2020 and 2022, and one from Meyer Werft for delivery to P&O Cruises in 2020. As a result, the newbuilds already on order at the German shipyard for Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises have been put back a year and will now be delivered in 2021.
Joining this LNG flurry was competitor Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), which signed a memorandum of understanding with Meyer Turku for two ships to be powered by LNG and new fuel cell technology. These Icon-class vessels will be delivered in the second quarters of 2022 and 2024 respectively.
One company that is exercising more caution on LNG is Genting Hong Kong. “We are also closely following the developments and the availability of using LNG for our future newbuilds, however we feel that it is still not the right time for us to adopt this fuel option yet,” says Gustaf Gronberg, senior vice president of Marine Operations and New Shipbuilding. “Our new ships are being built for high-speed travel which would require huge space reserves to store the LNG and therefore, at present, it makes more sense for ships that will be cruising at slower speeds to be fitted for LNG.”
Genting Hong Kong has named the three shipyards it bought in April 2016 MV Werften and revealed plans to invest €100 million (US$106 million) to upgrade the facilities so it can build three large cruise ships annually. The yard will deliver the first of the three larger Crystal Exclusive-class newbuilds (which includes private residences) in 2022, a year later than recently stated and three years later than the original 2019 delivery date.
“Ownership of the shipyards will free Genting Hong Kong from both the delivery timing and pricing uncertainties associated with the cruise ship orderbook cycle, which is at a historic high,” Gronberg comments. “It will also allow management to focus on the strategic planning, design and deployment of its planned cruise ships among its three brands – Crystal Cruises, Dream Cruises and Star Cruises.”
MSC Cruises has now finalised contracts for two Meraviglia-plus newbuilds at STX France. The 177,000gt ships will be delivered in October 2019 and September 2020 respectively.
Contracts between Fincantieri and Virgin Voyages for three newbuilds valued at around €2 billion (US$2.48 billion) became effective on 20 December. Deliveries from the Sestri Ponente shipyard in Genoa are scheduled for 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively.
In terms of smaller ships, Oceanwide Expeditions ordered a newbuild from Croatia-based yard Brodosplit. Hondius will be rated Polar Class 6 (PC6) and will enter service in 2019. Meanwhile, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises ordered two 16,100gt, five-star expedition vessels (also to PC6) from Vard in Norway for delivery in April and October 2019 respectively. In August, Vard also confirmed contracts for four ice-class, 10,000gt, 180-passenger expedition ships for Ponant Cruises.
Vard is a relative newcomer to cruise ship building, but is 55.63% owned by Fincantieri, the Italian builder which is bidding for a 66.66% share in STX France. Spreading its wings eastward, the Italian shipbuilder has joined with China State Shipbuilding Corporation, Carnival Corporation and CIC Capital Corporation to sign a non-binding agreement for the first cruise ships to be built in China for the Chinese market. The two-plus-two options will be built at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding and will be based on Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista class, but tailored to Chinese tastes. The first delivery is expected in 2022.
The breadth and diversity of the current order book is challenging for all, particularly the operators.
“We’ve never had an orderbook like we have today,” says Harri Kulovaara, executive vice president of Maritime, Newbuilding and Innovation at RCCL. “We used to build one or two ship types at the same time, whereas today we have five different designs on the go – Harmony, Edge, Quantum, Icon and TUI. Just handling the sheer volume and complexities of all these projects and scaling up the competencies has been quite an undertaking.”
Despite the complexity, shipyards worldwide are rising to the challenge, says Robin Lindsay, executive vice president of Vessel Operations at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “The major yards are prepared to take on the designs of the future and are proving it today as they work on the projects for the major cruise operators that will be delivered between 2022 and 2030 and incorporate revolutionary concepts and mind-boggling ideas,” he comments. “The good news is that a new generation of engineers are coming to the higher management levels with a keen desire to improve on the design and construction processes.”
Certainly, major shipyards have continued to construct, launch and deliver high-quality vessels over the past year.
Fincantieri’s Sestri Ponente yard launched Silversea Cruises’ 40,700gt Silver Muse on
1 July 2016 in preparation for her April 2017 delivery. The company’s Monfalcone team floated out MSC Cruises’ 154,000gt MSC Seaside on 26 November and held a keel laying ceremony for her sister ship, MSC Seaview, on 2 February 2017. The first of the Seaside generation, which also includes a pending option, is scheduled to enter service in December 2017 and the second in June 2018. Meanwhile, Fincantieri’s Castellammare di Stabia team cut the steel for Princess Cruises’ fourth Royal-class ship on 3 November and engineers at its Marghera yard delivered the 40,350gt Seabourn Encore to Seabourn Cruise Line on 30 November. The keel-laying of her sister ship, Seabourn Ovation, took place at Sestri Ponente on 2 December. In addition, Carnival Cruise Line’s third Vista-class newbuild, which was originally designated for P&O Cruises Australia, is now under construction at Fincantieri and will be delivered to Carnival in late 2019.
In Finland, Meyer Turku cut steel for TUI Cruises new generation of Mein Schiff vessels on 16 August. The new Mein Schiff 1 will be about 20 metres longer than the previous ships and have space for an additional 180 cabins.
Elsewhere, French yard STX France floated out MSC Meraviglia in September ahead of her May 2017 delivery, and German yard Meyer Werft delivered Dream Cruises’ 151,300gt Genting Dream on 12 October. Uljanik Shipyard JSC in Pula, Croatia started construction of Scenic Cruises’ 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse. Designed for polar conditions, she will be delivered in August 2018. And Sociber shipyard in Valparaiso, Chile delivered Lindblad Expedition’s 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour II a month earlier than scheduled on 3 December.