An appetite for authenticity is driving cruise orders

We highlight some of the new cruise ships that will meet the demand for exploration at sea
An appetite for authenticity is driving cruise orders
Oceanwide Expeditions' Hondius is being built at the Brodosplit shipyard

By Michele Witthaus |

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Advanced expedition vessels for the tropical waters of Australia and the Asia Pacific are the speciality of Coral Expeditions, whose ship Coral Adventurer is being built in Vietnam. “The build of Coral Adventurer is a pivotal time in the history of Coral Expeditions,” says Jeff Gillies, commercial director at Coral Expeditions. “All Coral Expeditions ships are designed and built by us to travel to remote lands and allow our guests rapid and easy exposure to cultures, people and wildlife.”

The new ship will not use lifeboats to disembark guests and take them ashore, he explains. “Instead, we have fast safari boats slung off the aft of the ship. We call these special craft Xplorers. We have incorporated two Xplorer tenders into the design of the Coral Adventurer. An innovative mechanical/hydraulic system lowers the Xplorers (each seating 60 guests and five expedition staff) to the embarkation deck on the rear of the Coral Adventurer for step-free boarding.”

Regarding the choice of Fincantieri subsidiary Vard’s Vietnam facility for the build, Gillies says: “We evaluated a range of shipbuilding options in Europe and Singapore. Our final choice was based on reliability and quality, and the ability to supervise given our location in Australia. It has been a very professional and efficient relationship with the shipyard and a great collaboration in design that incorporates the shipbuilding experience and quality of the yard along with our three decades of experiencing operating expedition vessels.” Following shakedown cruising in April, Coral Adventurer will set sail from Singapore to Darwin in late April.

At a time when competition is intense to capture the intrepid cruiser seeking adventures in sub-zero climes, Oceanwide Expeditions is doubling down with the claim that its new ship, Hondius, will be “the strongest ice-strengthened vessel in the Polar regions”.

“Hondius will meet the highest Polar Class notation for ice-strengthened vessels,” says CEO Michael van Gessel. “The ship will be equipped with stabilisers, and very suitable for advanced, innovative exploratory quality voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Hondius will be an answer to the increasing demand for polar voyages and will join Oceanwide Expeditions’ fleet of ice-strengthened vessels, Plancius and Ortelius.”

The ship was specially designed to support Oceanwide’s exploratory programme and shore excursions. “It is our philosophy to keep sea legs short and to focus on fast and effective access to shore and near-shore activities for all nature- and wildlife-minded passengers,” says Van Gessel. “A powerful fleet of zodiacs will guarantee quality outings and swift landing operation for all passengers at the same time. A speedy zodiac embarkation is enhanced with two separate gangways and in addition, sheltered indoor-platforms for easy embarkation at waterline level.”

Oceanwide chose the Brodosplit shipyard for the construction of Hondius. Van Gessel says: “The yard could offer an answer to our specific demands and guarantee the required quality for the construction of this unique polar vessel.”.

Van Gessel is not worried about the ever more crowded market that is emerging for polar expedition cruises, explaining: “Oceanwide is a pioneer and specialist in polar expedition cruises and Hondius will give us the opportunity to answer this increasing demand for polar voyages. This newly built ship represents a new generation of polar expeditions.”

Coral Expeditions’ Gillies is similarly confident that his company’s expedition offering will continue to stand out against the competition, especially from lines with larger ships. “We think the market will, over time, start discriminating between true expedition cruising (small groups, strong expedition expertise, purpose-built vessels with long operational autonomy) and general cruise ships that are rebranded as ‘expedition’ opportunistically. We believe that above 120 passengers, it is hard to deliver a true expedition product with the quality of service, personal attention and ability to visit small villages, beaches and ecosystems without causing any negative tourism impact.”

Construction is drawing to a close on several large cruise ships for the more relaxed cruise customer for whom escapades in superfast zodiacs are perhaps not top of the agenda. Royal Caribbean International’s first ship in the Quantum Ultra Class, Spectrum of the Seas, embarked on the final stages of the build at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, in time for an April delivery. Designed specifically for the Chinese market and carrying 4,200 passengers, Spectrum of the Seas’ boast is that she will be the largest and most expensive ship in Asia when cruises start from Shanghai in June. Meanwhile, when Costa Cruises’ Costa Venezia enters service, she will be the company’s first Vista-class ship specifically designed and built for China. With room for 5,260 passengers, the ship will be one of the largest in the Costa Cruises fleet.

TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 2 made her way from Turku, Finland to Kiel in Germany in midwinter, in time for the last works to be undertaken before her delivery in the first quarter. A sister ship to Mein Schiff 1, the vessel is the sixth newbuild undertaken at Meyer Turku for the company and she has now started service.

The second in MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia class of ships, MSC Bellissima, joins the fleet in the first quarter of 2019. The ship was built at the former STX France, now Chantiers de l’Atlantique in Saint Nazaire. At over 170,000gt, Bellissima will have capacity for 5,700 passengers.

The Celebrity Cruises fleet will be joined by Galapagos Islands-focused expedition cruise ship Celebrity Flora, which is under construction at De Hoop’s Lobith shipyard. The vessel is 101.5 metres long with 50 passenger cabins in six different types for 100 passengers, and 52 cabins for 80 crew members.

Hanseatic nature, the new expedition ship from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises targeted purely at German-speaking customers, will enter service in April 2019.This will be followed in October 2019 by Hanseatic inspiration (an international ship) and in 2021 by Hanseatic spirit (also for the German market).

Following delays with Hurtigruten’s first new hybrid battery-powered expedition ship, Roald Amundsen, sister ship Fridtjof Nansen is also experiencing issues leading to a later delivery date. Problems at the Kleven shipyard in Norway, attributed to the complexity of construction of the innovative ships, have been blamed for the delays. Roald Amundsen will now sail in May 2019 but the date for her sister ship’s debut is not yet known.

Difficulties have continued to plague the build of Scenic Cruises’ Scenic Eclipse, with delays reported to the installation of the engines and core systems in particular. Following financial issues at the Uljanik yard in Croatia, plus a strike by ship workers, Scenic was forced to postpone the first sailing to April 2019.

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