Reflections on Seatrade Cruise Global: retail, new technologies and sustainability advances

In the second part of a series on Seatrade Cruise Global 2024, Jon Ingleton recalls some of the big news, highlights and events from the last two days of the show

Reflections on Seatrade Cruise Global: retail, new technologies and sustainability advances

Seatrade Cruise

Tech Zone image with this caption and credit: New technologies were a key focus at Seatrade Cruise global

By Jon Ingleton |

Wednesday 10 April: Retail Day and Tech Day  

Wednesday was declared both Retail Day and Tech Day, with a full conference programme for each topic hosted respectively by Dermot Davitt, president of The Moodie Davitt Report, and Ian Richardson, CEO of theICEway. Davitt navigated a route through the big topics of the year, including luxury retail, port collaborations, sustainability, partnerships and nurturing people. Meanwhile, Richardson and his panels expertly tackled artificial intelligence, passenger-focused technology, connectivity and took a deep dive into Virgin Voyages’ technology journey. 

Global wireless solution provider WMS was sporting a new brand identity at the show to reflect the new vision for the business since becoming an independent company. “It’s a new company now and we’re starting fresh. There’s a lot of things that we didn’t do under our previous structure that we’re doing now,” said Pramod Arora, president and CEO. “It’s timely to give everyone a sense of our new start – we’ve got the best network for cruise ships in the world. We’re now nimble, able to move fast and adapt for the benefit of our customers and mobile partners so that we can deliver an affordable, predictable and seamless experience.”  

Lee Mabie, executive director of marketing, was at the WMS booth to provide a welcome update about Cellular At Sea, a clever business-to-consumer mobile phone service that “informs passengers about how to stay connected at sea, directing them to the best option for their needs. It gives cruise lines a share of the cellular revenue or directs passengers to their onboard satellite service.” 

The likelihood of green methanol becoming a key fuel of the future is rising as industry suppliers respond to development challenges. MAN Energy Systems has developed a dual-fuel retrofit solution for its four-stroke customers that is ready and the company expects the first cruise ship powered by methanol could commence operations as soon as 2025-2026. In support of this timeframe, SRC has reinvented methanol storage using its Sandwich Plate System which provides an 85 per cent larger capacity than the traditional cofferdam solution. Classification will still take some time and there are still fuel supply and cost issues, but we seem to be getting close. 

Speaking during Explora Journeys’ press conference, the brand’s chief commercial officer Achille Staiano said: “We’re doing everything possible to reduce our environmental impact.” The company has committed to getting six ships on the water by 2028 and each will incorporate progressive sustainability improvements. “This is a new style of transformative ocean travel that inspires exploration in all its forms,” said Staiano. “We’re leaving a legacy for the next generation so everything that we’re doing is aligned with our heritage.” 

Seatrade 2024

Seatrade Cruise

Explora Journeys is implementing multiple measures to increase the environmental sustainability of its fleet, said chief commercial officer Achille Staiano at the event

Greg Martin, vice president of maritime products at SES, referenced three industry trends that the company’s new mPOWERED + Starlink communication service can support: remote voyages and bigger ships, elevated guest experiences and sustainability. “Onboard connectivity drives the guest experience and if you’re serving thousands of people, you need a dependable network, wherever you are in the world,” he said. And the same reliability is need for all of the smart technology onboard ships that transfers huge volumes of data to allow shoreside teams to optimise operations.  

Bureau Veritas continues to support Ponant with its Swap2Zero concept ship, targeted for delivery by 2030. “Ponant is really committed to getting to zero; it’s a challenge to classify this type of ship but it’s the right type of challenge,” said Andreas Ullrich, global market leader for passenger ships and ferries at Bureau Veritas. “Class notation needs to continue evolving to recognise ongoing sustainability improvements. What I really like about the industry is the optimism and intent to get to zero emissions. I know it’s partly because we have no choice and because cruise ships are so visible, but the industry has embraced the challenge.” 

Seatrade 2024

Stirling Design International/Ponant

Ponant has collaborated with Stirling Design International to design its Swap2Zero concept ship, which will use fuel cells and sails

Other cruise lines and associations used press conferences to give updates on their business growth, fleet expansion and upgrade plans.  

Ship agency Wallem is poised ready for the Asian cruise market to ignite again, but inevitably, “The Chinese travel agency trade will sell Chinese ship capacity before it will sell international brand’s capacity,” said Dickson Chin, managing director for ship agency at Wallem. “There’s a new China emerging – all of the Chinese cruise tonnage is going to be pulled into one company.”  

Nevertheless, a good proportion of the Asian source market will prefer to cruise with a global operator and a return to the region remains an attractive option for many cruise lines, at some point in the mid-term. Chin has built up a significant consultancy business for the agency in recent times. “Wallem is well connected and it can be the conduit between cruise brands and local stakeholders to find the right product, right time and right approach,” he said.  

During Riverside Collection Americas’ conference, CEO Jennifer Halboth said: “We came into the market so we could occupy the top luxury spot. Riverside Luxury Cruises acquired five former Crystal River Cruises ships and so has the hardware to fulfil Halboth’s ambition. “We’ll learn a lot from sailing three ships this year (Riverside Mozart, Riverside Ravel and Riverside Debussy). The ships were either new or recently refurbished, so we haven’t done much with them aside from the Sky Deck where we’ve made more use of the space.” 

Windstar Cruises’ president Christopher Prelog created some suspense during the brand’s press reveal to announce that the company will expand its fleet by two ships to be delivered by West Sea shipyard in December 2025 and 2026. Acquired from Mystic Invest, Star Seeker is a newbuild that will undergo design changes prior to its delivery, as will the 2019-built World Explorer after it completes a pre-existing charter commitment. The refurbishments will ensure they are “full-on Windstar ships,” explained Prelog.  

“We’ve been wanting to grow the brand for some time. Now we have this opportunity – one fresh out of the yard and one a little bit older,” said Andrew Todd, Xanterra Travel Collection, which owns Windstar.  

Seatrade 2024

Windstar image with this caption: Windstar Cruises president Christopher Prelog (right) unveils a model of the brand’s new ship during a press conference

A productive day at the show was rewarding with an entertaining evening schedule. 

Windstar Cruises hosted a cocktail party at BÂOLI to toast the news it shared earlier in the day, while Northern Ireland shipyard Harland & Wolff celebrated its recent renaissance with drinks. A live webcam of Margaritaville at Sea’s Islander on the yard’s booth in the exhibition showed off what appears to be a successful refit coming to an end. Plenty of cruise line executives were spotted taking a look for themselves, perhaps planning a visit to Belfast as the anticipated refurbishment boom gains momentum? 

Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation hosted a luxurious 12-course dinner at SLS South Beach on Wednesday evening for invited guests to enjoy welcome downtime among friends and colleagues. After receiving this year’s IMPACT! Award earlier this year for her considerable contribution to the Seaway System, Rebecca Yakley, director of the Office of Trade & Development, used the occasion to say farewell to assembled guests as she looks forward to a richly deserved retirement. 

Global Ports Holding, the biggest cruise operator in the world, enjoyed a busy event for its 20th anniversary and used the occasion to announce the addition of Liverpool and San Juan to its expanding portfolio.  

“This is my city, look after it and remember, you’ll never walk alone,” said Angie Redhead, assistant director of city asset operations at Liverpool City Council, in a particularly passionate address during the Liverpool Cruise Port reception to welcome it to the Global Ports Holding network earlier in the day. 

There’s no sign of Global Ports Holding slowing its growth plans just yet. The celebrations began in earnest at the company’s cocktail party at W Hotel and continued on the dance floor until the early hours. 

Seatrade 2024

Seatrade Cruise

Global Ports Holding marked its 20th anniversary while exhibiting at Seatrade Cruise Global

Thursday 11 April: technical advances and sustainability  

Technical advances and sustainability dominated the conference topics on the last day and featured together in a two-part session on ‘Technical Advances in Safe and Sustainable Cruising’, both moderated by Rick Miller, founder and CEO of PHAROS Mission Critical Solutions. Experts from MinXray, Virtual Marine Technology, Inmarsat, Ocean Bottle Tide Ocean MPS, American K9 Detection, Lufthansa Industry Solutions contributed to two engaging sessions.  

Meyer Group drew big crowds through the week following its new ship concepts announcement on 9 April. Necoleap is a €160 million ($170.4 million) research and development investment initiative supported by 355 subject-specific experts.  
“The cutting-edge concept projects include sustainable staterooms, future passenger spaces, a library of alternative materials, cyber resilience, modularity, material maintenance, energy efficiency and hydrodynamics,” said Liina Vahala, project manager for Necoleap at Meyer Turku. “The climate-neutral Avatar concept cruise ship is a representation of the sum of all of the individual Necoleap projects.” The company is aiming to continue developing Avatar until the end of 2025 and be ready to build it from 2030. 

Seatrade 2024

Meyer Group

Meyer Group is developing a climate-neutral concept cruise ship named Avatar, which it expects will be ready to build by 2030

Bolidt has released a new product that cleverly replicates the aesthetics of natural wood. Bolideck Future Teak-series can be delivered in endless colour combinations and “the effect is achieved by part mixing two colours and using a specialist tool to drag out a wood grain effect,” said Jacco van Overbeek, maritime division director. The company responded to many enquiries during the show, including for a new luxury cruise brand that currently has a ship under construction. 

Startup expedition cruise operator Positive Polar is acquiring Ocean Atlantic, to be renamed as Polar Angel, on a lease-to-purchase basis from SunStone Ships and is hoping to open for bookings this summer. Founder and CEO Hugo Hinrichsen joined co-founder and president Jennifer Bonilla and Hans Lagerweij, board advisor and interim chief commercial officer, shared details of their plans during a press conference. “It was very difficult to find a ship with appropriate space onboard for science and passengers,” said Hinrichsen.  

Science is more than just a sidebar to the company’s profitable ambitions. “Our main focus is for our passengers to be proud to sail with us because they are contributing to whale restoration,” said Hinrichsen. The ship will be completely renovated by Tomas Tillberg Design, SunStone Ships’ long-time interior design partner. It will include a wellness area with saunas and much more. 

Seatrade 2024

From left, Positive Polar executives Hugo Hinrichsen, Jennifer Bonilla and Hans Lagerweij talk about their new startup expedition cruise brand

With owners hunting for every efficiency improvement, Jotun’s decision to bring a HullSkater to the show was a canny move. With this equipment, owners can maintain their ships’ hulls at peak performance to reduce emissions and save on fuel costs. The solution also helps control biofouling to minimise the transfer of invasive species and maintains cleaning records that can be shared with port authorities in advance of arrival. Keeping a HullSkater onboard also enables the hull to be inspected at any time.  

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss headed out from Alaska to Alaska just before the show kicked off, officially marking the start of the port’s 2024 cruise season during which it anticipates hosting 275 sailings and 800,000 passengers. Notably, the port is expecting to complete electrification works at the Bell Street Cruise Terminal this summer. Shore power is already available at the two Smith Cove Cruise Terminal berths. 

The British Virgin Islands Ports Authority celebrated record passenger arrivals in 2023. In total, 720,392 passengers called into the territory compared to the previous record of 699,105 in 2016. The authority is particularly proud of growth of its small and luxury cruise business and the spread of calls across 23 different locations (232 calls at the cruise pier and 122 anchorage calls). 

Meiko has launched a new patented bottle washing system that is compatible with all M-iClean dishwashers. The bottom wash arm is quickly replaced by an adapter that plugs into the rack system to effectively clean bottles inside and out. Meiko has a giant reputation in the industry and “in general offers a 30 per cent energy saving against the market and a 20 per cent water saving,” said Stephan Kammel, vice president of global marine at Meiko. 

Telenor Maritime is partnering with GE Verona to provide operators with a combined offering to support their digitalisation journeys. The partnership will enable customers to deploy a wide range of GE Vernova’s digitalisation tools and services through Telenor Maritime’s edge platform and managed connectivity service. As a first step, the companies have successfully completed a technical proof of concept to integrate GE Verona’s Power Conversion software onto Telenor Maritime’s UHS platform following the validation of the value proposition and commercial model with a pilot customer. 

Seatrade 2024

Executives from GE Verona and Telenor Maritime discussed how the companies’ combined solution offering will help cruise lines to digitalise operations

Speedcast is running trials with Carnival Cruise Line with a view to the operator transferring across to OneWeb. The OneWeb network is powered by 650 low earth orbit satellites to deliver high-speed, low latency connectivity. OneWeb works well in tandem with Starlink to capitalise on its lower prices while the pairing still retains the service guarantee provided by OneWeb. Other operators looking at utilising the system are expected to be announced soon. Speedcast is also about to launch version 5 of Sigma, the company’s proprietary single solution for multipath, multi-orbit connectivity. 

Read Part I of the ‘Reflections on Seatrade Cruise Global’ series.

Contact author


Subscribe to the Cruise & Ferry newsletter

  • ©2024 Tudor Rose. All Rights Reserved. Cruise & Ferry is published by Tudor Rose.