Everyone who attended the industry’s biggest annual event will start this week with renewed hope for a more prosperous future. “Today our industry’s prospects are as bright as they’ve ever been, but we can only achieve them if we work together. Full steam ahead!” said Pierfrancesco Vago in his opening remarks, speaking as global chairman of Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA).
The State of the Industry conference session is always the biggest draw and unsurprisingly there was standing room only as more than 2,000 delegates gathered to hear from Vago, Carnival Corporation president and CEO Arnold Donald, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty and CLIA president and CEO Kelly Craighead talk earnestly about the resilience of our beautiful industry. Characteristically the industry’s leaders are already thinking further ahead, driving the quest for continued innovation and a more sustainable future. “We’re on a hard march to get to zero,” said Donald.
Vago agreed, adding: “Sustainability is the critical issue that we face.”
Cruise line updates
Donald has been an inspirational industry leader throughout his time at the helm of Carnival Corporation and especially stoic throughout the pandemic, promising a brighter future for companies like his own that have been ravaged by Covid-19. And so, the keynote ended with disappointment for many as Donald hosted a short briefing to confirm that he is stepping aside for Carnival Corporation’s chief operating officer Josh Weinstein to steer the company through the challenges ahead and into the “next phase of our company’s journey.” We’ll miss catching up with Donald for our regular keynote interviews in our Spring/Summer issues (read the latest one here) and wish both well with their new adventures.
Rumours around the show of up to a dozen potential new cruise market entrants exploring their options with new and refurbished hardware added weight to the growing hope of a rapid bounceback. Not all will find the funding and support required to get off the ground, but the implications are roundly positive. Perhaps unsurprisingly most are thought to be small-ship enterprises.
American Cruise Lines is growing at a startling pace. American Symphony launched in March (and will take its maiden voyage this August) and a sixth riverboat, American Serenade, will also launch this year and begin cruising in early 2023. Meanwhile, the company has set to work on Project Blue – an ambitious plan to build a dozen new 109-passenger hybrid catamarans for coastal and river cruising around the USA. The first two vessels will begin cruising in 2023. On being quizzed about his courageous decision to rethink his approach to interiors, Charles Robertson, president and CEO, said: “I must give a big shout out to Studio DADO as they pushed me pretty hard to make that step. I was pretty nervous about it to start with, but passengers were wowed instantly!”
The fleet’s new interior styling was first seen on American Melody and it “bought a new level of sophistication to our ships,” said Robertson. This relationship will continue to flourish and take American Cruise Lines to new heights.
Carnival Cruise Line took advantage of the opportunity to reveal some images of Carnival Celebration’s interiors. President Christine Duffy is always a charismatic orator but she was particularly passionate when describing the company’s latest beautifully sustainable initiative, saying: “We have taken a lot of things from ships that have been retired to reuse on Carnival Celebration.” Duffy cited countless examples, including artworks, furniture, doors, stair railings and more. The most appropriate, so soon after the company’s 50th anniversary, is a bronze statue of founder Ted Arison paddling with Finnish shipbuilder Martin Saarikangas. Inevitably Duffy was quizzed about Donald’s revelation, commenting “He’s not going anywhere!” in reference to his continuing role in the business as vice chair and member of the board. She also added her wholehearted support for Weinstein: “He’s going to be a great CEO!”
Carnival Corporation brand Cunard also shared an update during a meeting at the conference. “Cunard is at a great moment in its history with a new ship on the way and in the next 12 months it’ll be the 100th anniversary of our first world voyage,” said Matt Gleaves, vice president of commercial for North America and Australasia.
Lewis Taylor, design director at David Collins Studio also provided a guided tour of some of Queen Anne’s interiors spaces, which represent the latest evolution in Cunard’s design transformation as the company pursues a more contemporary elegance. The design team, which is being guided by Adam D. Tihany and working in collaboration with Richmond International, has retained iconographical and other nods to Cunard’s past but Queen Anne is stepping out of historical shadows and will appeal to a much broader demographic than her illustrious sisters.
Michael Ungerer, CEO of Explora Journeys, confirmed that Explora I is on target to embark on her maiden journey at the end of May 2023 and is expected to visit 132 ports in her inaugural year. Ungerer promised destination encounters that are beyond boundaries, tailored experiences, enchanting exploration, boundless discoveries and in-country immersions.
Ungerer also spoke convincingly about how “sustainability is woven throughout our brand; sustainability is a new craftsmanship.” With Linden Coppell directing the sustainability agenda at Explora Journeys and sister brand MSC Cruises, it is clear that MSC Group’s leadership in this field will set important and rising benchmarks that will take us all to a better future.
Margaritaville could have found easier timing to launch its first at-sea experience but Francis Riley, chief commercial officer of Margaritaville at Sea, is grateful for the support the company has received since announcing its intentions in December 2021. “We are thrilled with the response we’ve received.” The company is the rebranded incarnation of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, refreshed by more than just a name following a multimillion-dollar refurbishment of Margaritaville Paradise’s cabins and public spaces. Riley et al used the occasion to announce the onboard entertainment, which will be headlined by a show that delivers musical tales from Margaritaville. “We’re offering programming you can’t find anywhere else.”
Previously filled with discerning French passengers, nowadays Ponant is a global draw for luxury-seeking cruisers despite following a less-conventional path to success. “We continue to surge forwards with a contrarian wisdom to maintain our status as best in class,” said Navin Sawhney, CEO of Americas at Ponant.
But Ponant does have a common focus with the rest of the industry. “We believe that we can make the world a better place,” said Herve Gastinel, CEO. “Ponant is committed to offering sustainable and purposeful voyages. We are very serious about it and we want to keep investing in it, massively.”
Barbados was given a boost when Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, and Lisa Cummins, Minister of Tourism for Barbados, signed a memorandum of cooperation to make a wide variety of jobs available to thousands of Barbadians. “We really do want to thank everyone in Barbados for being incredibly supportive,” said Bayley during the signing.
Scenic’s growing popularity among US cruisers emphasises the appeal of small-ship luxury cruising in the world’s biggest source market. Maggie Carbonell, vice president of marketing, and Robert Castro, senior director of marketing, were on hand to highlight the allure of a Scenic cruise and get the market excited about the launch of Scenic Eclipse II in 2023.
“Like Scenic Eclipse, Scenic Eclipse II will offer ultra-luxury cruises that allows you to unlock the world, providing unparalleled perspectives of the destinations that you visit at sea level, from the air and under the sea,” said Carbonell, referencing the countless onboard toys which will include helicopters and submarines.
“We offer a superyacht experience with an unrivalled luxury culinary experience,” added Castro.
Roberto Martinoli, president and CEO of Silversea, set out two very clear priorities when asked whether the company has any newbuild plans during a briefing session. “Yes, absolutely,” he said. “It’s number two on my list after sustainability.”
Martinoli treated us to a sneak peek of Silver Nova’s gorgeous interiors and asymmetrical lines, commenting: “I’m an engineer, so I don’t like asymmetry, but in reality you can only see a ship from one side at a time so nobody will know!” It seems that he was persuaded by someone to break from traditional shipbuilding symmetry, adding: “Richard Fain [former president and CEO of Silversea’s parent company Royal Caribbean Group] was absolutely right!”
Doug Prothero, CEO of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, hosted a social event at Chantiers de l’Atlantique’s booth to celebrate his company’s recent order for two new superyachts, Ilma and Luminara. The order is expected to become a six-ship deal and underlines the expected growth of this sector, further emphasised by The Yacht Portfolio’s anticipated launch and acquisition of yet more yacht and small-ship ventures.
Port and destination updates
The withdrawal of some ships from the Baltic due to fears about the war in Ukraine has dampened the spirits of many in the region. Nevertheless, independent cruise consultant Liz Gammon still hosted the Scandinavian press conference with her usual flair and perceptive insights. Cruise Baltic and Cruise Norway have become effective collaborators in recent times, notably with the release of their Itinerary Planner tool. They are united in their objectives to rapidly advance sustainable cruising initiatives, including the wider adoption of shore power – an initiative buoyed by Cruise Baltic’s recent signing of a memorandum of understanding with 19 cruise brands for them to commit to using shore power whenever possible from 1 January 2024.
Caribbean cruising is thankfully on the rise again but there was a cautionary note during the Caribbean and Mexico conference session. The increase of fuel prices makes short and slow cruises much more economical, meaning that destinations outside the three- or four-day sailing range are likely to receive fewer calls in the foreseeable future. A possible solution is to find sufficient justification for homeporting more ships further south. However, as Rick Sasso, CEO of MSC Cruises USA, pointed out, for the big ships this would rely on a willingness among operators to accept the added burden of chartering flights.
Canadian ports were in an understandably celebratory mood at the show, having now welcomed the first cruise ship in over two years on both sides of the country. Earlier this month Holland America Line’s Koningsdam called into Victoria – the port’s first cruise visit for 905 days – while Viking Octantis called into Charlottetown on 22 April.
Australian delegates were similarly upbeat with happy memories of P&O Australia’s Pacific Explorer sailing into Sydney harbour just over a week ago still fresh in their minds. New Zealand remains off limits for now, but New Zealand Cruise Association CEO Kevin O’Sullivan expressed a “glimmer of hope” during the Australia and New Zealand conference session. Current estimations suggest a restart in early July may be possible.
Elsewhere in the port community, PortMiami’s cruise terminals were lit up for the State of the Industry session to celebrate the industry’s resilience; Port Canaveral is on track to complete its CT-3 redevelopment in time for Carnival Cruise Line’s new Mardi Gras to arrive at her new homeport in October; and Jamaica continues to present a compelling justification for including two or more calls on an itinerary with five to choose from. In addition, the new Oasis Terminal will open in November when Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas calls into Galveston, Texas, while Port Everglades is still beaming following the news that Cruise Terminal 4 will be transformed into a new home for Disney Cruise Line from Autumn 2023. It also has engineering studies underway to install shore power at eight cruise terminals.
In Europe, Cherbourg has joined the Cruise Friendly Network; Lysekil, a small town on Sweden’s west coast, has joined Cruise Baltic, taking its total membership up to 32 ports; and the Ports of Spain came together once again to successfully illustrate the extraordinary variety on offer in a country perfectly suited for cruising. Global Ports Holding continues to grow, this time with the takeover of the operation of Tarragona Cruise Port and its new Balears Wharf, which expected to be ready by summer 2023, and Valencia shared news that it has used the pause to expand its outdoor and sustainable shore excursion offering, including culinary tours as well as a variety of sports, walking and other adventure-based activities. Jens Skrede, managing director of Cruise Europe, also proudly announced: “We’re back, we have shown that Cruise Europe is resilient.”
Design and innovation news
The U.S. Building Council, Breeam, The Living WELL Institute and DNGB continue to resist working on maritime projects. In a conversation with RINA, a spokesperson recognised the advantages of an industry-wide framework for building the most sustainable ships possible and speculated that it may not be too far away. In the meantime, industry suppliers continue to deliver innovative solutions to improve cruise ship sustainability.
Foreship has started a new line of business, offering project management services and solutions for planning, risk management, schedules, people and materials management. With material availability and logistics currently causing havoc, “getting through a successful refit project is a huge victory,” said Ben Sward, president of US Operations. With many operators having lost a lot of talent, Foreship’s skillsets will be very well received. “We’re offering three core options: filling in for lost capabilities, scoping and planning and a full dry dock project management service,” said Sward.
Synthetic decking is an unlikely segue to sustainability and well-being and yet our pathway to a more sustainable future is reached through continuous and significant improvement across every discipline. The Bolidt laboratory in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is making such leaps.
“Bolidt decking is light and durable, but we’ve taken big steps towards being able to deliver a service that will enable us to grind up old decking at the yard during a refurbishment and reuse it in the base layer for the new deck,” said Jacco van Overbeek, maritime division director at Bolidt. Add this to the company’s other initiatives to become more sustainable, including researching bio-based hardeners and the supply of bio-based cleaning products, and the link becomes clear.
Tal Danai, CEO of ArtLink, compered a compelling session on Design for Wellbeing, sauntering through a range of topics with an informed panel, including Sascha Lang, vice president of architectural and design at Royal Caribbean International; Trevor Young, vice president of newbuilding and refurbishment at MSC Cruises; and Dee Cooper, senior vice president of design and customer experience at Virgin Voyages.
“We’re all building amazing hardware but it’s all about how you activate that hardware to pull everything together,” said Young, musing how important it is to design for a good time, for your time, for healthy time and most of all for well-being.
Cooper validated Young’s point, adding: “When we’re designing a space we like to think that when you walk in you’ll understand it. Even if I haven’t been in it before I want to feel like I know the rules and how to use it.”
YSA Design is strengthening its data analysis skill set through building information technology to influence design decision-making. According to chairman Trond Sigurdsen, “software helps us to more efficiently simulate people movement,” which in turn informs better choices to enable seamless interior environments with reduced risk of overcrowding. The clever bit is how guest-centric energy use can be optimised along while also realising logistical and operational benefits. Although the Norwegian design firm is historically better-known for its creative output, technology has now become a significant calling card in recent years.
The live (and pre-recorded) content that Proto can deliver through enabling individuals to be seen, heard and fully interact with an audience from another location has countless applications in a cruise environment. Sir David Attenborough could be beamed live from a London studio to talk to passengers on an expedition in the Galapagos, Ed Sheeran could perform live to a packed cruise theatre without leaving the country, or a celebrity chef could provide a demonstration onshore while passengers follow along onboard. It’s easy to forget that they’re not actually there when you talk to someone through Proto Epic.
Survitec proudly showed off its new Seahaven system which can deploy in two minutes and enable 1,060 people to board two life rafts in 22 minutes. But this new system offers more than just impressive safety performance. “The traditional lifeboat layout takes up a significant amount of real estate, this system is fitted to one deck rather than two and we can replace 18 lifeboats with four Seahavens,” said Richard McCormick, technical sales director at Survitec, noting that this frees up considerable space and leaves unobscured views. If a ship needs to tender then it will need to retain some of the traditional approach, but Seahaven will be popular among designers who are always eager to acquire extra public space.
Inmarsat continues to impress with its end-to-end services and solutions. “We set ourselves the task of making ourselves famous in this sector, but that’ll take some time,” said Peter Broadhurst, senior vice president. Perhaps not. The release of Orchestra last year represented a transformation of Inmarsat’s already world-class services. Orchestra is a dynamic mesh network that integrates GEO, LEO and 5G, delivering global mobility. “It’s a number of components coming together that is better than the sum of its parts,” said Broadhurst. “When a large number of users come together you have to serve them with one beam and so you need to provide more capacity that Orchestra can deliver.” This flexibility and ability to deliver is a hallmark of Inmarsat’s industry status, and its fame is already assured.
ABB confirmed that it has secured an order supply the electric propulsion systems and remote support for The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s two forthcoming mega yachts. Like many others, sustainability is top of the agenda for both the cruise line and ABB.
“The greenest energy is the energy that you don’t use,” said Marcus Högblom, head of global sales for the passenger, dry cargo and ice segments at ABB. “A few years ago ships were optimised at top speed, but now we’re optimising for the speed that you are going for most of the time. Everything that you can cut in propulsion is key.” With over 100 ways to improve sustainability from its products and services, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection has found a very capable partner in ABB.
Other firms also shared design and innovation stories at the show. Dauerflora has introduced a range of attractive disinfection dispensers to its product line-up; Lloyds Register presented a new Readiness Assessment interactive tool to solve sustainability and digitalisation challenges; Atlas Ocean Voyages revealed it is partnering with ELi Code to distribute content through a reimagined version of QR codes; and Wärtsilä provided good counsel on how to utilise automation and artificial intelligence technologies to accelerate decarbonisation. Meanwhile, Ulstein revealed Thor, its new 3R (replenishment, research and rescue) zero-emissions concept vessel, and LG Business Solutions displayed products ideally suited to a life at sea that include a nano coating to offer protection from humidity, salty air, dust and other contaminants.
The cruise industry has proven its resilience and it is once again the preferred vacation choice for millions of very happy passengers. Most operators agree with Martinoli’s observation that: “We’ve never had such high ratings as we are getting now.”
Seatrade Cruise Global unites the industry and remains the most highly-valued occasion for us all to meet, learn and to grow. And so, in the week after a wonderful week before, we now head happily onwards into a continuously innovative and more sustainable future together.