Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Jim Shaw 

A Record Number of Cruise Ships on Order


The new AIDAprima, christened at Hamburg, Germany in May, has proven to be a costly learning experience for Japanese builder Mitsubishi, which hopes to deliver sister AIDAPerla by next year. Photo courtesy of AIDA.

Cruise ship owners continue to be among the more optimistic of vessel buyers in the maritime sector where owners of container ships and bulk carriers have fallen on hard times and a glut in tankers is appearing on the horizon. Driving much of the optimism is China and its growing middle-class, which is now seeing cruising as a worthwhile holiday vacation. Cuba has also been opened, and it's on the doorstep of the world's largest existing cruising population. Another rapidly emerging market is expedition-type cruising – taking passengers to remote areas – a trend underlined by Crystal Cruises' plan to send its 1,050-passenger Crystal Serenity through the Northwest Passage in August.

Crystal is now owned by Genting Hong Kong Limited, which also controls Star Cruises and Dream Cruises, and Gentling has recently leapfrogged the world's major cruise ship builders by buying four yards in Germany, including cruise ship repair and conversion specialist Lloyd Werft, which gives it the ability to build its own ships. This has already seen steel cut for the first of a series of river cruisers to be built for the Hong Kong company while a polar class expedition vessel, the 25,000-gt Crystal Endeavor, will also be constructed, all for delivery by 2018. In early May the company announced that it would also build two 201,000-gt Global-class cruise ships for Star Cruises, each accommodating more than 5,000 passengers and to be delivered in 2019 and 2020. Gentling has indicated that it will modernize the four German facilities to allow the construction of at least two ships of that size each year along with a 50,000-gt mid-sized vessel.

Dream Cruises

While gearing up to build its own ships, Gentling has gone to Germany's Meyer Werft for two 150,000-gt vessels for its Dream Cruises brand, with steel cut for the lead ship, Gentling Dream, last year and delivery expected before the end of this year. The 3,360-passenger vessel will have 1,680 cabins, 70 percent of which will have private balconies, as well as 35 bars and restaurants. As the first cruise ship ordered by a Chinese company to be specially designed for the Chinese market, the vessel will feature the world's largest "reflexology" spa at sea, as well as a variety of swimming pools and water slides. Large public areas have also been set aside for luxury shops and gaming activities.

If all goes to plan the new vessel will embark on its maiden voyage to the Far East via Suez and India this autumn and, once based at China's port of Guangzhou, will operate two-to-five-night trips to Hong Kong, Vietnam and Hainan island. It will be followed next year by a sister ship, World Dream, as China's cruise market continues to grow and Chinese cruise passenger numbers exceed the 1.25 million mark annually.

Carnival Construction

Also looking at the China market, industry leader Carnival Corporation has formed a joint venture with the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and the China Investment Corporation (CIC) with the intention of launching the country's first multi-ship domestic cruise brand. In forming the venture Carnival said it expects China to eventually become the world's largest cruise market and wants to be a leader in that market.

Although few details have been disclosed about the new operation it is expected that some existing Carnival ships will be transferred into the venture while CSSC will build its first newbuilds. CSSC's Waigaoqiao yard, in fact, has hinted that it might start construction of the lead ship as early as next year. How this will affect Carnival's own operations in China, now consisting of six ships operated by Carnival brands Costa Cruises and Princess Cruises, with Carnival Cruise Line and AIDA Cruises to enter vessels next year, is not known. However, Princess Cruises expects to base its 143,000-gt Majestic Princess, the first year-round international cruise ship completed specifically for Chinese passengers, in Shanghai next year and this ship could possibly be a leading candidate for incorporation within the new joint venture.

China's total cruising market is currently projected to grow to more than 4.5 million passengers by 2020, which represents about a fifth of the global total and easily makes China the fastest growing segment in the industry.

Koningsdam Delivered

Carnival has not forgotten its other international markets and in April introduced its newest ship for the Holland America Line brand, Koningsdam, following its completion by Italy's Fincantieri. At 99,800 gt the new vessel is capable of accommodating up to 2,650 passengers in more than 1,300 cabins, more than 70 percent of which have private balconies.

The new ship represents Carnival's first Pinnacle-class and has drawn on the talents of two major European architecture studios, Tihany Design and Yran & Storbraaten, for most of its interior spaces. This includes a World Stage featuring a circular LED wall that spreads over 270 degrees to allow viewers to be fully immersed in theater presentations.

Fincantieri, which is currently building Koningsdam's sister ship, Nieuw Statendam, is also finishing up vessels for two other Carnival brands, the 145,000-gt Majestic Princess for Princess Cruises, which was launched in February and is due to be delivered next spring, and the 41,700-gt Seabourn Encore for Seabourn Cruise Line, also recently launched and due to enter service before the end of this year.

The latter will be the first of two 600-passenger sister ships for the ultra-luxury brand and will be followed by Seabourn Ovation in 2018. The larger 4,250 passenger Majestic Princess, destined for the Chinese market, is the third ship of the company's Royal Princess class and will be followed by two sister ships in 2019 and 2020.

Viking Series

While simultaneously building and finishing ships for Carnival Corporation, Fincantieri has also been turning out a series of six 745-foot by 94.5-foot luxury vessels for Viking Ocean Cruises, with Viking Sea, the second of the series, delivered in March and a third, Viking Sky, launched only a few weeks later. The former vessel has now entered service alongside the first ship of the series, the 2015-built Viking Star, while Viking Sky will follow next year. Construction has started on the fourth vessel, Viking Sun, and this ship is expected to be delivered before the end of 2017.

All four measure 47,800 gt and feature accommodation for 930 passengers in 465 cabins, each with a veranda. The interior spaces have been designed by London's SMC Design and Los Angeles-based Rottet Studios.

Propulsion is provided by a diesel/electric system incorporating two MAN Diesel & Turbo 9LV32/44CR main engines and two 12V32/44CR generating sets driving twin propellers within a Rolls-Royce Promas integrated rudder system, the first time a Promas system has been installed on a cruise ship newbuild.

To reduce noise and vibration the vessel's 4.5-meter diameter propellers have been fitted with six blades and give a service speed of 17 knots and a maximum speed of 21 knots. The remaining two vessels of the six-ship Viking series are expected to be completed in 2018 and 2020, the first of which will be christened Viking Spirit.

French Cruisers

Despite its full order book Fincantieri has been able to sign a Letter of Intent with French ship owner PONANT, a subsidiary of the Artemis Group, for the construction of four small-sized luxury cruises for delivery in 2018 and 2019. To measure 128-meters by 18-meters, the 10,000-gt vessels will be built by Fincantieri's Norwegian subsidiary, Vard Holdings Limited (VARD) rather than by Fincantieri's more experienced yards in Italy. VARD has been active in the design and construction of offshore vessels but the downturn in the petroleum sector has left it with substantial yard capacity, including a hull-building facility in Romania.

Using expertise to be furnished by Fincantieri's architects and engineers it will produce its first cruise ships, hopefully without problems, over the next 24 months. Each of the vessels will have a cruise speed of 15 knots and accommodate 180 passengers as well as a crew of 110.

Fincantieri's Italian yards have previously delivered four ships for PONANT; Le Boréal, L'Austral, Le Soléal and Le Lyrial, delivered respectively in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2015. Giuseppe Bono, Fincantieri CEO, acknowledged that his company would not have been able to accept the PONANT vessels for several years without going to VARD for their construction.

Troubled Mitsubishi Ships

Fincantieri will have to hope that VARD has better luck with its new construction project than Japan's Mitsubishi, which has suffered a loss estimated at over $550 million while building two cruise ships for Germany's AIDA brand, with lead unit AIDAPrima delivered earlier this year but almost a year later than originally planned. Sister ship AIDAPerla is also running late, and it may be a long time before Mitsubishi returns to building cruise ships after having also experienced problems in a previous venture with Princess Cruises covering twins Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess in 2004. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that the AIDA cruise ships incorporate significant new technologies, including a hull air lubrication system and LNG-burning dual-fuel engines.

Public spaces on the 124,100-gt vessels also feature three-story multi-purpose theaters located in the center of the ships' atrium as well as 12 restaurants, 18 bars, two swimming pools and an ice skating rink. Shunichi Miyanaga, Mitsubishi's President and CEO, noted that construction of the lead vessel "was challenging" but provided the company with "many key learnings" to enable smoother construction of sister ship AIDAPerla, due out next year.

Four for Hurtigruten?

A small Norwegian yard, Kleven Verft, has been chosen to build a series of expedition-type ships for compatriot operator Hurtigruten, long known for its Norwegian coastal voyages but also for its expanding arctic and Antarctic programs. Still at the Letter of Intent (LOI) stage, the order would see two 140-meter by 23-meter ships completed with ice-strengthened hulls and accommodation for 600 passengers in 300 cabins.

The vessels are being designed and developed by Rolls-Royce, with the assistance of Norwegian ship designer Espen Øino, and will be customized specifically for expedition-type voyages in arctic regions as well as along the Norwegian coast. If the order can be finalized quickly the new ships will be delivered in mid-2018 and mid-2019, with the possibility that two additional vessels will be constructed for delivery in 2020 and 2021.

Hurtigruten has had three of its previous vessels built by the Kleven yard, the last in 2002, but it has been almost ten years since the Norwegian firm took delivery of its last newbuild, the 12,700-gt Fran, from Italy's Fincantieri.

Four for MSC?

Also signing a Letter of Intent has been MSC Cruises, which plans to have the world's largest LNG-powered cruise ships built by French Shipyard STX France, which has just delivered the world's largest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, to Royal Caribbean.

The signing of the LOI was deemed of such importance for the French shipbuilding industry that French President Francois Hollande was in attendance, as was MSC Group's Founder and Executive Chairman, Gianluigi Aponte, and STX France's CEO Laurent Castaing.

Envisioned is a series of four 200,000-gt ships that would accommodate 5,400-passengers each in 2,700 staterooms, with expected deliveries in 2022, 2024, 2025 and 2026.

In addition to these vessels Aponte noted that MSC has orders for two Meraviglia-class and two Meraviglia-Plus-class ships at the STX yard, as well as orders with Italy's Fincantieri for up to three Seaside-class ships. The first of the 4,500-passenger Meraviglia-class will be launched in May of next year while the second will follow in February 2019. Shortly after, in October, the first of the 4,888-passenger Meraviglia-Plus ships will debut, followed by the second in September 2020.

In Italy, the first of the Fincantieri-built Seaside-class, the 4,140-passenger MSC Seaside, will make its maiden voyage from Miami in December 2017 while the second will be launched in mid-2018 and the third in early 2021.

Carnival Chooses LNG

Among new expedition-type ships to enter the cruise market will be the up-scale 25,000-gt Crystal Endeavor, being built by Germany's Lloyd Werft for operation by Los Angeles-based Crystal Cruises. Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises.

MSC's move to LNG-fueled propulsion follows Carnival Corporation's announcement that it is ordering four such ships from Germany's Meyer Werft, two for Costa Cruises, and two for AIDA Cruises, with each of the 180,000-gt vessels to use LNG to generate nearly 100 percent of their required power. These ships are expected to have a very large passenger capacity, with 2,600 cabins accommodating a maximum of 6,600 passengers, although only 5,200 in lower berths.

Two of the ships will be built at Meyer Werft's Papenburg yard in Germany while the other two will be constructed at the company's Turku yard in Finland. This will allow delivery of all four between 2019 and 2020. They will meet RINA's Gas Fueled class notation and the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code).

LNG bunkering is expected to be accomplished using barges alongside, which has been the procedure with AIDAPrima as well as a number of Europe's larger LNG-burning ferries. At this year's Seatrade Cruise show in Florida it was speculated that 80 percent of the world's cruising fleet will be powered by LNG within the next decade and much of this will be decided by the success or failure of the Carnival and MSC projects.


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