MSC Orders Two World Class Cruise Ships – Other Cruise News: Ups & Downs In World Cruise Markets – Southampton Sets Cruise Ship Record

by Kevin Griffin

Last week came confirmation that MSC Cruises had ordered two new “World” class cruise ships, among the largest in the world, with an option for two more, from STX France. This news is not shocking, seeing that there will soon be 120 cruise ships in the world measuring over 100,000 gross tons, and this order will bring the number of about eight 200,000-ton ships, including five operated by Royal Caribbean International and one by Star Cruises. While vessels grow in size, we also have a look at rising (and in some cases falling) markets in the cruise industry. And finally we note that Southampton last week received a record fifteen cruise ships in three days.


MSC Orders Two World Class Cruise Ships

At the christening of its new 171,598-ton 4,488-berth MSC Meravigilia by Sophia Loren in Le Havre last week, MSC Cruises announced the next step in its expansion plans.

The MSC Meraviglia

The MSC Meraviglia

The line has now finalised an order for two 200,000-ton LNG-powered cruise ships to be built by STX France in St Nazaire and delivered in 2022 and 2024.
The agreement includes an option for two more vessels, for delivery in 2025 and 2026. These ships will create a new “World” class series for MSC.

Each ship will be 1,083 feet long and will have 5,520 lower berths. Their maximum passenger load will be 6,850, the highest in the world. They will also have a Y-shaped superstructure to allow for panoramic views and to increase the number of balcony cabins.

The new ships’ perpendicular G-bow follows many such ships ordered recently in that it has been designed to improve stability and hydrodynamics as well as passenger comfort.

The new World class series for MSC

The new World class series for MSC

Laurent Castaing, STX France ceo, was quoted as saying, “once again, MSC Cruises has chosen to put its trust in our capacity to support its growth and expansion as well as in our ability to conceive, develop and build the world’s most modern and technologically-advanced cruise ships. By adding the new ‘World’ class to the four previous ship classes that we have delivered over the past fifteen years, the number of vessels in its fleet built by STX France in St Nazaire is set to reach twenty.”

MSC Bellissima, launching in 2019, will be 49 feet longer than MSC Meraviglia and will have a museum with art pieces on loan from some of Europe’s leading galleries.

As part of MSC’s return to the UK, the MSC Meraviglia will also visit the UK on two voyages next year. Other MSC ships, including the 3,502-berth MSC Preziosa in 2017 and the 2,550-berth MSC Magnifica in 2018, will also be offering cruises from Southampton.

MSC Cruises now has orders and options for another ten ships by 2026.


Ups & Downs In World Cruise Markets

The countries with the largest growth over the past two years are China, where the number of cruisers has grown four-and-a-half fold, and Australia, where the number has grown by almost two-thirds in the same period.

The biggest drop came in Brazil, where business was down 24.4% from 2013 to 2016, and 39.1% from its peak of 805,000 in 2011.

Croisières de France's 46,811-ton Horizon

Croisières de France’s 46,811-ton Horizon

Losses elsewhere occurred mainly in Mediterranean countries. Italy fell, with its number of cruisers dropping 13.7% between 2013 and 2016, and 18.7% down from its 923,000 figure in 2011. Spain was 6.1% down, and 30.2% down from the 703,000 who cruised in 2011. These changes have resulted in Costa Cruises closing down its Spanish operation Iberocruceros in favour of Genoa-based Costa.

Conversely, France was up 9.6% from 2013 to 2016 and up 29.2% from the 441,000 who cruised in 2011. This did not stop Pullmantur from closing the Croisières de France operation in France, however, in favour of its own Spanish-based operation.

Perhaps most curious, however, was economically-progressive Canada, where the number of cruisers has dropped from 775,000 in 2013 to 750,000 in 2016. It might be remembered that in one year recently more Australians cruised from the Port of Montreal than Canadians. Something must be wrong.

Early on the morning of April 2, 2017, AIDAbella was the first ship of the AIDA fleet to sail past Shanghai's famous skyline

Early on the morning of April 2, 2017, AIDAbella was the first ship of the AIDA fleet to sail past Shanghai’s famous skyline

Meanwhile, in the world as a whole, some 24.7 million people took a cruise last year out of a world population of about 7.43 billion. This means that for every million people on Earth, 3,300 took a cruise in 2016, an overall penetration of about 0.3%. This of course means that China is still behind the global average when all countries are included and will not exceed the global average until it hits about 3.2 million cruisers.

What is not measured in these figures, however, is revenues. The Chinese market at 2.1 million cruisers could be worth far less than the Australian market of 1.2 million, with the Australians taking much longer cruises and paying much more for them.

The prospects of growth are nevertheless more serious in China, which is why all the majors are building new ships for China while they can’t build any large new ships for Australia until the powers that be improve the cruising infrastructure of that country.

Southampton Sets Cruise Ship Record

We did not record it at the time but on the weekend of June 2-4, the Port of Southampton handled a record fifteen cruise ships in three days. Port operators Associated British Ports estimated that around 60,000 passengers embarked or disembarked over the weekend.

Navigator of the Seas, Silver Whisper and Silver Explorer line up in Southampton’s Western Docks (Courtesy SCH)

Navigator of the Seas, Silver Whisper and Silver Explorer line up in Southampton’s Western Docks (Courtesy SCH)

Reminiscent of ocean liner days, ships from Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea Cruises all made appearances. P&O Cruises was top of the list with four ships and Royal Caribbean and Silversea coming second, with two each.

Showing the number of lower berths on each ship, last weekend’s armada consisted of the Silver Whisper (388), Silver Explorer (132), Marina (1,258), Norwegian Jade (2,466), Aurora (1,868), Ventura (928), Britannia (3,647), Azura (3,096), Crown Princess (3,114), Navigator of the Seas (3,286), Independence of the Seas (3,634), Seven Seas Explorer (750), Queen Victoria (2,100), Celebrity Eclipse (2,852) and Braemar (930).

The Seven Seas Explorer was on her maiden call to Southampton and set sail on June 3 from Southampton for a 10-night Round Britain cruise, to take in eleven ports including Newcastle (June 5), Edinburgh (June 6), Belfast (June 7), Holyhead (June 9), Dublin (June 10), Liverpool (June 11), Cork (June 12) and Dartmouth (June 13), arriving back into Southampton on June 14.

Queen Victoria Refit: From Start to Finish

The Queen Victoria, on the other hand, was making her first call at Southampton since having an additional 43 balcony cabins added in a £34 million refurbishment at Fincantieri Palermo. This increased her lower berth capacity from 2,014 to 2,100 passengers.

Essentially the superstructure has been extended to the stern as was done with the new 2,101-berth Queen Elizabeth when built.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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