by Kevin Griffin
Last week, on the event of Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale, Celebrity Cruises chose to release the first detailed images of their five new “Edge” class ships. Also from Miami comes word of orders for four X-Bow expedition cruise ships for Sunstone Ships. On the other side of the Atlantic, meanwhile, Arena Travel in the UK announced its acquisition of The River Cruise Line and the UK hit a new cruise turnover record with 1.9 million cruises in 2016, although this was still short of Germany’s 2.02 million.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
Celebrity’s “Edge” Class
Last week in Fort Lauderdale, Royal Caribbean Cruises ceo Richard Fain and Celebrity Cruises ceo Lisa Lutoff-Perlo announced details of the long-mooted 117,000-ton 2,900-berth “Edge” class ships that will, among other things, bring balconies indoors as an integral part of the stateroom.
With the push of a button, floor-to-ceiling windows will retract, leaving nothing but a simple glass railing between the stateroom and the sea beyond. This will also affect the outside appearance of these vessels, who’s default position will now become all-glazed windows rather than balconies open to the elements.
These balconies on-demand are just one of the design features that will raise the price tag of the “Edge” class ships to $1 billion each.
Here are some of the innovations that are new to this class, the first of which is scheduled to begin cruising from Fort Lauderdale on December 16, 2018:
Infinite Verandas. By redefining the balcony, Celebrity is able to expand cabins right up to the edge of the ship—by moving the strength members inside the ship. As a result, stateroom floor plans will be on average 23% larger than before, with bathrooms gaining an extra 20%. This feat of engineering is accomplished by moving the strength members in the ship’s structure inboard and away from the ship’s outer shell, where the strengthening has traditionally been positioned, dividing cabin from balcony.
The Magic Carpet. The ship’s designers also wanted to solve a guest complaint that the process for boarding the tenders at smaller ports was crowded and awkward. The design team explored half a dozen alternatives before deciding on an elevated platform the size of a tennis court that can serve not only as sea level access to the tenders, but also as an oyster bar on the restaurant deck, a cocktail bar on the pool deck and a dinner venue on the top deck.
This structure will accommodate 90 diners and will be found on the starboard side of each ship and will be hard to miss as it will be painted orange rather than a more calming light grey or blue as used on the hulls of Royal Caribbean’s “Quantum” class ships.
The Retreat. Suite Class has traditionally made up 5% of Celebrity’s room inventory, but on the “Edge” class, they’ll represent 12%. Included are six duplex villas that will have private plunge pools and direct access to the one of the ship’s sun decks, The Retreat. Among these, the two penthouse suites will be located above the bridge.
Resort Deck. The resort deck on the “Edge” class ships takes the adult pool concept to another level. The pool itself will be enclosed by a glass-like dome for all-weather access – called the Solarium. That in turn will lead to a rooftop garden that will surpass the lawn clubs and rooftop terraces on the earlier “Solstice” class ships. The garden will be landscaped with sculptured trees and maintained by a horticulturist so that it can be used for live jazz sessions (complete with wine and outdoor blankets) or dinner and movie nights.
Check-in and unlock your door by app. On the “Edge” class ships, you’ll be able to do everything on your phone, from checking in to unlocking your stateroom door or controlling your room’s temperature and lighting. The bracelets and medallions used by other lines will look to be outré and passé in comparison. And this shows that these ships will be for adults.
This all happens via a proprietary Celebrity app, which will also put the concierge, ship map, daily event schedule and private notifications in each guest’s pocket to personalise their cruise just as they might personalise their phone.
An array of images can be seen at the dedicated site celebritycruises.com/edge and a video at youtube.com/watch?v=MYVqg1gNri4
OTHER CRUISE NEWS
Sunstone Announces Chinese X-Bows
Sunstone Ships of Miami and Hong Kong-based China Merchants Industry Holdings Co Ltd have signed an agreement for the construction of four expedition vessels with options for six more.
Sunstone is the largest tonnage provider of expedition vessels for charter to the cruise and travel industry, with an existing fleet of ten such vessels. This new order will position the company as the leading tonnage provider in this cruise segment.
China Merchants is part of the China Merchants Group, formed in 1872 and now one of the largest groups in China, including the China Merchants Bank, one of the twenty largest banks in the world.
China Merchants has in turn entered into an agreement with Ulstein Design & Solutions, who will supply the vessel’s design and equipment package, as well as supervise their construction.
Celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year, Ulstein Group is a well-known international designer, builder and provider of ship systems. The family-owned group is headquartered in Ulsteinvik, Norway, and has over 600 employees in six countries.
The new ships will be based on Ulstein’s notable X-Bow inverted bow concept for smoother sailing through heavy waves and lower fuel consumption. As of last year, more than 100 X-Bow vessels had been ordered.
China Merchants has also also entered into an agreement with Mäkinen, Finland, one of the leading contractors of cabin and interior public spaces for cruise vessels. Mäkinen will establish a cabin assembly plant and interior workshop at the shipyard’s facilities in China, and will be responsible for all interior spaces on the new builds.
The vessels will feature between 80 and 95 cabins each and their main specifications will be:
Dimensions 341 x 60 feet
Ice Class PC6
Classification Society Bureau Veritas
The vessels will join the Sunstone Fleet and be chartered to new and existing clients.
The hotel design will be done by Tomas Tillberg Design International, one of the most recognized names in passenger vessel design.
The project was brought together by Tillberg & Reyes Group Co Ltd, acting as broker. Mr Carlos Reyes and Mr Andrew Zhang developed the commercial and financial model as well as the communications relationship with everyone involved.
Arena Buys River Cruise Line
Arena Travel has acquired The River Cruise Line and Diamond Rail Holidays brands from Diamond Shortbreak Holidays after that company’s failure.
The announcement follows confirmation from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) that Market Harborough-based Diamond Shortbreak Holidays Ltd had ceased trading due to “financial difficulties”.
“The acquisition was supported by the cruise lines who operate the popular Lady Anne and Serenity ships that are exclusive to The River Cruise Line,” said Steve Goodenough, managing director of Arena Travel.
“Both will be working closely with Arena with the aim of operating the vast majority of planned sailings for 2017. Our aim is to provide the same rail or river cruise holiday on the same date and at the same price to as many of the 5,000 who have booked a holiday for the season ahead as possible. Thanks to the financial protection in place, customers will be covered for any loss of money.”
He continued: “Our intention is to retain and build the River Cruise Line and Diamond Rail brands, and to ensure that their portfolio of river cruises and escorted rail tours continues to operate to the usual high standard.”
“Arena Travel has been established for over 40 years and our expertise in special interest holidays means that there is a great synergy between the brands and customers of both companies.”
UK Sets New Cruising Record
Figures released last week by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) show that a record 1.9 million holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland took an ocean cruise in 2016. In the event, however, this still fell short of Germany’s 2016 turnover of 2.02 million, which was about 6.5% higher than the UK’s.
The UK growth comes at a time of sustained investment by the cruise industry. With global cruise fleet capacity set to increase by at least a third over the next ten years, major markets such as the UK will be spoilt for choice.
Mediterranean fly-cruises remain the number one choice (458,000 passengers in 2016), with Western Europe itineraries from UK ports (272,000) now firmly established at number two.
Last year was also good when it came to ultra-luxury cruises, with a host of new ships being launched in the sector, and a record number of passengers opting to sail with one of the ultra-luxury brands. A near 9% rise in sales ensured that the total surpassed the 2012 peak of 28,450, falling just short of 29,000.
The number of passengers starting their cruise holiday in the UK grew in 2016, with UK cruise departures now accounting for 48% of the market. The 2016 comparison reflects a 9% rise in the number of passengers departing from the UK to 912,000 passengers. Fly-cruises were also on the up in 2016 with a 2.8% increase for those travelling from the UK and Ireland.
(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)