National Geographic Endurance – Other Cruise News: SkySea Golden Era To Go To Marella – UK Christening For MSC Bellissima

by Kevin Griffin

Last week, at the keel-laying of Lindblad Expeditions’s new 12,300-ton 126-berth expedition ship, it was announced that she would be named National Geographic Endurance, after Shackleton’s ship. She could prove to be the first of three such Polar 5 sister ships, higher-rated than any expedition ship other than Ponant’s planned Polar 2 icebreaker. Elsewhere, Royal Caribbean has decided to close its SkySea joint ventuire with China’s CTrip and their SkySea Golden Era will be transferred to TUI’s UK affiliate Marella Cruises as Marella Explorer 2. Finally, MSC has announced that it will christen its 4,500-berth MSC Bellissima in Southampton on March 2, 2019.


National Geographic Endurance

Last week’s keel laying at the Crist shipyard in Gdynia marked the first major milestone in the construction of one of the world’s most sophisticated expedition ships, due for delivery to Lindblad Expeditions in early 2020.

National Geographic Endurance (Artist impression courtesy Ulstein Group - Lindblad Expeditions) (Click to enlarge)

National Geographic Endurance (Artist impression courtesy Ulstein Group – Lindblad Expeditions) (Click to enlarge)

It also served as the official naming ceremony for the first of a possible three new 12,300-ton 126-berth expedition ships for the company. LIindblad also holds options for two more sister ships.

Lindblad, which has a long term relationship with National Geographic, took the opportunity to announce that its first new polar ship since the Lindblad Explorer fifty years earlier, would be called the National Geographic Endurance. The new ship has been named in honour of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who purchased the first Endurance in Norway in 1914 for his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-17.

The first Endurance in 1914 (Click to enlarge)

The first Endurance in 1914 (Click to enlarge)

A Polar Class 5 rating will give the new ship the ability to operate freely at any time of year in polar environments, vastly expanding the line’s polar range. This means she can explore deeper into the pack ice, or further north to the unexplored reaches of the Arctic. This would include northern Ellesmere Island, where only a relative handful of people have ever been, and several completely off-the-beaten-path Arctic islands that are remote, pristine and teeming with wildlife.

Once completed by Crist, the hull will be taken to Ulstein Verft for completion and fitting out. A core feature is Ulstein’s signature X-Bow, a distinctive stem that provides fuel efficiency and significantly improves guest comfort in rough seas. Her very high ice class will allow access deep into polar regions. At the same time, her zero-speed stabilizers will ensure stability, whether stopped or at full speed.

The National Geographic Quest (Photo R. Eime @ (Click to enlarge)

The National Geographic Quest (Photo R. Eime @ (Click to enlarge)

The National Geographic fleet now numbers nine ships of between 630 and 6,471 gross tons. Of these, four (the Galapagos fleet) are registered in Ecuador, three are under US flag for coasting in Alaska and two are registered in the Bahamas.

The last newbuiding for Lindblad Expeditions was the 2,920-ton 100-berth US-flag National Geographic Quest, delivered in 2017 for the Alaska and Costa Rica-Panama trades. A sister ship, the National Geographic Venture, will soon join the fleet.


SkySea Golden Era To Go To Marella

The SkySea Golden Era (Ex Celebrity Century) (Click to enlarge)

The SkySea Golden Era (Ex Celebrity Century) (Click to enlarge)

Royal Caribbean also announced last week that it will shut down its short-lived Chinese joint-venture SkySea Cruises. Its 1,814-berth SkySea Golden Era, which entered service in 1995 as Celebrity Cruises’ Century, will be transferred to TUI’s UK-based Marella Cruises operation at the end of December.

Instead of growing the China trade, the Golden Era will be used to expand the German-based TUI cruises fleet. Mein Schiff 2 which had been scheduled to move to Marella Cruises when a new Mein Schiff 2 is delivered on 2019, will now remain with TUI.

Instead, Sky Sea Golden Era will go to Marella as Marella Explorer 2, taking the place that had been reserved for the present Mein Schiff 2. Given the gap before Mein Schiff 7 and 8 are due in 2023 and beyond, this makes sense, although one of the Mein Schiff 2’s, either the existing ship (ex-Celebrity Mercury) or the Meyer Werft 2019 newbuilding, will have to be renamed.

UK Christening For MSC Bellissima

MSC Cruises has announced that 4,500-berth MSC Bellissima will be christened in the UK. The event will take place in Southampton on March 2, 2019, and will be attended by more than 2,000 guests.

The MSC Meraviglia: MSC Bellissima’s sister ship (Click to enlarge)

The MSC Meraviglia: MSC Bellissima’s sister ship (Click to enlarge)

The ship will remain in the UK port for three days, giving the opportunity for over 3,000 guests and travel partners to sample the latest addition to the MSC Cruises fleet.

Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises ceo, commented, “The crowning moment of the launch of any new ship is her christening. For each new ship, MSC Cruises carefully selects a country and a port to host the Christening. We have chosen to host the christening of MSC Bellissima in Southampton as a demonstration of our continued commitment to growth in the UK and Ireland.“

MSC Bellissima will become MSC Cruises’ fourth mega-ship to come into service since 2017 and is part of a 12-ship, ten-year €10.5 billion investment programme.
The last MSC ship to be christened in the UK was the 2,550-berth MSC Poesia, in Dover in 2008.

(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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