Our regular column from Andy Harmer, VP Operations & Director of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) UK & Ireland
I’m celebrating my 10th year in the cruise sector and I have seen first-hand the evolution of the cruise holiday. Companies have shown amazing innovation – with the ships they build, the dining and entertainment options and, not least, their itineraries to stunning destinations. Each year we welcome new vessels into our worldwide fleet and 2016 is no exception, with nine ocean and 18 river CLIA member cruise lines launching new ships. With these launches, we can expect a host of new products, ranging from the very large, to the very luxurious, and something in between.
May was a particularly busy month. Royal Caribbean made the cruise headlines with the launch of the world’s largest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas. Accommodating more than 6,600 passengers, this floating resort has joined the line’s two other Oasis class ships. May also saw the introduction of Koningsdam, Holland America’s first ship in six years, and from early reviews it sounds like it was well worth the wait. The ship debuted several fresh concepts such as new stateroom types, entertainment venues and restaurants. Starting off in Europe the ship will soon head to America.
The month also saw a true moment in history – for the first time in more than 50 years a cruise ship sailed from America to Cuba. Fathom from Carnival Corporation is a brand specialising in ‘volunteerism’ cruise holidays using the P&O Cruises’ ship Adonia. As a new frontier in Latin America we expect more to follow in Carnival’s wake with cruises from the States, while we have already seen a number of companies home-porting their ships in Havana. With this, look out for more Latin America itineraries featuring the best bits of the region such as the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Iguacu Falls and, of course, the Galapagos.
Bringing it back to new ships it’s not just the larger vessels in the spotlight; the luxury sector is to enjoy its moment too. Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer has been described as the most luxurious cruise ship to date. Launching this July, this all-suite ship will set the benchmark for luxury travel. Meanwhile, Seabourn’s Seabourn Encore will make her maiden voyage in December. It may be small but it’s certainly mighty. In fact, it will be the largest of Seabourn’s ships, with a capacity of 604 passengers, which is double the occupancy of others in the fleet.
It is clear there are big things to come out of 2016. I often get asked if I’ll tire of cruise and the answer will always be no. What keeps me interested is that there’s no one-size-fits-all. Cruise ships come in many shapes and sizes and appeal to different tastes and demographics which means I’m always left second-guessing about what to expect next, and I’m already itching to see which new ships will set sail in 2017.