The UK ultra luxury cruise industry is predicting further long-term growth according to the latest figures released at the Association of British Travel Agents travel convention in Gran Canaria this week.
William Gibbons of the Passenger Shipping Association confirmed that 1.5 million British holidaymakers are expected to take a cruise this year and predicted a further two to three per cent growth for 2009.
“We’re still a relatively young and expanding industry,” he said, “with plenty of opportunity to grow as new ships come into service. With the present difficult economic climate, cruising is better placed than many other sectors as the inclusive nature of a cruise holiday makes it easy to budget for, while continuing to offer exceptional value for money.
“Fourteen ship launches are planned for 2009 and we are anticipating the number of British cruise passengers to exceed 1.6 million cruise passengers in 2010.”
The ships planned for 2009 vary from ultra luxury to family orientated ships.
The strong trend for 2009 is the introduction of new ultra-luxury cruise ships for Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea Cruises. Set to launch in summer and winter 2009 respectively, these ships demonstrate the ultra-luxury sector’s success at attracting luxury travellers to cruising. Additionally, 2010 and 2011 also see further new ships from Yachts of Seabourn and Oceania Cruises.
Following the introduction of Silversea Cruises’ first expedition ship, Prince Albert II earlier in 2008, specialist niche cruise companies are also adding new ships. The Spirit of Adventure fleet will double in size as Quest For Adventure takes her inaugural cruise in July 2009. With 450 passengers, this ship is slightly larger than Spirit of Adventure but will still be able to visit many of the smaller ports around the world.
In addition, river cruise specialist Viking River Cruises is launching the 189-passenger Viking Legend, which at 443ft will be the longest ship on the European rivers.
Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas, due to launch in November 2009, will be the largest cruise ship in the world. Spanning 16 passenger decks, and weighing 220,000 tons, she will carry 5,400 guests and feature 2,700 staterooms. Oasis of the Seas will feature seven distinct themed ‘neighbourhood’ areas, including Central Park, Boardwalk, and the Royal Promenade.
Family ships launching in 2009 include Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Dream, which includes expansive play areas and a huge Carnival WaterWorks aqua park. Other features include ‘scenic whirlpools’ extending over the ship’s beam and a variety of new stateroom categories.
Italian brands Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises will be launching four ships between them in 2009, the Costa Pacifica, Costa Luminosa, MSC Splendida and MSC Magnifica . Sister ship to the Costa Serena, the Costa Pacifica will launch in June 2009 and have a host of new features including a sliding glass roof over the outdoor pools, a Samsara Spa, huge movie screen and Grand Prix racing car simulator. The Costa Luminosa is set to launch simultaneously, including a golf simulator, 4D theatre, and the highest percentage of balcony staterooms for any Costa ship. Launching In Barcelona the month after, the MSC Splendida will feature the exclusive all-suite, butler-served luxury MSC Yacht Club, while the MSC Magnifica will be in the ‘Musica’ class and launches at the end of 2009.
Lastly, Holland America Line has announced $200m in enhancements to five ships as part of its ongoing Signature of Excellence programme. Over the next two years, the ms Statendam, ms Ryndam, ms Maasdam, ms Veendam, and ms Rotterdam will all be refurbished to offer guests more luxurious accommodation, and even higher levels of service.