Cruise ships: bigger, better, best?

In both aircraft and cruise-ship manufacturing, there’s a debate: is bigger always better? In aviation, the largest commercial plane, the Airbus A380, is popular only with airlines, notably Emirates, that are staking the future on carrying a lot of people over long distances to and from big airports.

Project Leonardo (NCL)

With cruise ships, there has been greater investment by those who believe  bigger is better, although niche operators beg to differ.

Royal Caribbean recently soft-launched its next megaship, Symphony of the Seas, which promises to be even bigger than the world’s biggest passenger ship, Harmony of the Seas.

These ships resemble small cities, with every amenity and diversion you can imagine — and Royal Caribbean keeps on adding features to each new generation.

At the other end of the scale, the boutique cruise lines (most of which, of course, are also owned by the handful of big tourism operators) are offering bespoke experiences with an emphasis on quality over quantity — and a price tag to match,

But where does that leave Royal Caribbean’s direct competitors in the mass market?

Well Norwegian Cruise Lines has also given a glimpse of its future, by unveiling its “Project Leonardo” range of vessels.

The four ships on order — the first will set sail in mid-2022 — are large, but not nearly as big as the Royal Caribbean ships nor, indeed, NCL’s own recently launched Breakaway-class ships.

The Orlando Sentinel quotes NCL Holdings chairman and CEO Frank Del Rio: “We’ve been asked many times, ‘Well in the cruise industry the next series of ships is always larger than the one before.’ Well you know we’re famous for breaking molds and going against the grain.

“Not all destinations in the world and we do want to be a global cruise line, not all destinations in the world can handle 4,000-, 5,000-passenger ships effectively. So we believe these vessels are the perfect size to delivery the top return on investment for our shareholders while providing the flexibility we need as a company to deploy these vessels throughout the world.”

The ships would be technologically advanced and feature “infinity pools, restaurants [and] broad decks to be beach-like so people can really connect with the sea”, Del Rio said.

Ceelbrity Edge concept (Celebrity)

Meanwhile, Celebrity Cruises (a Royal Caribbean subsidiary) has released images of Celebrity Edge, to be launched in December 2018.

Celebrity calls itself the company that introduced passengers to “modern luxury cruising”, and this ship promises to “leave the future behind”.

What does that mean in practical terms? It seems to mean more open space, and virtual space, once again bringing passengers closer to the sea, and more upmarket amenities and venues than the popular megaships.

Rather than traditional balconies, staterooms will have “infinite verandas” that will give the impression that the cabin is right next to the sea.

Edge will also feature more suites than other Celebrity vessels and a penthouse that sits on top of the bridge promising “a better view than the captain”.

NCL bookings || Celebrity bookings

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