Cruising’s remarkable upward trend hits a new high in 2018 when there are no less than sixteen new cruise ships set to make their ocean-going debut, at a total value of a record $8.4billion.
That figure of sixteen is remarkable enough on its own, while the $8.4b figure is also eye-catching as it improves on last year’s $6.7b figure from 10 new vessels.
But tucked away within the headline number is the fact that fully seven of the 16 can be classified in the luxury cruise bracket, meaning that the deluxe section of the market continues to grow at an unprecedented level.
Or, as Harold Macmillan might have said if he was so nautically inclined – you’ve never had cruising so good.
For those who enjoy the genuinely good things in maritime life, this is definitely the time to be thinking about your next voyage.
Even better, while there are new cruise ships from proven luxury operators like Seabourn, Ponant and Star Clippers, we will also see several newcomers in this category, including expedition-style vessels from Scenic Cruises and new Portuguese-based company Mystic Cruises.
It all adds up to a spectacular year in prospect, with plenty to keep the cruise news headlines ticking over at a steady rate. Here’s what we have to look forward to in the next 12 months:
For aficionados of travelling under sail, there should be no finer prospect than Star Clippers’ newest – and largest – ship, which is due to take her bow in the first quarter (although there is no confirmed date as yet).
The Flying Clipper will be the biggest vessel in the four-ship fleet at 8,770 tons and carrying just 300 passengers, with five masts and a fully square-rigged sailing set-up. She is being built at the Brodosplit shipyard in Croatia, and features the line’s first balcony cabins as well as a water-sports platform and an 18-foot dive pool spanning two decks.
Where she sails: The Mediterranean in the summer and autumn; the Caribbean in winter.
Launching this spring will be the very latest offering from the sleek Seabourn stable. Seabourn Ovation will be a 40,350-ton sister to last year’s Seabourn Encore and provide the same range of stylish accommodations and public rooms, including their signature suites in conjunction with Molton Brown and the truly fabulous Wellness Spa.
Despite being the biggest ships in the Seabourn fleet, Encore (and Ovation) still carry just 604 passengers, ensuring the sumptuous level of service for which the line is renowned. We liked Encore, a lot, in 2017. We expect Ovation to improve on that level of appreciation this year.
Where she sails: The Mediterranean and northern Europe in summer and autumn; the Far East in winter.
Le Champlain and Le Laperouse
The distinctive French style of Ponant Cruises has expanded dramatically in recent years, going from just three ships 10 years ago to seven in 2018 – and counting. The quality of the hardware keeps improving, too, and the arrival of these twin sisters – the first in a series of four new-builds from the Norwegian company Vard Holdings – in June and September should improve still further on Ponant’s chic array.
The all-balcony, five-deck duo will carry just 184 passengers – 80 fewer than Ponant’s previous 4-ship series – and feature a reinforced hull for expedition cruising into the icier parts of the world, as well as a fleet of Zodiac boats for expeditions and transfers. There will also be two restaurants overseen by French master chef Alain Ducasse, ensuring the line’s reputation for some of the finest cuisine is firmly maintained.
Where they sail: Northern Europe and the Mediterranean in summer and autumn; Indian Ocean, Far East, South America and the Caribbean in winter.
While Ponant has enjoyed exponential growth in recent times, that of Viking Ocean Cruises has been positively meteoric. The big river-cruise line entered ocean cruising in 2015, and the Viking Orion will now be their fifth ship in that short span – with another five on the way.
The identical vessels have already established a reputation for smart, medium-sized distinction, with a 48,000-ton template that appeals both to their river-cruise customers as well as those who prefer the small-scale rather than the big-ship model.
Like her predecessors, the Orion will cater for 930 passengers across nine decks, with notable highlights being the Viking Spa, Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant, the two-level Explorer’s Lounge and the conservatory-style Wintergarden with its signature afternoon tea service.
Where she sails: Mediterranean in summer and autumn; Indian Ocean and Far East in winter.
Here’s another river-cruise specialist branching out into the wider world of cruising. Australian Scenic Cruises have established a great name for their luxury river voyages in the past 30 years, establishing themselves as a genuinely upmarket choice.
Now, this August, they will add Scenic Eclipse, their first ocean-going vessel, and another that is designed for expedition voyages. At 16,500 tons and carrying just 228 passengers (200 only for polar cruises), she looks like justifying her tag as ‘the world’s first discovery yacht,’ with a super-sleek look and the service to go with it.
The Eclipse will also boast a number of technological marvels, like a seven-person submarine, two helicopters and a fleet of Zodiacs. Her ice-hardened hull will have the highest classification possible for journeys into the Arctic and Antarctic for three full months of the year.
Where she sails: Mediterranean, Caribbean and South America in the autumn and spring; Antarctica in winter; Arctic in summer.
Finally, in our parade of luxury newcomers, we have a completely new company in the form of Mystic Cruises. Their first ship will also be a polar adventurer when it begins sailing in late 2018 (on charter to Quark Expeditions), and could be the first of as many as 10 similar vessels.
At 9,300 tons, she will accommodate 200 passengers and feature a hybrid propulsion system that promises to be as environmentally friendly as possible while still offering a deluxe experience, including a restaurant, a bow observation deck, mudroom, lecture theatre and even a small casino.
Where she sails: Winter in Antarctica; rest of the year TBA (on charter).
All words by Simon Veness. 2018.