If, like us, you find that the past 12 months have gone past in an even-faster-than-usual blur, well, first of all, we don’t blame you; and second, how about a refresher?
Yes, it’s that time of year (already) when we take stock of the cruise world’s many achievements in 2019 and highlight our top moments, from all the new ships that have graced the sea-ways of the world to individual accomplishments and acknowledgements.
Many of them we have covered in our weekly blog for The Cruise Line, while others were of a more international variety and are worth singling out for attention in our annual Look Back In 1,000 Words.
So, here we go, taking things month by month:
The year started in a blaze of announcement glory as both Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas unveiled ambitious plans for new-builds to boost the luxury end of the cruise world, and get us excited about the future. For Oceania, it was all about the largest ships they have ever built, the 67,000-ton Allura class, for 2022 and ’25, while Regent’s order was for a sister ship for the award-winning Seven Seas Explorer and Seven Seas Splendor in 2023.
Here in Florida, we watched a suitably glam naming ceremony as none other than mega-celebrity Oprah Winfrey performed the naming ceremony for Holland America’s new Nieuw Statendam ship in Fort Lauderdale, while the fledgling Virgin Voyages officially launched bookings for their grand 2020 debut on Valentine’s Day, complete with news about their unique Ibiza-style Beach Club on Bimini in the Bahamas.
Southampton doesn’t often get in on the ship-naming ceremonies these days, but March 3 saw Britain’s number one port centre stage with MSC Cruises. It coincided with winter storm Freya that battered the south of England and made for a very wild and windy night as MSC Bellissima was officially welcomed to the ocean-going fraternity. The month was also notable for a new-ship announcement by SeaDream Yacht Club, which we reported on – albeit it came with a sting in the tail (see December).
The annual Cruise Review from the Cruise Lines International Association UK (CLIA UK) revealed that the number of passengers from Britain and Ireland topped the two million mark for the first time in 2018. Globally, the figure reached a record 28.5 million. Proof positive that the best holiday is a maritime one!
The first of a new series of expedition cruise ships for Hapag-Lloyd took a bow on May 5 as the company welcomed the Hanseatic Nature in Hamburg as the first of a three-vessel class for the go-ahead German line. The newcomer also represented a notable investment in eco-friendly propulsion, with a new catalytic converter and lower-emission marine gas oil, all part of cruising’s bid to be much greener in future.
Bad news for Cuba (and a number of cruise lines). After three years of growing the Cuban market, US-based cruise companies were left aghast by the Trump administration’s decision to ban all voyages to the Caribbean island on political grounds. UK-registered lines were not affected, but the likes of Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Oceania were among those had to make a sudden and immediate halt to all operations there, with a drastic impact on the local economy.
Saga Cruises proudly marked a new frontier in their traditionally British operations with the advent of their Spirit of Discovery, the first ship to be built under their precise specifications. With the naming ceremony performed by the Duchess of Cornwall, this proved a rare occasion of pomp and circumstance in the historic port of Dover. And, for those who like bubbles with their voyage, Seabourn forged a new Champagne partnership to make Montaudon Brut available across all its ships. Cheers!
This month started with the news that France’s Ponant Cruises was acquiring Paul Gauguin Cruises to spread its international appeal to the South Seas. This would become even more relevant in November. For fans of P&O Cruises, our friends Treadwell & Tenny lamented the departure of the 24-year-old Oriana from the UK fleet as a genuine, ground-breaking original. We may not see her like again. Also with a British touch, actress Helen Mirren christened Scenic Cruises’ stylish new Scenic Eclipse, ensuring another ultra-smart option for the expedition cruise crowd.
One of the worst summer storms on record blasted through the Caribbean, leaving a terrible trail of death and destruction through the region, notably in the Bahamas, where Hurricane Dorian absolutely devastated the Abacos and Grand Bahamas islands. The news reports were terrible to see, but many cruise lines were quick to respond, and we put together a quick, heartfelt appeal for help in raising money and awareness for the tragedy. It is still relevant today.
Regent Seven Seas has long been on our radar as a pioneer of all things in the ultra-luxe realm of cruising, and they continued to demonstrate their innovative side with an original new Spa programme that is now being rolled out across the fleet. Called Serene Spa & Wellness, it will bring a new approach to their onboard restorative treatments and services, and we can’t wait for our first chance to try it out! Meanwhile, in Italy, the Fincantieri shipyard cut the first steel for Cunard’s as-yet-unnamed 2022 new-build, the 249th ship in the line’s 179-year history.
For UK cruisers, Marella Cruises (the former Thomson Cruises) announced a significant move to base one of their ships in Florida’s Port Canaveral for a full summer season, starting in 2021, with four imaginative itineraries, including one that takes in New York. MSC Cruises became the first line to commit to carbon neutral marine operations, and Britain’s Cruise & Maritime Voyages announced plans to add two new ships and bring their fleet up to eight by 2021.
And here we are, fully up to date and ready to welcome more cruise news and excitement in 2020. To our surprise, we have just learned of SeaDream’s plans to discontinue their proposed venture with Damen ship-building for two new-builds, but they insist they will find a new partner to work with to update their boutique little fleet. It just goes to show, you have to expect the unexpected in the wide world of cruising – but also relish an ever-growing portfolio of sea-going fascination.
What was your sea-going highlight of 2019 or your best cruise memory of the year? Tell us all about it in the Comments section below.