Viking Ocean Cruises and the Italian Fincantieri shipyard have signed a memorandum of agreement for the construction of two additional 47,800gt ocean cruise ships, with an option for another two.
The newbuilds will be sister ships to the six ships already delivered/or on ordered and will enter the Viking fleet in 2021 and 2022, respectively. That makes a total of eight ocean ships + a possible two.
The first ship to be built by Fincantieri for Viking, Viking Star was delivered in spring 2015. The second and the third ships, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, were delivered in early 2016 and early 2017. Viking Sun joins the fleet this October 2017, Viking Spirit launches in June 2018. A third unnamed ship joins the fleet in 2019.
All ships will have an be identical specification: 47,800 gross tonnes and will accommodate 930 passengers.
Malcolm says: Not only are Viking dominating the worlds rivers, there Ocean fleet is expanding!
Viking Cruises Partners with National Geographic
Viking Cruises has announced that it has signed on to sponsor National Geographic’s global anthology series, “Genius”.
The first season of the season tells the story of Albert Einstein.
Viking To Cruise The Nile
Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen has announced that Viking River Cruises will be the first foreign company allowed to have a license to operate ships along the Nile River.
The new ship, named Viking Ra, will begin sailing March 2018.
Malcolm says: Viking seem to be intent on the world dominance of river cruising. They operate more than 60 river vessels. They certainly have a high media profile, a good reputation, an rapidly expanding fleet and are able sustain some high fares. They also plan to offer Mississippi cruises in the future.
My first river cruise was the Nile (see below), which I loved. They are 200 boats on the Nile and they all claim to be five star, but they ae not. I cruised on a very nice boat, but the food was simplistic buffet style and by no means fine-dining. However the fare was very low compared to European river cruise standards.
Viking will bring a brand to the Nile that people trust, some higher standards and fares to match.
Over the past two decades we have seen unprecedented innovation in cruise ship design.
Not only has there been a quest to build the biggest cruise ships, they have increasing become floating resorts, rather than just ‘ships’.
There have been many defining moments in cruise ship innovation. However one moment which stands out to me is when ‘Carnival Destiny’ entered service in 1995. She was the first cruise ships to exceed 100,000 gross Tonnes.
Before Destiny, Cunard’s RMS Queen Elizabeth Ocean Liner (1929) was the biggest at 83,673 gross tonnes.
Carnival Destiny (Courtesy Carnival)
Another defining moment was in 1998 when Royal Caribbean’s ‘Voyager of the Seas’ entered service, at 138,194 gross tonnes.
Although external promenade decks and ‘sheltered’ promenades date back to the great ocean liners, Voyager was the first cruise ship to have an internal ‘street’ down the middle, called the ‘Royal Promenade’. (Although the concept was originally featured on a Ferry).
Voyager was more like a floating theme park than any ship before her.
Royal Promenade (RCI)
Another milestone in ship design was the introduction of the world’s biggest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s ‘Oasis’ class at 225,282 gross tonnes.
Oasis had a unique split-superstructure design accommodating a Boardwalk, a Carousel and a Park.
The Norwegian Cruise line should also be credited for their ‘Freestyle’ dining innovation, which now dates back a couple of decades. Elements of it have been copied by most of the major lines. Today NCL also have a new cruise ship, Norwegian Bliss, with a Go-Kart track on the sun deck.
Norwegian Joy (Courtesy NCL)
Given all of this innovation in the past, is it still possible to build increasingly innovative ships in the future, or has the bar been set too high?
Are the major players running out of ideas to wow us?
RCI are famed for their originality, but personally I did not find RCI’s ‘Quantum’ class anywhere near as innovative as their previous, the ‘Oasis’ class, therefore a little disappointing.
RCI called their latest ship design, the ‘Quantum’ class, innovative. RCI introduced much technology to the ‘Quantum’ class design and some sporty gimmicks (Bumper Cars and I-Fly ) plus an observation pod.
However take away the frills, and the Quantum ships internal design was very similar to NCL’s Epic/Breakaway/Breakaway+ ships. It has multiple dining and entertainment venues, coupled with flexible dining, but without the excellent NCL ‘Waterfront’ feature. NCL call it ‘Freestyle’, RCI copied it and called it ‘Dynamic Dining’.
RCI have since revised Dynamic Dining, it did not impress their passengers.
North Star, Quantum of the Seas (RCI)
The Mediterranean Shipping Company’s (MSC) new mega-ship ‘Seaside’ features a wide promenade deck, which I assume will feature dining options etc. NCL pioneer this, with their ‘Breakaway’ design and it’s ‘Waterfront’ promenade. As I said earlier promenade decks are not a new idea, but NCL took the concept further than ever before.
MSC’s other newbuild, Meraviglia, features an internal street, RCI’ Royal Promenade’ in style. The main difference is MSC’s one will have a digital sky.
The Waterfront (NCL)
I’m not convinced about the innovations on-board Celebrity’s newest ship design, ‘Celebrity Edge’, either.
The new stateroom design called ‘Infinite Verandas’, which is very nice. However it was first featured on European river boats some years back.
The ‘Magic Carpet’ platform which climbs up one side of the ship is part ‘Rising Tide Bar’ (Oasis) and part ‘North-star’ (Quantum observation pod.) The jury is still out if this is a ‘real’ innovation or just another gimmick*.
The Magic Carpet (Courtsey Celebrity)
I certainly think it is increasingly difficult for the cruise lines to come up with something truly innovative, something that has not been done before on-board another cruise ship.
The cruise lines are intent in fitting more passengers on-board their newbuilds, so space can be a luxury, even on the biggest ships. This is probably why many of the innovations are actually on the outside or sundeck of the ship.
However, when they do come up with something original, like a Go-Kart track on-board a ship, do we really need it?
Do we need constant ‘innovation’?
As somebody very wise once said: what happened to “just cruising”?
*(Definitions – Innovation: is a significant positive change. Gimmick: a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or trade.)
A new Russian cruise line is set to commence service in the Black Sea in June.
The company Rosmorport, has purchased the former Royal Iris ship. The 764-passenger ship last sailed for Mano Cruises.
The ship will be renamed Prince Vladimir and undergo a refurbishment before starting its new summer program.
Cruises will depart every Sunday, round-trip from Sochi with calls in Novorossyisk, Yalta and Sevastopol. The ship will overnight in Yalta. The first sailing is scheduled for June 11.
Bath Time (Courtesy Mano cruises)
Malcolm Says: MS Royal Iris (also formerly Azur) is a 1971 built car ferry which in 1981 was converted into a cruise ship.
She is the last surviving ship ever owned by the Chandris Lines. She is the last surviving ship out of three near identical sisters, the others being the ill-fated Scandinavian Star* and the Fred. Olsen & Co. ferry Bolero. In late 2014, Mano Cruise stopped the ship’s service.
She is a modest 14,717 gross tons yet can carry 770 passengers. She looks a charming little vessel.
Princess Cruises has announced that their latest ship, Majestic Princess, which was tailored for the Chinese market, will be based in Sydney over the 2018-2019. She will not be cruising year-round in China, home-porting in Shanghai, China, as previously announced.
This 143,000 gross tonne, 3,560-passenger vessel, is the third Princess ship in their ‘Royal Princess’ class (although P&O’s Britannia is also based on the same design). She is sporting the new Princess hull art, complete with the ‘Sea Witch’.
Majestic will become the largest Princess vessel ever to serve Australian waters.
As well, in 2018, Princess will move the Sapphire Princess out of the Chinese market and re-deploy the ship to Europe.
Malcolm says: with all the major cruise lines sending ships to China, perhaps a lack of bookings has caused Princess Cruises to come to the conclusion the Chinese market is not yet mature enough to support all of the new tonnage. Fortunately, unlike hotels, ships are mobile and be sent to where the demand is.
Malcolm says: I met Kevin Sheehan once. I cannot comment on the story above, but I can say that he certainly has a very down-to-earth and likeable charisma. He oversaw the introduction of the ‘Breakaway’ class ships after the problematic ‘Epic’. He had a high profile with NCL passengers and was a popular figure.
In fact the NCL’ ‘Epic’, ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Breakaway+’ class ships have an Irish pub/Grill named ‘O’Sheehan’s’ after Kevin Sheehan. The Pub is very popular and has been extended to the older ships in the NCL fleet.
In 2018/2019, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Balmoral will be sailing from Edinburgh (Rosyth) U.K. for the first time, operating a total of nine cruises.
Cruises from May to July 2018, include a five-night “Norwegian Fjords” departure, a 14-night “Scandinavia & St. Petersburg” Baltic discovery, and a nine-night “German Waterways” experience.
Justin Stanton, Sales and Marketing Director for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “We are proud of Fred. Olsen’s long-standing links with Scotland, and we are looking forward to introducing our flagship Balmoral to Edinburgh in 2018, further enhancing our cruises for Scottish guests”.
The Delta Queen was launched in 1925 and first began cruising operations in 1927, to sail the Mississippi and its tributaries caring 176 passengers.
While designated as a National Historic Landmark, Delta Queen currently cannot sail with more than 50 passengers, based on requirements of the Safety of Life at Sea Act (SOLAS), passed in 1966. That law prohibits overnight sailings on wooden vessels.
While the historic ship has a steel hull, the ship’s 88 staterooms and public spaces are mostly of wooden construction.
However she sailed for decades under a SOLAS exemption, but that expired in 2008. The Delta Queen is currently docked in Chattanooga, TN, where it served as a hotel.
(Delta Queen Steamboat Company)
American Duchess Delays Inaugural Cruise
(Courtesy American Queen Steamboat Company)
American Duchess the third river boat in the American Queen Steamboat Company fleet (166 passengers), is moving its launch date back six weeks and changing its summer 2017 schedule.
Originally, the boat – a gambling vessel that’s being completely gutted and renovated – was going to launch on July 1, 2017. That’s been moved back to August 13.
Several itineraries have been affected. Details can be found a the cruise lines web site.
It is believed that the renovation has simply over-run.