Luxury Cruise Report: Update & Trends

[Updated and archived on October 9, 2009] Across the luxury cruise segment, suppliers are ordering new ships, marshaling additional capacity for world cruises and gearing up their ships in ways that appeal to those who previously never had the time for extended luxury cruises.

A sampling of what’s coming:

  • The world cruise market appears to have never been stronger for luxury cruise lines. As one indicator of the bullishness surrounding the world cruise market, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will offer not one, but two world cruises in 2009. That’s a first for any luxury cruise operator.
  • Part of the strength of the world cruise market is being attributed to technology’s “liberating” effect. Blackberry devices, text messaging, and faster connectivity on ships allow people to take their work with them, or at least manage their work while at sea for an extended time.
  • There’s a lot of new luxury capacity on order. Seabourn Cruise Line has taken the most aggressive position, with three new ships on order. Silversea Cruises acquired a luxury expedition vessel that it will launch in the spring, and also has a new ship on order. Crystal Cruises is talking about a new ship, and with its new deep-pocketed owners (the private equity group Apollo Management), Regent has a new ship in its sights, though there is no firm order yet.
  • The industry gets its first “ultra-luxury” river cruise line. Or at least that’s what Silversea’s former CEO promises to bring to European rivers this spring. Albert Peter says his new cruise line, Jewel River Cruises, will be the first river cruise line to feature all-suite accommodations and multiple dining venues. His competitors may beg to differ, but Jewel is the first cruise line to position itself as ultra-luxury. [editor’s note: in October 2009, Jewel postponed its launch of its brand.]

Here’s a look at what’s new for luxury lines for the remainder of the year — and beyond.

  • Crystal Cruises — In 2009, Crystal’s two large ships will once again touch all seven continents, sailing to 185 ports in 57 countries on 57 voyages. Several new itineraries are on tap: in South America, Europe and the Middle East. Crystal’s 2009 program focuses on port intensive itineraries with overnight port stays on most cruises.In South America, Crystal will return to cruising the Amazon, after skipping the region in 2007 and 2008. In Europe, Crystal will make maiden calls at Kotor, Montenegro; Lipari, Italy; Patmos, Greece; Sinop, Turkey; Alesund, Norway and Kiel, Germany. There’s also a new British Isles cruise featuring the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, and a North Cape cruise to Spitzbergen and the Polar Ice Cap. In the Middle East, the line will offer a new fall cruise to Israel and Egypt.Crystal’s 2009 world cruise will take the form a 106-day Pacific Circle Celebration round-trip from Los Angeles, including the inaugural ports of Rangiroa, French Polynesia; Komodo, Indonesia; Napier, New Zealand; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; and Petropavlosk, Russia. Also featured is the 150th birthday of the Port of Yokohama and a return to Alaska.
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises — Luxury really does go exploring in 2009 for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, as the large-ship luxury operator deploys not one, but two ships on world cruises. On January 12, Seven Seas Voyager departs Los Angeles on a seven-segment 116-night world cruise to the South Pacific, Orient, Arabia, the Mediterranean and Bermuda. Two weeks later, Seven Seas Mariner departs for a 121-night sojourn to South America, French Polynesia, Australia, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Russia and Alaska. The two distinct itineraries span six continents and feature 23 overnight calls (combined).New Circles of Interest programs have been launched for 2008 sailings, with enrichment programs that range from culinary to photography, allowing guests to experience ports and explore new regions of the world through the lens of a particular interest. In May and June 2008, health/fitness expert Oz Garcia and life-extension guru Deepak Chopra will be aboard separate sailings to host enrichment programs.Regent is also touting its pre- and post-cruise land programs as well as its shore excursions on sailings worldwide. From soaring over Chile’s Orsono Volcano by canopy to sharing a hug with a giant panda in China, these new land programs offer unique and memorable ways for you to enhance your cruise experiences.
  • Seabourn Cruise Line — The first of Seabourn’s three new 450-passenger ships, Seabourn Odyssey, will enter service in June of 2009. Meantime, the three existing Seabourn sisters are being spruced up with multi-million-dollar make-overs that will be completed in April.From now through April 2009, the line’s three 208-guest, all-suite vessels will visit more than 200 ports in 55 countries on 127 voyages of five to 18 days or longer. Regions include the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Scandinavia & Russia, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

    Seabourn Legend spends the summer cruising the picturesque harbors of Spain, the French Riviera, and Italy, including Trapani, Sicily, a new port for 2008. Seabourn Pride will venture from Cape Horn to the North Cape. Spring cruises of the Mediterranean include new calls at Genoa, Italy, and Koper, Slovenia. Along with popular cruises in Scandinavia, Russia and Norway’s fjordlands, the ship will operate several new Western European itineraries calling on ports in France, the British Isles, Belgium and the Netherlands. Seabourn Spirit explores Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and makes two eight-day voyages to China, including Xiamen, Zhangjiagang (for Wuxi), Nanjing and Shanghai. India, Oman, Dubai, Egypt and the Red Sea are seasonal highlights. Spring, summer and early autumn are spent exploring Greece, Turkey, Italy and the Black Sea. Several new 2008 itineraries concentrate on the Adriatic’s beautiful Dalmatian coast, including Split, Dubrovnik, Hvar and Rovinj, Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro.

  • SeaDream Yacht Club — In 2006, readers of Conde Nast Traveler ranked SeaDream Yacht Club as one of the top 100 travel experiences worldwide. In fact, SeaDream was the only cruise company to be included in the listing. The other 99 winners were all hotels and resorts. Additionally, readers voted SeaDream ‘World’s Best Small Passenger Shipping Line,’ and the company achieved the highest overall rating of any cruise company — large or small. The 2008 schedules splits the sailing seasons with 176 days in Europe, 168 days in the Caribbean and 22-days in transatlantic voyages back and forth. In Europe from May through October SeaDream I and II will sail in the Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea up into Croatia and even down to Tunisia.
  • Silversea Cruises — Silversea’s four, all-suite ships will visit more than 320 different ports in 108 countries on a diverse schedule of over 140 itineraries ranging from seven to 92 days. The 2009 schedule includes several new ports with an array of specially crafted itineraries focused on exploring popular marquee destinations as well as some of the world’s most exotic regions.Of special note is the company’s first-ever Grand Pacific Voyage, a 92-day extended odyssey that explores destinations around the Pacific Ocean. Following a route from Los Angeles to Papeete, Sydney and the Far East, with final stops in Alaska and Vancouver, Silver Shadow will visit 45 ports, 15 countries and two hemispheres on this epic journey.Other highlights include return visits to Alaska plus 10 new destinations: Szczecin, Poland; Malmo, Sweden; Skagen, Denmark; Gozo Island, Malta; Symi, Greece; Koper, Slovenia; Olhahali Island, Maldives; Nemuro, Japan; Visakhapatnam and New Mangalore, India.
  • This spring, Silversea launches a new expedition ship (pictured) to tap “that segment of the luxury travel market that is adventure driven,” says Manfredi Lefebvre, Silversea’s chairman. Currently undergoing a multi-million-dollar refurbishment, the new ship, named Silver Dawn, opens the door to Antarctic Explorations.After the ship’s retrofit, the ice-class vessel will accommodate 132 guests in 66 ocean-view suites, many featuring private verandas. Silver Dawn will offer the highest space ratio in its class. With staterooms and suites ranging from 215 to over 600 square feet, it will provide the largest average size in accommodations (300-plus square feet) of any expedition shipWith a new-build also on order, Silversea’s fleet will increase to six ships in 2009.
  • Windstar Cruises — Windstar entered 2008 with all of its “Degrees of Difference” Enhancements completed to all three sailing vessels. The multi-million-dollar investment brought significant upgrades across the Windstar fleet.At press time, Windstar’s 2009 planning was still being finalized, but company executives tell us to look for more “heavy” Croatia sailings, which are proving to be popular in 2008 on both Wind Surf and Wind Star.A few roundtrip Rome sailings, with emphasis on Italy, are also in the works for 2009. Windstar also hopes to revive its Signature Collection, which was popular in the late 1990s and early this decade, with guest hosts and theme cruises focused on wine, culinary, sports and more.

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