What’s new to cruising

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

More and more of us are taking to the water for our holiday. With this in mind, we asked  travel guide publisher Berlitz to tell us what’s new for 2013 in the world of cruising

What to look for in 2013

More than 22 million people took a cruise in 2012, and new ships on the horizon will offer attractions aimed at expanding
the market despite tough economic conditions

Today, more than 50 ships measuring over 100,000 gross tons are in service, with more on their way. As this book went to press, 19 new ships of various sizes were scheduled for delivery between January 2013 and the end of 2016. Cruise lines need to build new tonnage in order to stay ahead of the competition – or so the shipyards hope.There’s also the consideration that new ships benefit from the latest in fuel-efficient technology and environmentally friendly engines.

But, as a result of the credit crunch, the cost of borrowing to finance newbuilds has increased. So has the cost of insuring them, particularly after the loss of the 114,147-ton, 3,000-passenger Costa Concordia off the coast of Tuscany in January 2012. In addition, there’s the higher price of steel, the higher cost of labor, and the higher fees demanded by banks and private finance groups lending money for construction and shipbuilding guarantees. Fewer new ships, therefore, are on the horizon than in the years of frenetic expansion between 2000 and 2010.

In 2013, the new ships vary in capacity from 264 passengers (Ponant Cruises) to 4,100 (Royal Caribbean International). Notable newcomers include the 516-passenger Europa 2 and the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway. In 2014, seven new ships are scheduled for delivery, including the first newbuild for Germany’s family-friendly TUI Cruises. Given the economics of scale and shipbuilding costs, the new ‘optimum’ size for the large resort ships appears to be about 140,000 tons, with a capacity of around 3,500 passengers. Some of the new ships are clones of a similar series in terms of size, layout, and configuration. With the exception of two AIDA Cruises ships being built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan, all are being built by specialist shipyards in France, Finland, Germany, and Italy. Here’s a preview of what’s around the corner.

Coming in 2013

AIDA Cruises
The 2,192-passenger über-casual AIDAstella will join AIDAblu, AIDAmar, and AIDAsol in having its own micro-brewery. As aboard all the line’s ships, self-serve buffet eateries are the standard, tablecloth-less way of family feeding. The ship’s spa/wellness facilities are, however, excellent, and AIDA Cruises offers an urban, trendy lifestyle for young families with children. The sport bikes will be on board, and – something new – electric bikes for passenger use.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
The 516-passenger Europa 2, due to debut in spring 2013, promises to be a shining example of evolution in the design and functionality of a small ship format, and will offer an exclusive yet upbeat style of cruising. The focus will be on the finest cuisine in the seven dining venues. Wellness facilities are also given priority. What’s more, the new ship aims to be much more family- friendly than the existing award-winning Europa in order to appeal to the increasing number of affluent, well-behaved families vacationing together.

MSC Cruises
The 3,502-passenger MSC Preziosa has a dedicated restaurant for its ‘Yacht Club’ accommodation occupants only. Located within the exclusive Yacht Club area, it is linked to an expansive TopSail Lounge and private sunbathing deck, with direct access to the suitegrade accommodation. After check-in and embarkation, passengers are escorted by their own butler directly to their accommodation. So you can feel a little exclusive even aboard a large resort chip. A shimmering infinity pool and surrounding ‘beach’ area represents the latest in illusio–provoking design.

Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL’s Norwegian Breakaway (arriving in 2013) and Norwegian Getaway (2014) represent the latest design thinking from the company’s creative team. Much effort has gone into the design of cabin layouts, and the separated bathroom facilities of Norwegian Epic have gone. NCL has been pushing the choice of dining venues to the limit – requiring passengers to make decisions about where to eat, for which meal, and on which date. The new ships will cater extensively to families with children. Applying the ‘pay more, get more’ principle, the ships will feature ‘The Haven’ exclusive suite accommodation area – as aboard Norwegian Epic, though more inimitable and trendier.

Princess Cruises
The SeaWalk aboard Princess Cruises’ 3,600-passenger Royal Princess, coming in June 2013 (and aboard a sister ship due in 2014), is a welcome new feature. It will be a cantilevered, half-moon-shaped walkway extending over both sides of the ship. One side will be just a walkway, while the other includes a bar. In both, you look straight down through the glass bottom of the walkway, which extends about 28ft (8.5m) from the side of the ship, to the ocean 128ft (39m) beneath your feet. It’s a splendid feature for this class of ship – the ultimate glass bottom boat? – and will give you a chance to pretend you’re walking on water. The ship itself looks more streamlined than the previous Grand-class ships. All outside-view suites/cabins aboard the new ship will have a balcony – a first for any Princess Cruises ship. The vessel, many will be pleased to learn, does not have the shopping-cart look of the previous Grandclass ships, but rather resembles the more rounded, Vista-class ships favoured by several other cruise lines.

The 2013 Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships is now available in e-book format (£17.99), while the printed edition (704 pages) is published on 1st October (£17.99 www.insightguides.com/berlitz/berlitz-cruising). Also available now is the Berlitz Cruise Ships 2013 App (£6.99) for the iPhone and iPad which allows would-be cruise-goers to quickly search through all 284 ships according to their needs, whether for family travel, cuisine, accommodation, size of ship and many other criteria.

Read part two tomorrow

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