Australis’ new cruise ship, the 4,528gt Ventus Australis (Latin for southern wind) was christened at the turn of the year ahead of her first summer season of voyages to Cape Horn and the glaciers of Tierra del Fuego from 2nd January 2018. The 210-passenger Ventus Australis (above) was named in a ceremony at the Asenav Shipbuilding yard where she was built in the southern Chilean city of Valdivia. The godmother was Sol Lecaros de Nevares, the niece of Australis President, Pedro Lecaros. The ship is the sister of the 4,508gt Stella Australis, launched in 2010, which also offers expedition voyages through the channels and fjords of southern Chile.

Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Flora had her keel laid as Build No. 488 on 13th December at the DeHoop shipyard in Tolkamer, The Netherlands. A 49.2 tonne block was raised into the air and a lucky coin was placed in the dock before the block was lowered into position. With the solid foundation in place, the ship’s construction could then commence. Her somewhat larger fleet mate, the Celebrity Edge, is expected to make her debut in December 2018. The Celebrity Flora will make her maiden voyage on 26th May 2019. The ship will feature an outdoor Ocean Grill, serving fresh local ingredients and seafood, an upper-deck observatory with sumptuous seating and a library, the Vista open-air lounge with cocoon-style chairs, private cabanas and a hot tub, a marina stocked with Zodiacs, and environmentally friendly systems, including anchorless technology that can maintain the ship’s position while also protecting the sensitive sea floor against anchor damage. The 90,940gt/2001 built Celebrity Summit responded to a distress call from a nearby yacht on 16th December whilst sailing in the Southern Caribbean Sea from Antigua to Curaçao. One of the ship’s tenders was launched to transport the six surviving sailors back to the cruise ship after they had spent over a month at sea with their last 6 days adrift endured without food. After receiving first aid and gifts from crew, the survivors disembarked the Celebrity Summit upon arrival in Curaçao.

Diamond Cruise International launched a new Haikou, China-Ha Long Bay, Vietnam cruise programme on 25th December 2017 using the 24,782gt/2001 built Glory Sea (above). Following this cruise, the ship also sailed from Haikou to the Philippines on 21st January.

Holland America Line’s 99,500gt Nieuw Statendam was launched on 6th December at Fincantieri’s Marghera (Venice) shipyard (above). The fitting-out phase then began with the ship due for handover in autumn 2018. Madrina (Godmother) of the ceremony was Anne Marie Bartels, a member of Holland America Line’s elite President’s Club loyalty programme, who first sailed across the Atlantic from Rotterdam to New York as a young woman. During the festivities a dry-dock gate was opened briefly and water touched the Nieuw Statendam’s hull for the first time as is tradition during the coin ceremony. On 21st December the ship was fully floated out and moved to an outfitting quay. The new vessel, the sixteenth ship built by Fincantieri for Holland America Line and the second Pinnacle Class ship (the first being the Koningsdam, delivered in 2016 from the same shipyard), will be almost 300m long with accommodation for up to 2,660 passengers on board in more than 1,300 cabins. The ship will be characterised by a contemporary style which blends perfectly with the traditional Holland America Line elegance. The design of the spaces on board will be created, as for the Koningsdam, by designer Adam D. Tihany and the designer and architect Bjorn Storbraaten, with “the architecture of music” being an inspirational element in many public areas.

NCL has selected the Godfather of the Norwegian Bliss as U.S. radio personality Elvis Duran who has been broadcasting in New York since 1996. He will name the vessel in Seattle in May 2018.

Oceanwide Expedition’s newbuild, the Hondius (Hull No.484), had her keel laid at the Brodosplit Shipyard in Croatia in early December. The new 107m long/17.6m beam polar expedition cruise ship will enter service in early 2019, and is being built to Polar Code 6 specifications. The ship will be equipped with two main engines for a total output of 4,200 kW, have a service speed of 15 knots and capacity for 196 passengers in 86 cabins.

Phoenix Seereisen’s 44,656gt/1984 built Artania (above) completed a three-week, €16 million dry-docking at Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven at the beginning of December prior to embarking upon a six-day advent cruise, before a coastal Europe cruise, and a world cruise from Marseille on 21st December. The refit work included renovation of the spa, various outdoor areas with new deck covering, and stateroom bathrooms with new baths and showers. Among the public rooms that were renovated were Harry’s Bar and the Atlantik Show Lounge. Technical work on the 1984 built ship, formerly sailing as the Artemis and Royal Princess, included the installation of a state-of-the art sewage and ballast water treatment plants, as well as new tender vessels.

Saga Cruises’ 37,049gt/1981 built Saga Sapphire has received the traditional yellow funnel of Saga Cruises following her pre-Christmas refit. Saga had moved away from its traditional yellow scheme in recent years, opting for a light blue funnel design on both of its ships. However, with two newbuilds on the way that will carry the standard colours, Saga has reverted to tradition in readiness for a uniform fleet.

Ponant is to build a new electric hybrid icebreaker to be named Ponant Icebreaker. Delivery is scheduled for 2021 and the ship will be capable of operating on a blend of electric and LNG propulsion. Premium cruise operator Ponant already has four expedition ships on order with two being delivered in 2018 and two in 2019. While not the first hybrid expedition cruise ship on order (that honour was taken by Hurtigruten), the latest newbuild order will be the first hybrid icebreaker that also uses LNG. To be built by the VARD shipyard, the €270 million vessel will be capable of sailing around both the North and South Poles. The ship will be around 30,000gt, 150m long with a 28m beam, a cruising speed of 15 knots and will accommodate 270 passengers in 135 staterooms plus a crew of 180 persons.

Princess Cruises announced on 30th November that its fourth Royal-class ship will be named Sky Princess (artist’s impression above). The ship is scheduled to launch in October 2019 on a series of Mediterranean voyages and will be a sister ship to Royal Princess, Regal Princess and Majestic Princess. The 3,660-passenger vessel will include a number of the signature elements that feature on Royal-class ships such as a three-deck central Piazza-style atrium, multiple dining, entertainment and retail venues, a top-deck outdoor “Movie Under the Stars” theatre, 80% of all staterooms with balconies plus dining venues including the Salty Dog Grill, Alfredo’s Pizzeria, Vines Wine Bar, Chef’s Table Lumiere and World Fresh Marketplace. The Sky Princess will also include various new innovations with details to be revealed shortly. The ship’s maiden voyage is a seven-day Mediterranean and Adriatic cruise from Piraeus to Barcelona on 20th October 2019. The ship will then sail to Fort Lauderdale in November 2019 for a Caribbean season.

Royal Caribbean International will double its Cuba programme in summer 2018 with two ships sailing to the Caribbean island nation, namely the 74,077gt/1992 built Majesty of the Seas (above) and the 48,563gt/1990 built Empress of the Seas. The company has introduced the new ports of Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos on the island’s south-east coast as part of an expanded itinerary of four to eight-night cruises. The Empress will sail from Miami and the Majesty will be sailing from Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

Scylla Cruises’ river cruise vessel Swiss Crystal struck a bridge on Boxing Day on the River Rhine near Duisberg, Germany. Human error was being blamed and there were 129 passengers on board at the time of the incident, with three passengers being hospitalised, while 25 people suffered minor injuries. The 101m vessel hit a bridge pillar carrying the A42 autobahn over the river and water levels were reported to be high at the time of the incident.

Silverseas’ Silver Cloud successfully completed her maiden voyage to Antarctica on 11th December after the initial attempt was aborted in November when she encountered a mechanical failure and returned to Puerto Madryn for repairs. The second attempt was a 10-day Antarctic Peninsula expedition roundtrip itinerary from Ushuaia.

Viking Ocean Cruises and Fincantieri announced on 16th December that, following the agreement signed in April 2017 between the two parties, the contracts for the construction of the 7th and 8th ships had become effective and furthermore the company had exercised the option for the 9th and the 10th newbuilds. The new units will be sister ships of those already ordered, 4 of which have been delivered and currently operate in the company’s fleet.

The ships are 47,800gt and accommodate 930 guests in 465 all-veranda cabins. The first of the series, the Viking Star, was delivered in March 2015. The other 6 sister ships, including those related to the exercised option, will be delivered in 2018, 2019, 2021 and two in 2022 and 2023.

Seaside Ceremony

On the evening of 21st December the 153,516gt/2017 built MSC Seaside was named in a glittering ceremony by international screen legend and Godmother for all MSC Cruises’ ships, Sophia Loren. The MSC Seaside was the second ship to be launched in a six month period by the company with an industry-unprecedented 12 newbuilds scheduled 2017-2026, representing an overall investment of €10.5 billion. World-famous tenor Andrea Bocelli took to the stage during the naming ceremony with 30 children from the Voices of Haiti. Headlining the entertainment for the evening’s Naming Ceremony was singer Ricky Martin and making a guest appearance at the event was Miami football legend and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. The finale of the evening’s events was the time-honoured tradition of breaking a bottle of champagne over the bow of the ship as the MSC Seaside was officially christened. Master of Ceremonies on the night was actor and popular American TV host Mario Lopez. The MSC Seaside will sail year-round from Miami to the Caribbean offering 7-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries that commenced on 23rd December. The MSC Seaside had been handed over at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, on 29th November and made her debut for MSC at Trieste on 1st December, departing that same day on a 21-day trans-Atlantic crossing, arriving in Port Miami on 21st December ahead of the aforementioned ceremony.

Some of her distinctive design features include two unique glass-floored catwalks and a 40m high ‘Bridge of Sighs’ giving guests a view of the ocean like never before; A waterfront boardwalk, the widest on any ship ever built, wraps around the ship, while panoramic lifts connect everything together. The ship also offers flexible modular cabins for groups of up to ten guests, exclusive aft corner suites with stunning sea views, terraced balcony cabins with extended private terraces overlooking the waterfront boardwalk and luxurious suites with their own outdoor whirlpools. Other features include a full-sized bowling alley, XD cinema, the longest zip line at sea and the most interactive aqua park at sea with five water attractions. Dining options include an extensive choice of indoor and outdoor venues with a range of international restaurants such as the Asian Market Kitchen, luxury seafood restaurant Ocean Cay, an American-style steakhouse called the Butcher’s Cut and a new French bistro, La Bohème.

At the MSC Seaside’s delivery ceremony, MSC Cruises and Fincantieri also signed firm orders for the construction of two Seaside EVO ships, a further evolution of the Seaside Class prototype, for a total investment of €1.8 billion. Following the new EVO agreement, the initial slot reservation agreement to build a third Seaside Class ship to be delivered in 2021 has been replaced to instead build the first of the two Seaside EVO ships. The second ship is set to come into service in 2023. The EVO ships will be 330m long with a 41m beam and have a gross tonnage of 169,380gt. In addition to offering even more space, Seaside EVO ships will have greater dimensions, more cabins, an even larger Yacht Club, an additional deck, larger cabins and will be hosting up to 5,646 passengers. The Seaside EVO ships will be equipped with the latest advanced environmental technology and will be ultra-hydrodynamic with optimised hull lines, propellers and rudders and the latest anti-fouling paint further reducing wave resistance, thus enhancing fuel-efficiency. The MSC Seaside’s sister, the MSC Seaview, will be delivered just 6 months after her older sister with the naming ceremony scheduled for Civitavecchia, on 2nd June. MSC Cruises also announced on 4th December that it is sending the 171,598gt/2017 built MSC Meraviglia to New York for autumn 2019. The 4,475-passenger MSC Meraviglia make her U.S. debut on 7th October 2019, operating three sailings from the city before repositioning to Miami for the winter 2019-2020 season.

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