March saw the arrival of the newest large cruise ship, P&O’s 143,730gt Britannia. She is the first of seven new cruise ships due to enter service in 2015, three of which would be classed as very large. Apart from the Britannia, Royal Caribbean’s 167,000gt Anthem of the Seas comes into service in April and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape at 164,600gt arrives in October. This represents a total of 753,000 gross tons of shipping capable of carrying just under 19,000 passengers.

The 2016 order book is even more impressive with eleven cruise ships in total due to enter service, seven of them over 95,000 gross tons in volume. That year’s list is topped by Royal Caribbean’s 227,625gt Harmony of the Seas which can carry 5,400 passengers. The total gross tonnage on order for 2016 is 1.2 million with berths for 28,500 passengers. So the next two years’ newbuilds in the cruise sector will accommodate an extra 47,500 passengers. Where are these passengers going to come from? There are no large cruise ships due for disposal during this period so there will be no natural loss of capacity which means that the cruise industry is going to have to attract an extra 47,500 customers from scratch.

The trend continues in 2017 and 2018. In 2017 there are seven ships on order with a total volume of over 900,000 gross tons and berths for over 23,000 passengers, and in 2018 there are a further eight vessels on order with a combined gross tonnage of over one million and passenger capacity of over 26,000.

So in the next four years there will be thirty-three new cruise ships with a total capacity of 96,500 passengers. It is difficult to see how these berths will be filled.

Certainly, parts of the world, notably Australia are seeing an increase in business but the American and the European market definitely isn’t. Some parts of Europe including Spain and Portugal have seen a large drop in demand, and whereas other areas such as the United Kingdom and Germany have experienced steady trade it is difficult to see how they will fill the extra capacity that will be available.

Most of the big ships are on order from the main companies, ie The Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean, MSC and Norwegian Cruise Line.

However, it is refereshing to see some smaller operators expanding such as Ponant, Regent and newcomers Viking. These three are responsibe for six of the thity-three vessels on order.

Perhaps they stand a better chance of filling their ships than those of the larger conglomerates who had better get their marketing departments working overtime.

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