In cabin choices, the new ships brought more private balconies and accommodations linked to expanded spas. More extensive outdoor relaxing, eating and activity areas brought the sea more in focus. Entertainment was broadened and updated. And adults got more attention with adults-only lounging areas and additional nighttime activities, even on Disney’s 4,000-passenger Fantasy.
Signaling the start of the new era next year is Norwegian Breakaway, under construction in Germany and set to debut in its home port of New York in May; followed by Royal Princess, under construction in Italy and set to debut on Mediterranean itineraries in June.
Shaping the design of these new ships are rising fuel costs, a continued focus on onboard revenue and, in the case of Norwegian, a desire to have the ships reflect their home port.
The 4,000-passenger Breakaway will be all about New York, says Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan. The ship will have a seafood restaurant and raw bar created by Geoffrey Zakarian, Food Network star and New York restaurateur; a production of the popular Broadway show Rock of Ages; and New York-themed hull art by Peter Max.
“It’s almost like we’re capturing the island of Manhattan. If we do this right, when people say they are going to cruise from New York, they will say they are taking the Norwegian Breakaway,” Sheehan says. No word yet on how sister ship Getaway will reflect Miami.
Royal Princess will be “peppered with changes based on lessons learned,” says Rai Caluori, executive vice president of fleet operations for Princess Cruises.
“We did not want to build a maverick ship compared to the rest of the fleet,” he says. “My view is our competitors tend to want to outdo themselves with every new build. This is not a criticism. We don’t feel that imperative.”
While Royal Caribbean is keeping “Project Sunshine” details under wraps, Adam Goldstein, president and CEO, hinted of innovations to come.
“Obviously Sunshine gives us a new opportunity,” he said. “It’s in our DNA to do pathbreaking ship features.”
THE FUEL FACTOR
What keeps cruise executives up at night are fuel costs, and rising costs have certainly affected the design of the new ships.
“I think the perspective now when you start a new-build process is very different. Whereas the priority would have been on public room design, one of the priority areas now is the fuel efficiency of the ship. That’s certainly the case with Royal Princess,” says Caluori. “The top of the list is fuel efficiency.”
As a result, he says, Royal Princess has a new hull design and improved hydrodynamics, state-of-the-art propellers, the ability to operate on one engine in port, distributed air conditioning with more local zone control, and keycard activation of cabin lights, among other energy savers.
“It’s reached a crazy level, so you have to have a very keen focus on fuel efficiency,” adds Sheehan of Norwegian’s focus. “We’re all thinking about it, obviously, looking at alternatives. That’s being evaluated.”
THE NEW ATRIUM
While atriums on cruise ships once seemed to serve mostly as a big “wow!” for passengers when they stepped onboard, they are being redesigned as lively, entertaining and revenue-generating areas.