Royal Caribbean’s announcement that Voyager of the Seas will be moving it to Asia next year, instead of to the Med has been widely reported in the Cruise Press, as the vessel is by far the largest vessel to be committed to the Asian/Oceanic region.
The vessel will be joining the smaller Legend of the Seas which is running its 4th season there, this will take Royal Caribbean’s European fleet down to 11 Ships. It makes Royal Caribbean a true international player, which has huge ships in every market.
When built, in 1999, 12 years ago, this huge vessel, which is one of the largest cruise ships in the world, was revolutionary and a belief that it could operate outside the Caribbean was laughable. 12 Years on its larger Independence of the Seas sister has successfully operated out of Southampton and round the Med. Now Royal Caribbean is taking this innovative ship to China and Australia, the vessel was the first in Royal Caribbean’s fleet with the Royal Promenade. This ‘Street on a ship’ feature has now become a staple on the cruise line and an important part of its brand.
This does however call into question the possibility of over capacity in Europe as trouble in the Middle East and North Africa, a struggling European Economy and increasing fuel prices have scared Europeans and Americans away from booking. Cruise Lines appear to be showing very discounted prices for last-minute cruises.
I don’t believe the market is saturated, but I do believe it may be struggling to accommodate the increase in new vessels, as record amounts of cruise ships have headed to the Med in search of better margins. I think this is due to factors outside cruise lines control, political instability and high air fares due to rising fuel prices. But this has been accommodated for by the slow down in cruise ship orders of the last two years.
But is China the solution? Genting Hong Kong, also known as Star Cruises has tried before to launch a cruise fleet in the region and in effect they operate a gambling ships, a floating Las Vegas, and as Cruise Lines have rushed to Australia has Australians rushed back, The recent growth in P&O Cruises Australia, Princess and Carnival in the region with the addition of Voyager of the Seas, do cruise lines not risk depressing margins too much.
Another question now proves of interest, If Oasis of the Seas was originally said to be designed for the Caribbean in 12 years time will be see this ship touring the worlds markets? I’m not too sure these ships offer the flexibility of the Freedom and Voyager class, as the outside areas need good weather, and mediterranean cruises also are very destination intensive, with the ports having a strong history.
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