New ships to bring more options for cruisers

More new cruise ships — with innovative dining, expanded entertainment and high-tech gadgetry — will hit the water in coming years, a sign that the shipbuilding industry is rebounding.

Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Princess Cruises, all with operations in South Florida, have ordered ships for delivery over the next five years.

“This has been a very positive year for new ship orders,” said Teijo Niemela, publisher and managing editor of industry publication Cruise Business Review, with offices in New Jersey and Finland. “The appetite is for big ships, with few exceptions,” he said.

Among them:

  • Miami-based Norwegian announced plans in July to build two more ships in its new "Breakaway-Plus" class of vessel at German shipyard Meyer Werft for a total cost of about $2.17 billion. The new ships are set delivery in spring 2018 and fall 2019 and will be among Norwegian's largest vessels. The 4,200-passenger cruise ships add to two others already on order.

  • Princess — a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp. & PLC — said it's planning a new 3,560-passenger ship with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. The approximately $803 million ship will be its third Royal Princess-class vessel and is set for delivery in 2017.
  • Royal Caribbean's parent company announced in May that it intends to build a fourth of its successfully popular Oasis-class ships, and the new 5,400-passenger ship will join its fleet in 2018.
  • Thirty-one new oceangoing ships are on order with European and Japanese shipyards for delivery 2014 through 2019, Cruise Business Review research shows.
  • And as of March, North American members of the Cruise Lines International Association accounted for 28 of the new ships under contract for 2014 to 2018, according to data compiled by the trade group.

Cruise industry specialists like Niemela say the recent orders are signs of a reinvigorated shipbuilding industry, which took a hit in the recession. Now shipyards are “hungry” for new orders, and that presents an opportunity for cruise lines, he said.

Still, the ordering pace remains below the pre-2008 boom years, when cruise lines seemed even more eager to add bigger and pricier ships to trump their competitors.

“Cruise companies order new ships based on needs, proper financing terms and the ability to fill their ships with strong pricing yields,” said Stewart Chiron, CEO of Miami-based CruiseGuy.com. “Recent cruise ship orders (also) signal favorable financing terms for the cruise lines.”