When the downdraft in the economy hit four years ago, consumers had to give serious thought to how they'd spend their discretionary dollars.
Many airlines, hotels and resorts wasted little time in making their own new-economy decisions. Airlines started parking older gas-guzzling jets and tightening their schedules. Resorts and hotels delayed planned building projects.
Cruise lines, meanwhile, kept adding ships. Not because they wanted to but because they had no choice. When you order a cruise ship, it has to be at least a couple of years in advance, so the economy was rosy at the time. When the ships joined their fleets in 2008 and 2009, all cruise companies could do was lower prices.
The major North American lines increased their capacity by not parking any of their older ships. It was a boon for consumers, who were offered the lowest prices since 9-11. It was a tough time for the industry, but the strategy worked and cruise lines continued to grow their base through a tough period.
Now, with today's uncertain economy, they are still ordering new ships, although not at the same pace as before the recession.
In October, Carnival Corp. ordered a new ship for its Holland America brand. The yet-unnamed, 2,600-passenger ship is scheduled to sail in the fall of 2015 and will be the fleet's largest. Simultaneously, the corporation's namesake - Carnival - unveiled plans for another new ship for 2016.
Not to be outdone, Norwegian put its name on the dotted line for a new class of ship under the working title Breakaway Plus - not to be confused with Breakaway, the class that will be launched next spring in New York.
Royal Caribbean, owner of the largest ships in the world (Oasis and Allure), jumped into the mix by announcing negotiations were underway with STX Europe, a shipbuilder based in Finland, for a third Oasis-class ship.
This is welcome news for cruisers because when there is a new class of ship, it means the first will be an entire new-build, featuring the best the architects and engineers can conceive with all the new technology at their disposal.
Next year, that will happen when Princess and Norwegian launch the first ships in new classes - the Royal Princess and the Breakaway, respectively. In 2014, Princess will follow up with a sibling (Regal Princess) and Norwegian will launch Breakaway's twin (Getaway). Also, Royal Caribbean will launch its new class, Project Sunshine (that's a working name), with two new ships in 2014 and 2015.
Then there are the river ships. Next year there will be double-digit new builds. Viking is leading the way with eight more Longships; this follows six built this year, making it a whopping 14 in two years. Scenic Tours, the first river cruise line featuring ships with balconies, will add the Jewel, its seventh ship.
Where in the world are all the new ocean liners going?
Breakaway is set to sail from New York to Bermuda in the summer. Getaway cruises the Caribbean year-round out of Miami. Royal Princess will spend its summer in the Mediterranean.
Most new river ships are staying in Europe. You can book any of them or the Royal Princess, Breakaway and Getaway now.
Next week, I'll be reporting from the deck of Silver-sea's Silver Spirit, sailing in Portugal, Spain and Morocco.
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