As Cunard prepare for the keel-laying ceremony for their new liner, Queen Elizabeth, in Italy tomorrow shipyard boss Paolo Capobianco is warning that a drought of orders for new cruise ships after 2012 is causing concern in the industry.
Cruise lines have been ordering new vessels at record rates over the past few years, and according to the Passenger Shipping Association, 39 are scheduled for delivery in the next three years.
But the global economic situation has already caused giants such as Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Lines to pause and take stock.
NCL, for example, had intended to build two new F3-class ships, but cut back to just one, the 153,000-ton Norwegian Epic – due to be floated out of a French shipyard within a couple of weeks.
Only Italian line Costa Cruises seem to be building new ships at any pace, with four new vessels on order partly thanks to a £500 million loan from the European Investment Bank, which has taken account of the £90 million a year the company generates in tourist revenue in the Mediterranean and the Baltic.
Travel Weekly, whose reporter spoke to Fincantieri director Capobianco at last week’s float-out ceremony for P&O’s Azura, reports that he said if no new orders are placed in the “short to medium term” he could not guarantee “full workloads for all the sectors in the production line.”
The parlous state of some cruise company finances was also highlighted this week by the news that Royal Caribbean, who have two £730 million ships – Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas – under construction in Finland, have had to pay almost 12 per cent interest on a bond issue to raise £210 million.
At tomorrow’s ceremony for Queen Elizabeth, the first 364-ton section of the ship’s hull will be lowered into dry-dock. A total of 53 sections will be used in the construction before the ship is floated out in just six months’ time.
The liner, which will be the second-largest of Cunard’s three ships, is due to sail her sold-out maiden voyage in October 2010, and will set out on a 103-night round-the-world cruise in January 2011.