There are signs of movement at last in the building of new cruise ships. Orders had dried up after the global economy fell off a cliff and shipyards in Italy and Finland have been looking around hungrily for new work to avoid having to lay off their workers.
Carnival boss Micky Arison, almost as keen to keep pace with rivals Royal Caribbean as he is to strike a hard bargain, has been the first to blink, announcing a new £475 million ship to be built at Fincantieri’s Monfalcone yard in Italy.
The 130,000-ton vessel, carrying 3,690 passengers, will be a sister ship to Carnival Dream, launched last month in New York, and is expected to enter service in spring 2012. A feature of the design is a vast promenade deck – which Carnival call the Lanai – running all the way round the ship, complete with ample sunbeds and four large whirlpool baths cantilevered over the side.
One of the factors delaying new orders has been the weakness of the dollar against the euro, so it is significant that Fincantieri have agreed to be paid in dollars – a sign that the company was desperate to seal a deal.
From news of a new ship, to one which was retired just over a year ago.
Since arriving in Dubai last December, there has been little sign of the promised work to convert the QE2, the most famous liner in the world, into a luxury hotel. The fact that the project had not been started, and the reports that the ship was to be moved to Cape Town to provide accommodation for visitors to the World Cup next year, were perhaps early signs of the financial crisis now engulfing the Gulf state.
Dubai’s creditors may now force the sale of QE2 to try to recoup some of the billions they are owed. But enthusiats hoping to see the old girl back in the UK should not hold their breath. It’s unlikely that Southampton, her former home port, nor the Clyde, where she was built, could raise the funds to provide her with a new home.
Another apparent favourite made the news this week, although I for one was unaware of the affection which P&O’s Artemis has apparently generated among the British cruise-going public since joining the fleet in 2005.
The ship’s farewell cruise, to the Mediterranean in April 2011, sold out within just 17 minutes. I’m not entirely sure what the attraction is, because true fans will be able to carry on sailing on the ship when it transfers to its new German owners, although the beer and the tea – not to mention the menus and the entertainment – might be different then.
P&O boss Carol Marlow said: “I hope to join our passengers on board for what will be a very special cruise, giving them and the crew the chance to bid farewell to a dear friend.”