Timing. It’s never been one of my strong points. So trust me to be laid up in dry dock just when there have been some significant – and long-awaited – announcements in the world of cruising.
First off, Cunard is to build a fourth ship to join the three Queens: Mary 2, Victoria, and Elizabeth. It’s going to be five years before the vessel is completed – at one of the Fincantieri yards in Italy – and its arrival in 2022 will be 12 years after the launch of Elizabeth.
The new 113,000 gross-tonne vessel will become the 249th ship to fly the Cunard flag and its entry into service will mark the first time since 1998 that the line has had four ships in service together.
The company has recently spent £94 million on a significant “remastering” of Queen Mary 2, including the construction of additional balcony cabins, and a further £30 million on a comprehensive refurbishment of Queen Victoria.
The announcement comes as the company marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of QE2. Senior vice-president Simon Palethorpe says: “What better way to celebrate [QE2’s] important role in Cunard’s past than by announcing our commitment to Cunard’s future with the commissioning of a new ship.”
It’s a move that many, including myself, have been waiting patiently for, and one that I discussed at length with Micky Arison, chairman of parent company Carnival Corporation, only a few months ago.
At the time, on board Majestic Princess, he accepted that Cunard was the only Carnival brand without a newbuild on order, but he hinted that one might soon be on the way. He made it clear, however, that any addition to the fleet would not be another liner. The profitable transatlantic service remains a one-off, and would not justify the expense of building another QM2.
NEXT, Azamara. The boutique niche of giant Royal Caribbean is to grow by 50 per cent, with the addition of a third ship. Azamara Pursuit will join Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey in August next year.
The 700-passenger vessel is currently sailing as P&O’s Adonia, but will be handed over in March to undertake a significant refit.
The three ships are almost identical. Together with four ships now operated by Oceania – Insignia, Nautica, Regatta, and Sirena – plus one other, Pacific Princess, they were all built for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises between 1998 and 2001.
Pursuit has sailed in more guises than most, and has seen service as Minerva II, Royal Princess, and with Carnival’s “impact tourism” brand, Fathom.
It’s taken several years for Azamara president Larry Pimentel to persuade the Royal Caribbean board to add to his fleet but the persistence has finally paid off. Now his management team has a few short weeks to put together a season of Azamazing itineraries ready to go on sale.