by Kevin Griffin writing for cybercruises.com
Twenty-five years ago, in 1988, the main cruise lines were Carnival, Cunard, Holland America, Norwegian America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Royal Viking Line.
Royal Viking Sun
Of these seven, only two, Norwegian America and Royal Viking Line, have fallen away, consolidated into Cunard. But half a dozen new lines have arisen.
In 1988, Seabourn had introduced its first ship, the 212-berth Seabourn Pride, and four more lines follow over the years with Crystal Cruises, Regent and Silversea, all ultra-luxury, and more recently Oceania and Azamara in the ultra-premium sector. The former Chandris Cruises, meanwhile, evolved into Celebrity Cruises, which was taken over by Royal Caribbean in 1997.
Of the lines we have chosen, it might be surprising to some that in 1988 the fleet numbered only 39 ships with 37,157 berths (42 and 40,566 berths if we include Cunard), especially as in 2013 the top eight ultra-luxury and ultra-premium lines together operate 25 ships with 21,480 berths. In this context, to-day’s ultra-luxury and ultra-premium fleet is more than half the size of the entire main line and luxury fleet of twenty-five years ago.
The biggest difference, however, is in the size of the ships. Although the 1988 average was below 1,000 berths per ship this was the beginning of a period of growth, not only in number of berths (Princess Cruises’ 62,500-ton Star Princess, which seemed big then, had only 1,470 berths), but ships started to grow in tonnage as well.
Ultra-Luxury & Ultra-Premium Fleet comparison table: 1988 – 2013
The average ship size for the main-market lines grew from about 950 berths to 2,335 berths, or almost two-and-a-half times per ship. And the size of ultra-luxury and ultra-premium ships has risen from 212 in Seabourn Pride to about 670 to-day if we do not include Cunard, or more than three times the size.
And the main market lines have also been taking advantage of economies of scale. Although Norwegian Cruise Line had introduced the 70,202-ton 1,850-berth Norway in 1980, it was 1988 before Royal Caribbean introduced the 73,192-ton 2,292-berth Sovereign of the Seas. But another eight years saw the introduction of the 101,353-ton 2,642-berth Carnival Destiny. The result has been that traditional lines’ fleets and berth capacities have grow exponentially:
Main Line & Luxury Cruise Fleet comparison table: 1988 – 2013
Other lines such as Costa Cruises and Chandris Cruises, with six ships each, the 10-ship Epirotiki Lines and a single-ship (at the time) P&O Cruises have not been included in this analysis, but obviously Costa and P&O have both benefitted in terms of fleet expansion from being taken over by Carnival Corp, now Carnival Corp & plc.
All in all, despite wars, terrorism, disease and economic dislocations, the industry as a whole is surviving and seems to be surviving well if we can judge by cruise line stocks as well as fleet size .