The luxury tier of ocean and river cruising continues to expand – rather like our waistlines if we aren’t careful, once they get us on board (mentioned in previous blogs I know, but for those who haven’t spotted same, the average weight gain if you aren’t careful, is a pound a day )! 😉
Top end luxury cruising really didn’t used to consist of that many ships, it basically used to be made up of the Seabourn triplets (who are now on the Windstar fleet), the Silversea growing fleet and the Sea Goddess twins (who transited from Sea Goddess Cruises to Cunard, then to Seabourn and now make up the SeaDream Yacht Club fleet of two). Then Radisson came onto the scene with Navigator (Regent Seven Seas Cruises as they are now known) – the new kids on the block. It really was only a couple of decades ago, that that was about it.
As the cruise industry has expanded at the rapid rate it has, so the fleets at the top of the industry have increased to accommodate the growing demand of the more discerning cruiser with deep pockets.
Silver Cloud – the first of the all inclusive Silversea fleet was built/entered service back in 1994, she was swiftly followed by Silver Wind (95), Silver Shadow/Whisper (00/01 respectively), Silver Spirit (09) and their now well established re-fursibhsed soft-expedition fleet comprising Silver Explorer (2012), Silver Galapagos & Silver Discoverer (both refurb-ed and joining their fleet in 2014). Silver Cloud is going to be the latest addition to the soft-expedition/adventure fleet within the Silversea brand (commences mid November 2017). Silver Muse will be the the newest lady to join their fleet and she’ll be undertaking her first voyage in May 2017. FLEET SIZE 9.
Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend were all built in the late 80’s/early 90’s and under their new ownership with Windstar Cruises now have all undergone further major refits/rebranding. Prior to their move, they were joined by three larger sisters, being Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest (2009/2010 & 2011 respectively). These three will be joined soon by the latest ship for Seabourn, the Seabourn Encore (entering service December 2016). FLEET SIZE 4.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises currently boast a fleet of three ships, Seven Seas Navigator (entered service in the late 80’s), Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner (set sail in 2001/2002). Their new flagship will be Seven Seas Explorer who set off with her first paying guests in May this year. FLEET SIZE 4.
Add to the luxury tier, Crystal Cruises. They became more of a contender for this area of the market when they decided to go all inclusive per the other previous three cruise lines mentioned. Originally a fleet of three, Crystal Harmony (2000 to 2006), Crystal Symphony (1995) and Crystal Serenity (2003), the latter two ships have now been joined by Crystal Esprit (a mega yacht experience – with a further something similar in planning stages), a soon to arrive multi vessel river cruise fleet along with further ocean going ships (to include actual residences you can purchase on board), and lastly their very own fleet of air craft which will be undertaking bespoke worldwide land holiday itineraries. FLEET SIZE 3 but probably showing the most rapid growth.
SeaDream Yacht Club – also all inclusive – have remained small and perfectly formed, albeit with pretty old tonnage. To be knowledge there are no plans to increase the fleet from their two ships, SeaDream 1 and SeaDream 2 (entered service in 1984/1985 respectively under the Sea Goddess Cruises banner).
It’s not possible or right, to wax lyrical about the luxury cruise tier without mentioning a rather ‘rank outsider’ from the British cruisers’ point of view. Arguably THE best ships in the world, according to Berlitz and many other authoritative bodies, are actually Europa (1999) and Europa 2 (2013) and sail under the Hapag Lloyd flag. Europa 2 is a dual nationality ship and keen to increase her British guest appeal. I’ve sailed on her – she is OUTSTANDING and the single most incredible cruise experience I’ve ever had.
Viking Ocean Cruises should really be in with a shout here as well. Most people reading this article will be more familiar with their enormous presence in the river cruise market. However, they have a stunning all inclusive fleet comprising Viking Star who entered service in 2015. Viking Sea and Viking Sky set sail this year. FLEET SIZE 3.
Viking’s river cruise fleet currently stands at a mahoosive 65 river cruise vessels (37 of which are the more recent additions of the ‘longship’ variety). Forgive me for not having the time to provide the range of dates that this huge fleet entered service.
Whilst on the subject of river cruises, which is arguably one of the largest growth areas of the cruise industry I should mention a couple of the other companies who are worthy of being included in this article.
Scenic River Cruises are a relatively new fleet sold as all inclusive and really are at the top of their game in this area of the market, offering up a five star luxury river cruise experience. On a lesser scale than Viking (for the moment but who’s to say), they are moving into the Ocean Cruise market with their new ship Scenic Eclipse. She’ll be a six star mega-yacht experience and she’ll be commencing service at the end of August 2018. FLEET SIZE 16 (17 with Eclipse).
For reference and information purposes, other ocean/river cruise lines that are sitting slightly lower down in the Premium tier of the market are:-
OCEAN / RIVER CRUISING
- Oceania Cruises
- Azamara Club Cruises
- Emerald Waterways
- Paul Gauguin (permanently resident in South Pacific)
- Cunard (Grill classes)
- Celebrity Cruises
When it comes to picking my brains I am delighted to advise that over the course of the last few decades that I’ve been in this industry I have been fortunate enough to sail with all of the cruise lines mentioned in this article with the exception of Scenic, Viking, Azamara, Emerald and Paul Gauguin. That’s a lot of sea days and wonderful ships that I’ve been able to experience and am therefore able to provide you with first hand knowledge of.
My apologies if I’ve missed anyone out I should have mentioned or for any incorrect data. I’ve put my information together as accurately as possible.