CruiseBillions are being poured into new builds, with over 40,000 lower berths to join the global cruise fleet, as well as next-gen satellites by SES.

The cruise wave is coming in 2022, and it’s not omicron

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The largest passenger-capacity new build will be Wonder of the Seas with 5,497 lower berths.
The largest passenger-capacity new build will be Wonder of the Seas with 5,497 lower berths. Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean

The pandemic, whether post or otherwise, is not going to stand in the way of the big wave that is coming from the cruise industry. The hiatus in the past two years have only intensified efforts to consolidate and recalibrate with plans to go full steam ahead – to the tune of more than US$10 billion.

According to Seatrade’s orderbook, 2022 will welcome over 20 ocean-going new builds that will add more than 40,000 lower berths to the global cruise fleet. Cruise lines that will be welcoming new ships into their fold include MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Swan Hellenic and The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, among others.

"The level of investment we’re seeing in new ships is a sign of the positive outlook for cruising over the long term. Cruise lines have worked incredibly hard in response to the pandemic and have implemented the most stringent health protocols to be found in any area of tourism, and this is reflected in renewed demand from travellers who are keen to return to sea," says Joel Katz, MD of CLIA.

Joel Katz, Managing Director of CLIA
Joel Katz, Managing Director of CLIA

"Our market research shows that the intention to cruise again among past cruisers has returned to levels similar to before the pandemic. Around 75% of the world’s cruise fleet is already back in operation and we expect this figure to reach 90% by the end of April," adds Katz.

Of these new builds, the industry will see the addition of a super yacht, nine expedition ships, four LNG-powered vessels, and the world’s latest and largest titleholder. Seven prototypes are expected to make their debut: Disney Wish, Emerald Azzurra, Evrima, MSC World Europa, Norwegian Prima, San Ya and Seabourn Venture. The largest passenger-capacity new build will be Wonder of the Seas with 5,497 lower berths.

Redefining connectivity for cruise passengers

The pandemic has had a big impact on digital behaviour and the level of data consumption. Even with recent cruise ship occupancy hovering at between 50% and 70% as cruises resume, bandwidth demand has shot up tremendously, according to Seatrade Cruise News.

It also reported on recent comments by Greg Martin, VP of maritime, SES, who shared that demand per passenger is 25% to 50% higher, while demand per ship can spike as much as 100%.

Travellers expect uninterrupted and fast Wi-Fi connectivity where ever they are, where possible, and onboard cruise ships notwithstanding. The videos they upload on social media platforms to share memorable experiences also take up bandwidth.

Add to that the cruise lines’ apps to detect passenger location, and use of wearable technology to unlock stateroom doors, for instance, are data intensive. Onboarding processes are also different now, and crew wise, operational and training requirements have required a switch to online modes.

These developments have a drastic impact on bandwidth demand and connectivity expectations. SES has recognised this demand and has made significant investments. It is investing billions into SES-17, a high throughput, geostationary satellite launched in October last year to provide connectivity services across North and South America and the Caribbean.

The game-changer will be the O3b mPOWER medium Earth orbit satellites expected to be launched in the late first quarter of 2022. It will provide tens of megabits to multiple gigabits per second in bandwidth, which is much more than what’s available now.

mPower’s cloud-based and software-defined infrastructure enables it to dynamically adjust capacity according to the varying demands of ships.

"With O3b mPower, SES is allowing the cruise industry to transition into an operation that is fully synchronised with the cloud and cost-efficiently moving into gigabit services for cruise ships. O3b mPOWER’s connectivity will enable cruise ships to become the world's first truly smart cities," says an SES spokesperson.

The first-generation of MEO, O3b has been delivering connectivity services to Asia Pacific since 2014.

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