How the pandemic affected newbuild investments
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic abruptly halted the rise in the cruise industry. Cruise companies had strategically positioned themselves for rapid growth by investing heavily in expanding their fleets in size and quantity. When the pandemic emerged, these companies found themselves committed to substantial investments in new, costly vessels that remained idle, a painful and unforeseen challenge.
During the prolonged disruption caused by the pandemic, spanning from Q1 2020 to Q3 2022, cruise companies faced the arduous task of reallocating resources to navigate the crisis. Efforts were concentrated on debt refinancing, company restructuring, consolidation, and shedding older, less profitable vessels. Fleet expansion and upgrades took a backseat. 26 cruise vessels were removed from the fleet during this period, while only six new vessels were commissioned. Additionally, 14 new vessel projects were either postponed or cancelled altogether.
The recovery of the cruise market
The cruise market has since made a remarkable recovery, reclaiming much of the ground lost during the pandemic. As of the close of 2022, over 20 million individuals had enjoyed the cruise experience. Projections for 2023 anticipate this number soaring to 31.5 million passengers, surpassing the historical record of 29.7 million. Even more fascinating is the outlook for 2027, a mere four years from now, with an astounding forecast of 39.5 million passengers—effectively doubling the figures from 2022. (Copyright graph: CLIA-2023.)
Ulstein-designed expedition cruise vessels
In 2017, Ulstein signed its first expedition cruise ship design contracts and has already reached nine design projects, with two for Lindblad Expeditions and an impressive seven for SunStone Ships.
Several Ulstein-designed cruise vessels have been awarded for their green solutions and record-low emissions. Notably, these designs introduced the X-BOW feature to the cruise industry for the very first time.