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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Forecasting Expedition Cruising’s Future

PHOTO: An aurora borealis view as might be seen via expedition cruise. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

At the start of 2017, we discussed how the expedition cruise boom was next up, with several companies set to build new vessels.

Now comes even more news from Nordic Cruise Company and Bassoe regarding the outlook.

It was previously understood that Nordic Cruise Company—since renamed from Norwegian Cruise Company—was set to build one new expedition ship for launch in 2019, with potentially up to six by 2020. Now that number, according to Cruise Industry News, is set to be four with the first now on track for May 2020. The following three are scheduled to follow behind with one more every ten months.

Particularly interesting is how the report says the ships will be the first expedition vessels powered in part by LNG (liquefied natural gas). The clean-burning fuel source will power them for up to 36 hours before switching over to MGO (marine gas oil). They will even be outfitted with hydrogen fuel cells.

Other specifications call for larger ships than were originally planned. The brand is now preparing for 16,500-ton vessels that can carry more passengers. Onboard features will include an observation lounge and marina, notably excluding any helicopter or submarine.

Those interested in following the design process can follow the company on social media at FacebookTwitter and Instagram. The latest exterior iteration is far edgier and more contemporary than the original proposal, and other sketches even show a possible swooping tender outline.

As for the interior renderings, the aesthetic definitely skews modern Scandinavian with light natural woods and stark surfaces. At the same time, it still looks warm and inviting with lots of plant life and other greenery among the outdoor pool.

The social media channels will definitely be something to keep an eye on as the design evolution leads up to the final product launch.

Meanwhile, other brands are still working on upcoming expedition new-builds such as Ponant, Crystal Cruises, Hurtigruten, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Scenic and Oceanwide Expeditions. A formerly undisclosed company entering the market might now be Bassoe.

Cruise Industry News is also reporting that Bassoe Technology is pursuing expedition cruises from offshore projects. Bassoe and Yantai CIMC Raffles Shipyard have partnered to develop a 240-guest concept design that could be built in China.

Like Nordic’s, the Scandinavian Bassoe design showcases an observation lounge, but this one does include optional toys like a helicopter hanger, landing pad and submarine ops.

With so many new expedition ships on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how existing vessels intend to compete. Until now, the expedition cruise market has been predominated by aging craft, luxuriously converted but older nonetheless.

The future order-book certainly indicates a shift towards brand new hardware that will surely eclipse the old formula.

We’re likely witnessing the emergence of a more differentiated expedition market. As new ships come online, luxury and premium markets will take off, but second-hand vessels might afford less expensive alternatives for travelers seeking entry-level adventure cruises.

Compared to mega cruise ships, they will probably continue to be costlier because the economy of scale is so radically different. Yet, even some degree of a discount is sure to go a long way in selling more expedition sailings.

This post first appeared on TravelPulse.



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