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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

How Upscale and Luxury Cruise Lines Stack Up Amid an Expanding Market

As the luxury cruise market rapidly expands, the line between upscale and higher brands begins to blur, and not all companies come out on top. Traditionally, lines like Azamara Club Cruises and Oceania Cruises defined the upscale segment while the luxury segment was occupied by those such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea Cruises. Now Viking Ocean Cruises is, in many ways, crafting a new category, and other developments shift weights elsewhere.

Azamara Club Cruises

To compete, Azamara recently completed the dramatic redesign of its two-ship fleet — Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest — in what was anticipated to lead to a new-build announcement, but Cruise Critic is reporting that the line’s president, Larry Pimentel, said that’s now unlikely to happen. He’s quoted as saying, “I believe the timing for new capacity (from Azamara) is wrong. I think there is too much coming (from luxury lines).”

He added, “…within the next three years, I believe there will be cruise lines who will (be sold) or will merge, simply because they have to.” His line continues to be profitable, but its most direct competitors, Oceania and Viking, are expanding while Azamara’s ship numbers remain stagnant. Nonetheless, Pimentel is optimistic about future opportunities like the potential for sailings to Cuba.

Crystal Cruises

The most ambitious company on this list is easily Crystal, with its intent to launch new cruise ships, riverboats, a megayacht, aircraft and even a classic ocean liner. Provided it doesn’t stretch its signature high level of service too thin, the company is poised to become the clear leader in the luxury market. First up is the launch of the new Crystal River Cruises this July with the remodeled Crystal Mozart in Europe.

But it hardly stops there as six new riverboats, three cruise ships and one megayacht are planned, plus private planes, and if feasibility study results are favorable, the company will even relaunch the historic SS United States.

Cunard Line

Also following the refurbishment model is Cunard with the extensive redesign planned for its flagship Queen Mary 2. While no new ships are expected from the line, the QM2 will emerge with many major enhancements to its accommodations and dining venues. For instance, all suites and a bulk of staterooms will be refreshed, and the Winter Garden will be converted to the Carinthia Lounge as a new cafe setting. Particularly welcome will be the addition of 15 single cabins to accommodate a g

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