The cruise industry, beleaguered by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, will face a dilemma in 2021 as several dozen cruise ships ordered during the boom years of 2017 and 2018 are readied for delivery.
A record several dozen cruise ships will be delivered in 2021 as a result of shipyard delays and deferred handovers during the coronavirus pandemic, even as cruise lines actively sell off older tonnage to reduce capacity.
While 2020 will be remembered as a year of unprecedented disruption for the cruise industry, forcing the global suspension of cruises for much of the year, it still saw the delivery of several high profile and eagerly anticipated cruise ships.
Many of the cruise ships delivered this year were explorer class cruise vessels, reflecting the ongoing growth of this niche sector, but some of the highest profile were from the big ship lines, cruise ships ordered several years ago when the industry was expected to continue to grow indefinitely.
A total of 30 cruise ships are due for delivery in 2021, according to Cruise Industry’s cruise ship order book, while many of them are smaller mid-size luxury vessels or smaller expedition cruise ships, eight are more than 100,000-gross tons.
These include Odyssey of the Seas for Royal Caribbean, Rotterdam for Holland America Line, Valiant Lady for Virgin Voyages, MSC Virtuosa and Seashore for MSC Cruises, Discovery Princess for Princess Cruises, AIDAcosma for AIDA Cruises and Costa Toscana for Costa Cruises.
These ships alone will add an additional passenger capacity of 33,362 to the global fleet, at a time when the industry faces much uncertainty over future demand for cruises due to the economic crisis and concerns over the safety of cruises amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The spate of deliveries in 2021 is due to the record number of cruises ordered during the years preceeding the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the move by cruise lines to delay deliveries in 2020 to control costs during the global shutdown.
MSC Virtuosa, for example, was meant to be delivered in 2020, but was pushed back to 2021, while all the other vessels were delayed to some extent and had their planned 2021 deliveries pushed back to later in the year.
Adding to the potential over-supply problem are the 16 cruise ships that were delivered in 2020, but never saw revenue service because of the shutdown. These include six vessels from the big ship cruise lines, such as Mardi Gras for Carnival and Iona for P&O Cruises.