‘New ships risk diluting exclusivity of luxury cruise sector’

The ‘exclusivity’ of luxury cruising could be diluted by the number of ships coming into the market, two senior industry figures have warned.

In the past four weeks, Silversea has agreed deals to build three ships, including one designed to operate around the Galapagos Islands, while MSC Cruises has announced plans to launch four luxury vessels from 2023.

MSC said its 1,000-passenger ships would make “luxury experiences more accessible” as the sector becomes increasingly popular.

Clia UK chairman Tony Roberts said last month around a quarter of the 100-plus ships currently on order will be luxury vessels.

Frank Del Rio, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), whose brands include luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises, said he welcomed “all competitors”, before issuing a warning to new entrants coming into the luxury market.

“If you make it too accessible, it is not luxury,” he said. “The core principle of luxury is it is limited, exclusive.”

Lisa McAuley, former UK boss of Silversea Cruises who joined Gold Medal and Travel 2 last year, said: “The industry is going to have to grow at a significant pace to keep up with the amount of ships on order. If prices drop, it will open up a greater audience. Do I think we run the risk of that? Yes, I do. I don’t see the market growing at the speed the ships are coming.”

McAuley said overcapacity was one of a number of challenges facing the industry, adding that overcapacity in the luxury sector would affect “onboard dynamics”.

“A different clientele can lead to a perception that a brand has lost its ultra-luxury tag,” she said.

Anthony Daniels, Hurtigruten’s new UK general manager, warned overcapacity could also affect the expedition sector. “Too much capacity could be a problem,” he said. “Expedition cruising cannot become a mass‑market product.”

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