(2:15 p.m. EST) -- Finally some good news for the cruise industry: Royal Caribbean announced today that it will pick up the option to build a second 4,100-passenger "Project Sunshine" cruise ship, scheduled to debut in spring 2015.
In a one-paragraph statement, the line said the as-yet-unnamed ship will be built by German ship-building powerhouse Meyer Werft. The first Project Sunshine new-build is slated to launch in fall 2014.
The estimated all-in cost per berth for both ships is approximately €170,000 ($228,000), which amounts to €697 million ($936 million) per ship. According to an advisory note from Robin Farley, an analyst for UBS, the 5,400-berth Oasis of the Seas and Allure of Seas were purchased at a cost of $240,000 per berth ($1.3 billion total) and $265,000 ($1.43 billion), respectively.
Royal Caribbean remained typically tightlipped about what passengers will find on the pair. In response to a request for comment, Michelle Nadeem, the line's vice president of global corporate communications, would only offer a coy "stay tuned." There are no artists' renderings or drawings available at this time, added Nadeem.
A statement issued in February 2011, when the line announced the first ship, said only that "[Project Sunshine] incorporates new and exciting features that take advantage of the best of Royal Caribbean's experience and imagination."
What those new and exciting features are at this point is a matter of speculation. But that's not stopping us from asking you to add to the reader wish list.
The new Royal Caribbean vessels represent a significant size reduction compared with the game-changing Oasis-class pair, which measure 225,282 tons and carry 5,400 passengers at double occupancy. Project Sunshine's offspring will be similar in tonnage to RCI's 154,407-ton, 3,634-passenger Freedom-class trio, but they will carry nearly 500 more passengers at double occupancy.
Based on other mega-vessels on our new-cruise-ship order chart, Project Sunshine's dimensions seem to point to something of an industry sweet spot. Norwegian's Project Breakaway pair, due out in spring 2013 (Norwegian Breakaway) and spring 2014 (Norwegian Getaway) are 144,017 tons and carry 4,000 passengers. Princess Cruises' upcoming tandem, Royal Princess and an as-yet-unnamed sister, are 141,000 tons and carry 3,600 passengers each.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor