Carnival, Holland America Order New Cruise Ships

October 26, 2012

(10:28 a.m. EDT) -- A day after Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. admitted it was in negotiations to build a third Oasis-type ship, arch rival Carnival Corp. has announced big new-build news of its own.

The company, parent to 10 cruise lines including Carnival, Princess Cruises, Holland America and Cunard, said in a statement it has reached a memorandum of agreement with Italy's Fincantieri for the construction of two new ships. A 99,000-gross ton, 2,660-passenger Holland America vessel will be delivered in fall 2015, and a 135,000-gross ton, 4,000-passenger Carnival ship will launch winter 2016.

Carnival Corp. said the combined cost for the two vessels will be approximately $195,000 per lower berth, putting the total expenditure at nearly $1.3 billion.

HAL's new-build will enter service five years after the line's last vessel, Nieuw Amsterdam debuted in 2010; Carnival's new ship will close a four-year gap between its last, 2012's Carnival Breeze.

While details about the new ships are understandably scarce -- the statement said only that each will represent a new class for its line -- one element did stand out: shrinking space ratios. Based on the capacity and tonnage figures released today, both ships will squeeze in more passengers by volume than their recent predecessors. The 99,000-gross ton Holland America new-build represents a roughly 15 percent increase in volume versus the 86,000-gross ton Eurodam (2008) and Nieuw Amsterdam (2010), but a 26 percent increase in double occupancy -- 2,660 from 2,104. Carnival's 135,000-gross ton new-build is 5 percent larger than the 128,500-gross ton, 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze, but will carry some 8.4 percent more passengers. Note that gross tonnages typically change between the initial new-build announcement and launch.

Meanwhile, Carnival Corp. Chairman and CEO Micky Arison said today's announcement is in line with the company's overall new-build strategy to introduce two or three ships a year across its 10 brands. This pacing gives each brand time to grow its passenger base and absorb new capacity while minimizing pricing pressure.

Arison also noted that "the addition of new tonnage is expected, to some extent, to replace existing capacity reductions from possible sales of older ships."

The memorandum of agreement is subject to customary closing conditions, including execution of shipbuilding contracts and financing.

For a look at the industry's order book through 2016, check out Cruise Critic's new cruise ship chart.

--by Dan Askin, Senior Editor