How big is too big? | Travel Research Online


How big is too big?

Saturday, the world’s largest cruise ship (well, the most current largest cruise ship in any event) se out on a maiden voyage from Barcelona. The Symphony of the Seas is Royal Caribbean’s latest Oasis class ship which is 2,000 tons bigger than the former world’s largest cruise ship—the Harmony of the Seas. Is there an end in sight to this game of un-upmanship?

Maybe. While there certainly is some panache and prestige to owning the world’s largest cruise ship I don’t see it lasting forever.

With each new-build there are inherent issues. I remember back in 1998 when the dinky Grand Princess made her debut with a measly 3,100 passengers (the Symphony of the Seas is more than twice that at 6,680) she was too wide for a Panama Canal sailing. Whoops. Now with the recent widening, some of the larger ships are able to transit the canal to get from Atlantic to Pacific oceans without going around Cape Horn. This is only one of the problems.

As ships became larger, more and more ports found themselves unable to accommodate them. Many times what used to be a “docking” port morphed into a time consuming “tender” port.

At some point, and I think we may be nearing that point now, the cruise lines will need to call a halt to the game of who’s bigger and concentrate on the service and experience end of the product. This seems to be born out with the entry of newer, smaller ships—Virgin Cruises for one. And in fact, the two new ships for Royal Caribbean already under contract for 2019 and 2020 are more than a third smaller than the Symphony.

Studies have shown that the millennial traveler is more interested in experiential travel and I suspect that once the newness of the world’s largest cruise ship wears off, that they might have a tough time filling berths consistently.

Cruising consumers can only take the St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Montego Bay ports for so long. Today’s cruise passenger is longing for Cannes, St. Bath, or Martinique—ports not generally served by the larger ships.

I may be all washed up, but I do think we’ve seen the peak to the bigger-is-better attitude from the cruise industry. At one point, surfing on a cruise ship seemed very cool, but now, actually surfing in Hanalei Bay is the new cool!

What do you think?



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